The Pepper Guide to Chinese GroceriesSeptember 25, 2019
We’ve seen so many Chinese groceries popping up lately. And while we’re not fans of the (presumable) context as to why this is, we do appreciate the range of food products that the circumstances bring. These stores are a wonderland for people who love unusual vegetables, Chinese flavorings, and curious ingredients.
Some members of the team enjoy exploring the aisles, because you never know what you’ll chance upon. Plus, since everything’s in Chinese, you’re kept guessing until you actually tear open the packaging. (Unless, you be smart like us and arm yourself with a translate app.) Here are a few things we found during our latest jaunt:
Chinese groceries often double as convenience stores, so it’s common to find ready-to-eat goods. There are the usual bottled drinks. Though, here, they come in less familiar flavors like kiwi and winter melon. They also have unusual snacks such as preserved bamboo shoots and spicy tofu sticks for those with adventurous taste buds.
If you’re feeling a little meaty, there’s an array of sausaged meats that you can just squeeze into your mouth (kind of). And if you’re just looking for something to rid off some leftover hotpot spice in your mouth, you’ll also find some packets of flavored candies.
We can go on and on about the variety of spices you can find in a Chinese grocery. It’s as if they’ve managed to make every single thing in the universe some form of usable ingredient. Chilis? Put ’em all in. Bamboo shoots? Sure, make it a powder. The spices are often grouped together to span an entire wall, or fill an entire aisle. It can be intimidating, but we found that the best way to go about it is to go full-force—just get whatever appeals to you, and you’re bound to find some use for it.
Sweet and Savory Add-ons
One thing that’s great about Chinese ingredients is that they can be used both in sweet and savory dishes. For example, a jar of Chinese plums and wolf berries can work well in either soups or teas. Fermented glutinous rice can also add some grit and depth to any main dish or dessert.
Our entire team has an intense love for Chinese hotpot, so we were ecstatic to find these instant hotpot packages. It’s a bit like instant ramen, in which you just add water to make the meal. But besides the noodles, these packs include all the shebang you’d expect from a (minimalist) hotpot. We’re talking vegetables, preserved meat, and even a sauce to make the broth. The best thing about it, though, is that it comes with its own heat pad. Submerge that in water at the bottom level of the bowl, and your soup actually comes to a boil.