Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

Tracking down exotic ingredients

Today I went shopping in Napa for some of the specialty ingredients that I will need to prepare a Vietnamese dinner. I started at our local Trader Joe?s, but didn?t get nearly as lucky as I?d hoped. I was only able to find cellophane noodles, fish broth, jasmine rice, and orange roughy filets for my Hanoi Yellow Fish Nuggets. Afterwards, I went to Napa?s best gourmet grocery store looking for the remaining items, but did not find any of the other Asian ingredients I needed. I thought about trying the health food store next door, where, in a pinch, I can sometimes buy hard-to-find ingredients at hugely inflated prices, but by that time, it was closed, which in this case, wasn?t a bad thing.

When I got home, I logged onto the Internet in hopes of finding an online source for my missing Asian ingredients, and Eureka! After a few tries with the Yahoo search engine, I discovered, which has an amazing selection of all the basic items for most every Asian cuisine, all at bargain prices. And best of all, shipping is free on orders of $50 or more. Since all I needed to complete my Vietnamese ingredients list were nuoc mam, spring roll wrappers, and Chinese 5-spice powder, I did a little advance shopping for my next Japanese dinner, and added a few Chinese items to make up the difference. At those prices, and no shipping charges, it sure beats driving to Oakland, with gasoline at $2.50 a gallon. And hey, as an added bonus, a cute UPS guy will truck all the boxes up the stairs and deliver them to my door. What a fantastic deal!