Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Mediterranean Market in Chinatown, Las Vegas!

     If Persian, Kosher Israeli, Arabic and Greek food is what you seek, then this is the neighborhood market to go shopping at in Las Vegas!
     The Mediterranean Market is located at 6020 Spring Mountain Road, near the intersection of Jones in Las Vegas.  Korea Town is a few blocks away and the Mediterranean Market is located in Chinatown. 
     The Mediterranean Market is a large free standing building that is loaded with Persian, Arabic and Israeli Kosher food.  A very large selection of middle eastern products can be found there.  High quality brand names that customers from the middle east can recognize line the store shelves!
     The Mediterranean Market has a butcher shop that stocks middle eastern meats and specialty items.  A delicatessen section has sausages, cheese, olives, cold cuts and pre-prepared middle eastern salads.  
     Everything looked great at the deli and butcher shop, but no customers were making any meat purchases during the day that I visited this market.  Why?  The Arabic Persian weeks of fasting before Easter were in their final days this week.  Arabic Easter is about 1 week later than Christian Easter.  No meats are eaten during the religious passover during this time of year!
     Because of the Arabic Persian Passover, I too shopped for no meats out of respect.  I was plenty happy to see a fine selection of middle eastern fresh produce.  Fresh fava beans, and Persian marrow squash is available at the Mediterranean Market!  Middle eastern fresh and dried fruits can be found in the produce section.  A large variety of high quality nuts and dried berries was also in stock.  Good green pistachios are hard to come by in American markets, yet they had piles of them at the Mediterranean Market at a good price!
    Balkan Greek, Bulgarian and Croatian specialty products like avjar can also be found at this store.  North African harissa is on the shelves too.  Turkish hot pepper sauces and specialty items are well stocked.
     The pickled product section offered some of the best Persian pickled products that I have ever seen!  I found some very nice pickled lemons and pickled wild cucumber there.  Many condiments are on the shelves.  I purchased a jar of Brinjal Spread.  Brinjal spread is a very complex spiced aromatic thick eggplant and tamarind chutney like paste that is used on middle eastern sandwiches.  The flavor of brinjal spread s unforgettably good tasting!  
     A large variety of Persian Arabic candied fruits, jams, preserves, jellies, sour cherries and flavored cooking waters were stocked on one isle.  I purchased a jar of the best Persian rose bud jam that I have ever tasted!  I bought a bottle of rose water and tahini sesame paste too.  
     Anything Arabic, Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, Israeli and Persian can be found at the Mediterranean Market!  A large selection of specialty cheese was in stock!  I chose a small wheel of Lebanese Village Cheese.  Lebanese Galilee Village Cheese is one of the very first cheeses ever made!  Many fine varieties of Feta and Syrian cheese were in stock.  Arabic and Persian cheese was available.  Pre-made Ghee was also in stock.
     Fresh and frozen baked goods were well stocked at this market!  There were several varieties of mediterranean bread to chose from.  I chose the old original whole wheat tonir lavash, small khubz arabi, Greek ring bread and Ethiopian teff injera.  Ethiopian injera is popular in Persia, because it is a naturally fermented bread with no leavening agents added.  The injera batter is left in open air for 3 days and airborne yeast ferments the batter.  Teff is a grass grain that has a flavor like buckwheat.  Seasonal teff grows in a limited amount in Ethiopia.  In Persia, teff is called love grass!  The injera bread was made with 100% teff with no buckwheat added.  That is as good as injera gets!
     Spices!  Any spice or herb that is hard to find is stocked at the Mediterranean Market.  I found fenugreek leaves and they are required in many Persian and Farci recipes.  Black caraway, sharbati seed and sumac berry were available, so I picked some up!  Sharbati is Sonoran Mexico sharbati chia seed and the price was nice at at this store.  Cha Cha Cha Chia!  Chia Pet!  Ha Ha Ha!  Pre-made spice blends are convenient and they were well stocked too.
     At the cash register counter, a deli case is full of Persian Arabic desserts and varieties of stuffed grape leaves.  The desserts looked fantastic!  I purchased a few desserts to give away as gifts.  
     The lady at the register was of middle east descent and she made a comment about how I was standing there in my white French chef uniform with a basket full of Persian and Arabic goods.  She said that I must really like middle eastern food!  I do!  I responded by saying that my Syrian Lebanese step grandfather introduced me to middle eastern flavors at a young age and I have craved those flavors ever since.  She smiled and started offering me tasting samples of many items in the deli case.  The hand made vegetable and rice stuffed grape leaves were some of the very best tasting dolmeh barg that I have ever had!  I will remember that herb and seasoning flavor combination for the next time that I make stuffed grape leaves.  The domeh barg at the Mediterranian Market were awesome!
     She also offered a kibbeh sample.  Kibbeh is bulgar wheat meat stuffed with meat.  The market made the kibbeh with a traditional kibbeh shape.  I ended up purchasing one kibbeh!
    The bottom line!  Many people think that exotic food costs a lot of money.  If you shop at the international food isle of an American grocery store, then you are paying too much money for middle eastern products.  Grocery stores mark exotic good up in price, because they feel that if people are seeking these exotic items at their store, then they can overcharge as much as they want to.  Exotic items are drastically overpriced at a common American grocery store.  
     "Why pay the price of 2 camels for the Persian Arabic items at an American grocery store when you can buy those same items for the price of 1 camel at the Medeterranean Market, my friend!  Only a fool would think the prices are high at a specialty market without ever having been shopping there, my friend!"  (I just had to throw in my Arabic sales pitch lingo! Ha Ha Ha!)
     At a mediterranean market or Chinese market, the people that shop there look at what Americans call exotic food as common ordinary food!  Therefore, when there is enough normal steady purchasing happens at a Chinese market or middle eastern market, the food that American shoppers perceive as being exotic becomes a very low price!  I always find great bargains at a Chinese market.  The same goes for the Mediterranean Market.  I bought a basket full of very high quality Persian Arabic food items for a very low price!  That made my day! 
     I will be posting several middle eastern and Ethiopian recipes during the next few weeks in this food blog, so be ready and plan a shopping trip to a good middle eastern market, like the Mediterranean Market in Las Vegas! 
    I highly recommend the Mediterranean Market in Las Vegas for locals and visitors!  There are many good middle eastern breads, jams and pre-made deli products to chose from at this market if you are a middle easterner visiting Las Vegas.  There is nothing like taste from home!  Yum!  ...  Shawna              

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