I’m not much of a shopper. I can’t imagine, for instance, going to a mall just for the sake of going to a mall. That’s not always been the case, as my BFF in elementary school and I would walk downtown and shop when I was in my formative years. We had no money and no interest in thievery. So we just browsed the hanging clothes and unfolded shirts and sweaters to hold them up to ourselves, imagining how they would look if 1) we could afford it; and 2) we weren’t required to wear uniforms to our Catholic school.
But I’ve mentioned before that there is one kind of shopping I really do enjoy: food markets. I love big grocery stores like Wegmans and the huge Kroger stores that they are now building. But mostly I love shopping in international food markets. Italian markets. Mexican markets. Asian markets. Middle Eastern markets. I love them all.
I love them because they offer varieties of foods that I have never before seen and simply can’t imagine buying. Fruits with names I can’t pronounce. Amazing varieties of cabbages, more than I ever knew existed. Sausages and pastas and noodles that blow my mind.
Recently I have been hungry for my mother’s vegetable beef soup. I blogged about her soup here. Her vegetable soup is like most vegetable soups, except hers calls for beef shanks. The shanks give the soup a flavor that is delicious, and simply reminds me of my mom with my first bite.
In Arizona, I have never had a problem finding beef shanks. All the grocery stores have them readily available. But for the past week, I have been on the lookout for these particular cuts of meat in Denver, to no avail. I tried a fancy butcher, but shanks are too plebeian for their customers. Not even Walmart had them in their showcase.
Yesterday morning I woke up and it suddenly popped into my mind: Eureka! Try the Asian or Mexican markets.
So as soon as I was dressed, I climbed into my new red car and drove to H-Mart, a large Asian market not far from our house. As soon as I walked in the door, I was hooked. I started in the produce department, where I couldn’t believe the number of kinds of chilies and cabbages being displayed. Onions of all sizes and shapes were offered. Fruits I have never tried, from jackfruit to durian; they were all interesting. (By the way, if you ask my half-Cambodian grandkids to name their favorite fruit, they will say a persimmon. I only recently tried one for the first time, and it was yummy.)
But where I really got lost in paradise was in the meat and seafood department. I simply can’t believe the kinds of fish and meat that is available. They had meat from every part of the animals, from the feet to the head and all manner of things in between. I wonder how one prepares a sheep head…..
There were whole rabbits and whole chickens. There were more kinds of fish than I ever knew existed. There was a case full of dungeness crabs and lobsters, still alive and more active than I’ve ever seen at a grocery store. There were whole fish and fish filets and stomachs of fish and cheeks of fish.
The one thing that was a big surprise yesterday was the black chickens, an animal with which I was totally unfamiliar. I looked it up when I got home, and learned that there really are black chickens. I assume the flesh is the same color as a regular chicken, but the skin of black chickens is as black as tar….
By the way, they don’t lay black eggs; I checked.
I was able to find beef shanks with no problem. They were the most beautiful beef shanks I have ever seen, thick and huge…..
…..and I was able to finally make my mom’s vegetable beef soup…..
I was able to get home JUST before Bill dialed the police to report me as a missing person.