Asian Food Markets

Ya’ll know I love grocery stores and grocery shopping. The pandemic took that away mostly. I mean, I got to shop online and curbside pick up or have groceries delivered. But that was so limiting. And Asian groceries were the hardest items to find online at the places I could easily order from. So that has been missing.

Pre-pandemic, I had gotten on a kick wanting to learn more Asian style cooking. To be honest, there were quite a few failures. But I did find several spices and sauces and such that I loved. And several of the vegetarian versions were very hard to find. In my adventures, I had driven far and wide checking out the various Asian markets in the Chicago area. It’s an interesting world because, like Asia itself, the Asian food market world is very diverse. One market will lean heavy toward Korean cuisine, another toward Thai, another toward Japanese, and so on and so on. This seems like a “duh” statement, but I had never really thought about it, as I hadn’t cooked much in this cuisine. But, slowly, I figure out the nearest and best places to get certain ingredients. Then the pandemic happened. Most of those places were off limits as they didn’t do curbside or delivery. I did have a friend who picked up a few things for me when she went, but other than that, I was stuck with the generic ingredients you find at most regular grocery stores.

Now, I have been working up to visiting one of my favorite stores since I became fully vaccinated. My memories of this place were that it was always super crowded, so that gave me a lot of anxiety. But this last week, I decided it was time to give it a try. I contacted a friend who also loves these markets, and she agreed to go with me. My therapist and I had agreed I would make a shopping list, and I would at least go to the store. If I looked in and it freaked me out, I could always go back home. So I made a list. Katie also added to the list. Further creating anxiety, I needed to drive to get there. The only day I could pull off going during the week was a day the husband was back in the office.

I got in the car. I drove to my friend’s house to pick her up. I drove to the market. I actually felt a lot better than expected. I think having someone to chat with really helped. We walked up to the store, and they had signs about masks and stuff to wipe your cart down. Okay, I felt okay. So we went in. It was practically empty. And everyone was wearing a mask that we saw. I think the entire time we were there, we saw may 10 other shoppers. And everyone had a mask. And most people were trying to social distance (unless they needed that jar of sauce you were standing next to).

We wandered around the store and looked at every single item. This was partially due to Katie’s list and me not know what some items were. But it was also just because I hadn’t been in so long. I picked up things that I have no idea what I’ll do with, but I’ll find something. It was one of those inspirational grocery trips. Those are the best kind. You just walk around and look at everything, and when something sparks, you get it. Then you go home and probably figure out you need three more ingredients to make the thing you’ve discovered you want to do with it, but hey, that just means another trip to the market!

It helped that this place is very large, and it was a weekday in the middle of the day, but I think this was good for my first venture into a market outside my neighborhood. And you know, not many things will get me to drive these days, so you know this was important to me. Next, I’m hoping to convince myself to go to Fresh Farms, another of my favorite groceries that is a little far away.

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