Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

Shopping for Fresh Ingredients

Today I went shopping for the fresh produce for my 'Swimming to Cambodia' dinner. Alas, Valergas, my favorite gourmet grocery, the one nearest my house, went out of business last month. I was stunned when I passed by the store with its windows all covered with white butcher paper, as it is part of a small local chain and always appeared to be a thriving location. So I shopped uptown at Nob Hill Foods instead. But I have to say that I nearly ditched my shopping cart and left the store because the quality of the produce was nowhere near what I've grown accustomed to for my Diner & a Movie menus.

The only reason I was there in the first place is because Nob Hill is the only place in town that carries nuoc mam, which I need for almost all my Cambodian recipes. And they had lemongrass as well, which is also hard to come by in a town that has no Asian market. But the other produce I was shopping for was woefully sub-standard. The ginger root was dry and woody, although I managed to find one lone piece that would do. Garden variety green peppers were an astonishing $2.49 a pound, and the baby bok choy was so badly wilted that I wondered why it was even on display.

But the good news, although it has nothing whatsoever to do with my Cambodian dinner, is that big baskets of luscious strawberries were only .99 cents each, and juicy navel oranges were two pounds for a dollar. And I did find a large bottle of nuoc mam for only $1.89 and coconut milk was only $1.09 per can. So the trip uptown wasn't a total waste. But I will still have to go shopping elsewhere tomorrow for the remaining items on my list. But that's okay because I still have to stop by to my favorite Mexican market for all the fresh meats and seafoods, as well as jalapeno peppers, limes, and mangoes, which are always better and cheaper there than anywhere else. So...looks like tomorrow is another shopping day.