Friday, August 26, 2005

Finding Asian Ingredients Online

Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese cooking are becominng more and more popular all the time here in North America, and adventurous home cooks are starting to learn how to make some of these formerly exotic foods themselves. Even the local supermarket now has an aisle devoted to asian products. But what to do if you want to use FRESH ingredients to make your home cooking authentic?

With the exploding Asian polulation in many urban areas of the country, it's getting easier and easier to find ethnic markets nearby for basic pantry items and for fresh vegetables, leaves, and fruits. Look for these markets, and experiment. You may have to venture out of your normal neighborhoods, but what you discover will be worth the trip.

In ethnic markets, you can find unusual and exotic produce more readily than at the regular supermarket. Lemongrass, Chinese Chives, Thai Basil, Papaya, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Galangal, and sometimes even Yuzu can be found fresh in some of these markets. Remember, the immigrants who live in these neighborhoods need these ingredients to make their dinners!

I know that not all areas have these ethnic markets, especially if you live in a rural area away from a large city. This is where the internet comes in handy. Here is a list of links to online sources for some harder to find Asian fresh ingredients. Many of the grocers ship next day so they arrive fresh.

This should be your first stop for information and histories of various ingredients. If you are reading a recipe and have no idea what Galangal, Kaffir Lime Leaves, or Yakkwa (little honey cakes from Korea) are, this site will educate you.

Temple of Thai

This online store will ship fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves, Kaffir Limes, Galangal, Lemongrass, Thai Eggplant, Thai Basil and frozen Banana Leaves. They ship from New York City.

Another purveyor of fresh and frozen produce from Thailand. I like the pictures of the shipping boxes and wrapping they provide on the site. This would make me feel comfortable knowing they are taking great care in the handling of my precious produce. Based in Seattle.

This is a much larger company, with products from all over the world. Less personal, although a good standby for products from all over the world. Pack all your worldwide purchases into one order!

Pacific Rim Gourmet

I like this site because it's simple and clear, and they clearly state all their charges and shipping policies on their website. Based in Southern California.

H Mart and Han Ah Reum Stores

This Family owned Koren mini-empire started with one store and now extends all around the USA with stores and an online Mall. Get all manner of Kimchi and Korean ingredients here. I shop at the New York City store on 32nd St (in KoreaTown) all the time. In addition to Korean products, they stock many Japanese pickles, spices, and fresh leaves and roots. I go to the gym just down the block, so it's a convenient stop for me.

With these recources, there's no excuse for not cooking any cool Asian recipes you may want to try. If you don't have an ethnic market to explore in reality, order some fresh stuff online and get cooking!


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