Taking courage after Clotilde's nice comment to my bakeries post, I decided to write a bit more often about nice food shops around here. Last Friday's day trip to Leipzig was quite successful in this respect. I visited two shops a friend, Goetz, strongly recommended and came back, happy, with a slightly lighter wallet and carrying three rather full shopping bags containing some Asian and some Italian goodies. So to say something to travel far away and something to feel at home.
My first stop was Mekong, a Chinese/Vietnamese shop quite close to the railway station (Am Bruehl, 14-16). The shop is quite small, more of a long tight corridor, with a small downstairs space, than anything else. That doesn't mean there's little on offer. Every free surface, nook, corner, is filled with goods from rice to plates, canned and fresh vegetables and herbs, spices and even some cookware. I love such places, I could spend hours just looking through the shelves, and it probably WOULD take hours to look through all the products on sale. My only minor disappointment was that there was only a very tiny choice of Japanese food on sale. I had hoped to be able to finally be able to prepare some dashi broth with real bonito flakes but nope, I'll have to wait.
At the end this is what I left with:
- a few fresh herbs: Thai basil, cilantro and mint. Finally some cilantro sold with its root still attached (important in Thai cooking). I'm not sure about the mint: tasted a lot milder than the one I'm used to.
- some Thai apple aubergines. These are really nice, pale green, firm and with a quite delicate taste.
- Galangal and grachai. Both rhizomes. Grachai is called sometimes wild ginger but I found it has very little to do with the taste of ginger. It is more earthy than anything else. Galangal has a more balsamic aroma. I had never had the chance to smell some fresh sliced galangal before but I found this great, so different from anything else and so multi-layered. Just once and I've become a galangal fan!
- Two rice sorts: Vietnamese jasmine and sticky black rice. I bought the Vietnamese rice mainly to try a new brand out and the black rice to make a nice Thai sweet I recently read about, and some palm sugar to go with that.
- a few canned goods: crab meat, for some reason impossible to find in Jena, water chestnuts and whole bamboo sprouts. I know all these would be better fresh, but do you think I have a choice?
- some white rice cakes. These are sort of thick oval noodles, which need to be softened in water for some time (I've read 12 hours somewhere). I used to have one or two nice recipes for these, from a friend who studied Chinese and often cooked them, but can't seem to find them anymore. Has anyone got a tip? Renee?
If you have the feeling that I was planning some Thai cooking, well just wait for the next posts. You might be right :-).
After I left I seriously considered not going to the Italian store. Had plenty of cooking ingredients already. But I guess I was curious to see what a "very nice Italian delicatessen" is, from a German point of view. After walking much longer than I would have imagined fro my city map I finally got to Mangiare (Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 73). This shop was almost a shock after Mekong. Small too, but with so much free space! Apart from this, the shop is OK. It has lots of nice preserves, a good pasta choice (from De Cecco), a few nice EVOO and vinegars. There's some cold meats and cheeses on sale too. The cheeses were quite interesting, the meats IMO less, at least for me, just the standard kinds found anywhere in Italy. I had hoped for a little more interesting wine choice too. All together a nice shop, good for the local standard and maybe just a tad disappointing for the spoilt guy that I am. Not too bad though, otherwise I wouldn't have left with a bag full of stuff (some pastas, some aubergine preserves, some cheeses).
Now I only have to find time to cook all this stuff....