Want some fish sauce? They’ve got 4-5 different varieties. Need some sambal oelek? How about 2 freaking gallons?!? Not to mention dozens of different and interesting tinned items, from pickled shallots to tamarind sauces to fearsome fermented fish concoctions. There is a veritable rainbow of new, interesting and downright frightening items available as potential ingredients for kitchen madness.
Their most pleasing section had to be their produce area. It’s a little bit tumbledown in appearance, with some packing boxes doubling as floor displays. But with prices so low and such good looking veg, it’s hard to ding them on presentation. Almost everything was less than a buck a pound, with only red bell peppers edging that out at $1.50 per lb. Which is still insanely better than a buck a pop at the regular supermarkets. Plus they again have an interesting variety available including taro root, daikon radish, varied greens and fresh sprouts. We definitely hit this area so hard that our crisper won’t shit right for a week!
Then we moved on, threading through the aisles and nosing through each section like Indiana Jones, looking to steal cultural artifacts from their native peoples to “preserve” them in a London museum. Ok, maybe not quite that obtusely misguided. Afterall, this is a funtime weekend shopping romp that started out as a quest for green peppercorns so that I can finally make proper Steak Diane, that exploded into a full blown culinary adventure. Certainly more entertaining than going to the movies.
We found a lot of other fun items, green tea mochi, various flavors of shrimp chips (the cheese are actually pretty tasty!), a bunch of different sambals and hot sauces, cookies, wafers and the coolest looking peeler/finger-mangler/lockjaw delivery device I’ve seen in a while. Plus we grabbed some items for curries, udon, rice and some fresh Chinese noodles. AND! We found my guilty pleasure…the Pepsi Throwbacks! And a buck cheaper per 12 pack than anywhere else in town! So, we certainly cleaned them out of those.
The final lap was through the meat and freezer areas. First off, the butcher was fairly well stocked. Not so much in the New York steak area, but more along the lines of stew meats, a few basic steaks and simpler cuts. One big plus is that they carry uncured pork belly, otherwise known as bacon before it hits the smokehouse. I’ve been looking forward to experimenting a bit with this in the future. And of course the fish area was delightfully fresh. And I say that without irony. Too often a fresh fishmonger ruins your appetite with the less pleasant odors of the sea. But their whole meat area smelled like…nothing! Just like a clean butcherey should. Their fresh fish included the usual catfish, shrimp and also bass and a few trout that looked from around these parts. One of them had a bulldog tattoo at least.
And the frozen area was even more insane. Fishcicles from waters all over the world. Some of which I’ve only seen on National Geographic much less on a plate. And a wide selection of varied quick frozen Asian specialties, like dumplings, spring rolls and tons of frozen ingredients, side dishes and desserts. Not to mention here is where they keep their sho jou, which I’m told is pretty much the widowmaker of blackout drunks. We even saw a jug labled: Cooking Liquor; NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION! Which sorta blew my mind, since if you’re cooking with it, wouldn’t it be consumed by a human? But then again, I’ve tasted a few bottles of booze that probably should have carried the same label. Lucky Lager anyone?
Anyway though. After our deep and thorough rooting through their stock, we finally pushed our overburdened cart to the checkout stand. Scant minutes before they were preparing to arm themselves to chase us out so they could finally close up shop. Here’s where I’m really impressed. Not so much at the checker, who was fairly cool, all things considered. But the bill total that she handed us. We exercised nothing resembling restraint. We grabbed anything that appeared shiny or interesting, including medieval vegetable torture devices and new teapots. But after all of that and 3 hours of shopping, our total was only about $150. In a regular market we would have easily been out double that amount and came out with less actual food.
If you’ve been searching for a 1 stop shop for all your Asian cooking needs, or if you’re looking for some obscure ingredients for your favorite dish, you can do a lot worse than stopping into the R-N Market for a minute or 180. Not only do they have a wide and varied selection of Asian dishes and ingredients, they also carry a decent selection of regular Western market items like cereals, bbq sauces and all that. And even if you’re not an adventurous cook, their fresh produce alone is the perfect excuse to find oneself north of Shaw.
P.S. Oh yeah, and the green coconut curry soup we made for dinner that night curled our toes in Tom Kha Gai rapture. (recipe to come)