Sunday, July 8, 2012

The SF Market in Chinatown Las Vegas!



     The SF Market is located at 5115 Spring Mountain in Chinatown, Las Vegas.  The name of the shopping center is Pacific Asian Plaza.  There are many good restaurants and shops in this two story plaza style building.  I have done restaurant reviews of the Kung Fu Chef and Island Malaysian Cuisine at this plaza in the past.
     There are several big food markets in Chinatown.  Each market seems to feature food from different regions of asia.  There are many common items that are marketed by all these food stores.  In Korea Town, the Greenland Market offers more food that is appealing to Koreans.  The 99 Ranch Market offers nearly everything that is popular in asia and much of the food appeals to Chinese, Thai and Filipino customers.  The Sunfood Market offers the kind of food that you would find in central China.  There are several more markets in Chinatown that I will review soon.  Many of the rest of the markets have Philippine, Vietnamese and Thailand themes.
     The SF Market seems to have a lot of food that appeals to Chinese shoppers and plenty of food that Vietnamese shoppers seek.  The SF Market carries many fresh Vietnamese herbs that are not commonly found in other stores.  Herbs are a very important part of Vietnamese cuisine.  I noticed that many of the fresh produce items in the store had Vietnamese names along with English or Chinese names on the labels.  There were many Vietnamese customers in the store and many of them had the look of experienced cooks.  That is a good sign that authentic food was for sale!
     Since I am not asian, when I shop at an asian market, I do attract some attention from the asian customers.  The asian customers check me out and they notice the items that I place in my basket.  When they see a basket full of raw specialty items and no pre-prepared packaged food, the asian shoppers seem to give a nod of approval, because they then know that you can cook!  When the asian shoppers pass by, they often stop to make conversation about the asian specialty items and then talk about recipes.  Many of the asian shoppers at Chinatown food markets have some great cooking knowledge and they do like to share cooking information and advice.  Those who want to learn and experience food items from foreign lands seem to get respect while shopping in Chinatown from the people who lived in those overseas places.
     There is nothing wrong with buying pre-packaged prepared food items in an asian market.  In fact, they are a good learning experience for those who have never tasted an item that is new to them.  Prepared food is a nice convenience.  The only problem with only selecting prepared food, is that you will not get much cooking advice from the experienced asian cooks that shop at Chinatown markets!  You may get some brand comparison advice, but that is about all.
     As you can see in the photos above, I shop for items that are not stocked at the average American grocery store.  Some of the items were bargains that could not be passed up!  A big bag of perfect unbroken shelled large walnuts costs a small fortune at an American grocery store.  At the SF Market, it cost less than $2.00!  The Vietnamese perilla herb is a one of a purple and green kind herb that looks great on a plate.  Rice paddy herb and many other hard to find herbs are stocked at this market.  Yard long beans were on sale, so I got a big bag of them.
     If you need good Vietnamese style canned lunch meats for making banh mi sandwiches, then this is the market to go to!  Canned lunch meats are traditional for banh mi.
     Idiot fish from California are a prized item from the only properly managed idiot fish fishery in the world.  The wild caught periwinkle meat was a nice treat.  The SF Market has a large fresh seafood and live seafood selection.
     Like all butcher shops in Chinatown, pork is king!  Very good prices on high quality expertly butchered fresh pork can be found at this market.  I purchased a section of pork belly and some L.A. style Korean kalbi beef ribs.  Traditional asian cuts of beef and pork can be found at this butcher shop.
     The SF Market also stocks traditional earthenware cooking vessels.  Those are hard to find items.  There was a nice selection of quality tableware, cooking utensils and dishes.  I purchased a new asian style noodle soup bowl that really looked nice!
     I highly recommend the SF Market for anyone who is interested in doing some authentic asian cooking!  Plenty of Vietnamese specialty items are stocked at this market.  The SF Market is a big store and it is very clean.  The employees are polite and very helpful when asked questions about food items.
     The SF Market is a great place for a home cook or a chef to shop for asian specialty food items!  Yum!  ...  Shawna      

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Barbati Tomato Kura

Yard long beans with tomato and a masala sauce of curry leaves, methi, Himalayan black salt, chile and jaggery!  If you are looking for a different style of Indian vegetarian long bean recipe, then this one is a good choice!  
     Masala translates to "the base of or the start of."  The word masala does not only apply to spice mixtures.  The English pretty much named every Indian standard masala spice mixture and family spice mixture with the word curry.  The Imperial English had a habit of oversimplifying foreign traditions to suit their own needs.  I guess that it was easier to name every spice mixture that had a yellow color as curry, rather than to try to fully understand the history, tradition and complexity of each masala spice mixture.  
     The English word curry actually comes from the Indian word kari.  Kari are the leaves of the black neem tree.  Kari is known as curry leaves in English.  Curry leaves are best when fresh.  Curry leaves are fried in oil till they become crisp for the start of many recipes that require masala spice mixtures.  Most western world recipes omit the required curry leaves in recipes, because they are very hard to find fresh.  It is not a true kari recipe without curry leaves!  Without required curry leaves, a traditional kari recipe will only taste like a western world buffet cook made the entree!  That is why I only research Indian culinary literature when cooking and writing Indian recipes.  I do have to use the computer translate option quite often.  There is nothing like the real thing!
     All of the ingredients in this recipe can be found at a good Indian market.  Yard long beans can also be found in asian markets.  Yard long beans are in the cowpea family and they have a rich tasty green bean flavor.  
     Jaggery is not raw sugar and it is not piloncillo.  Jaggery is not processed in a centrifuge to separate the molasses and impurities from the raw sugar.  Jaggery is concentrated cooked solid raw sugar that contains 50% sucrose and the rest is comprised of water, invert sugar, protein, ash and sugar cane fiber.  Jaggery can be found at Indian and asian markets.  If no jaggery is available, then substitute piloncillo or light brown sugar.  The flavor of those two sugars are close to jaggery, but not quite as rich.
     Many pre-made packaged breads are available at Indian markets.  Thin crisp plain Kerala Pappadam is a nice choice for this long bean and tomato kura.  Roti is also a good choice.  Basmati rice is usually served on the side.

     Barbati Tomato Kura Recipe:
     Heat a wide pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
     Add 4 crushed garlic cloves.
     Saute till the garlic starts to become golden in color.
     Add 15 to 18 small fresh curry leaves.
     Add 1 or 2 chopped red Thai finger chile peppers.  (These are hot peppers!  Add only enough to suit your personal taste!)
     Saute till the curry leaves become crisp.
     Add 1 small handful of coarsely chopped white onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped green or red bell pepper.  (Use seeded jalapeno if you really like hot spicy Indian food!)
     Saute till the onions turn clear in color.
     Add 1 finely chopped tomato.
     Saute till the tomato starts to become tender.
     Add 2 cups of yard long beans that are cut into bite size pieces.
     Saute and stir, till the long beans start to cook.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of jaggery.  (Substitute light brown sugar or piloncillo if none is available.)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 3 pinches of ground fenugreek.  (ground methi)
     Add 2 pinches of coriander.
     Add black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.  (chile caribe)
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of Himalayan black salt.  
     Note:  Himalayan mountain salt actually has a pink or orange color.  It has a high mineral and sulphur content that adds a very nice flavor to this recipe!  Use sea salt if none is available.
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and stir occasionally, till the liquid reduces to about 1/2 cup and till the long beans become tender.
     Add 4 to 5 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro just before serving.
     Place the barbati tomato kura into a shallow serving dish.
     Serve with and Indian bread of your choice and basmati rice on the side.  (The bread in the photos was plain Kerala Pappadam.)

     The flavor?  Sweet, spicy hot with a complex fenugreek maple flavor and a roasted peanut flavor from the fried curry leaves!  This is a great tasting traditional Indian long bean entree or side dish.  
     Just because a spice mixture creates a yellow color, does not mean that it deserves the old worn "curry" word that was used by the Imperial English.  This sauce tastes nothing like an English curry!  Yum!  ...  Shawna