Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Grocery store demystification

This post at Tigers & Strawberries, about essentials to have in your pantry for Chinese cooking, reminded me of a trio of books that you might find useful in shopping for unfamiliar ingredients.

I have "The Asian Grocery Store Demystified" and "Latin & Caribbean Grocery Stores Demystified." I need to track down the Indian one. They're written by Linda Bladholm and published by Renaissance Books. These paperbacks are small enough to fit in a purse or tote and provide a handy reference to the things you'll see in the store, or to identify ingredients called for in a new recipe. The entries are short and to the point, telling you how to recognize a particular item and how it is used. Many of the entries have simple line drawings. Photos would be nice, but I don't feel the books suffer without them (I can always Google a picture if I need it).

I always feel more comfortable and confident in unfamiliar situations if I have some kind of reference, be it a map, an instruction booklet or an experienced friend I can call on. These books have proved to be a true friend on my shopping forays.


  1. Ooh. Those look really useful. We have some huge Asian supermarkets here, stocked with many things I can't identify.

  2. I'm all for asking the folks who work in the stores, or other shoppers, what things are and what to do with them, but sometimes there's too much of a language barrier. Sometimes i buy stuff simply because I have absolutely no idea what it is but it looks intriguing.

    I found some really fabulous orzo-type pasta in a Russian market that way. I wasn't even sure it was pasta! But I cooked it up with some rice for a pilaf and loved the flavor and the texture contrast.