Saturday, July 5, 2008

In Anticipation of Chilled Soba Noodles

The above photo shows the purchases I made this week at HMart - a Chicago-area Korean market of impressive size and quality.

I didn't come home with kimchi or anything decidedly Korean. There was a fantastic condiment/salad counter and some nice-looking marinated meat but for reasons unrelated to how good I'm sure it all was I came home with mostly bottled items. We trolled every aisle finding some familiar items, some peculiar ones - snake heads in a jar! lemon vinegar! Durian-flavored wafer cookies? And here I must digress...

Durian is a huge, thorny, foul-smelling fruit native to the South Pacific. Though I have yet to experience it firsthand I've heard a lot about it. Due to its smell, there are restrictions on where you may bring a durian. It's banned from hospitals in Thailand and from many hotels throughout Indonesia. Speaking both to legislation-happy Singapore and the alleged stench-like-an-open-grave of the fruit, it's illegal to bring a durian on public transportation in Singapore. Calvin Trillin, who always says it best, offered in The New Yorker (Fall 2007 food issue):

Having smelled a durian, I must say that the prohibition against carrying one on a public conveyance (for which there is no specific fine) strikes me as a very solid piece of legislation.

My husband couldn't believe I didn't come home with the cookies, just to get a whiff of fruit-beast. OK - I had the stomach flu recently. I'm eating and shopping gingerly right now.

When my appetite returns I'm looking forward to making chilled soba noodles. I'll combine a couple of recipes, one from Gourmet and the other from Alexandra's Kitchen, a food blog.

The one thing I forgot to look for at HMart was fresh wasabi. I want to get my hands on the real deal, the rhizome, the hon-wasabi (本山葵). I want to grate some on my microplane zester the way I see sushi chefs do for their favorite customers.* Now that I've secured tamarind paste (I don't think I mentioned that my tamarind search is over! I bought frozen tamarind pulp in Pilsen AND the paste at HMart) fresh wasabi is next on my list.

* Cue Trillin again. In one of his Tummy Trilogy books he claims to have carried a card reading, in Chinese, "Bring me what they're having at the next table." Genius.


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