Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Cure to Homesickness Pt.2, Grocery Shopping

I have shopped at three different grocery stores since my arrival and each one is very different. As you may have already known, I am very particular with my grocers (see""Shopping for Groceries on the right hand side bar).

My first grocery experience is on the compound. It presents as quite basic, smaller that a full grocer, but larger than a bodega. The compound grocer does have some basic non-food items as well, such as household stuffs, perfumes, and small toys.  In addition to Arabic food items, there are Filipino products to cater to the large number of staff who live and work on the compound.  To give you an idea of what this grocer is like, I’ll share a partial list of items I have purchased at this grocer: stuffed grape leaves in a can, green olives in a can, popcorn in a can; bean thread noodles, scallions, upo (Filipino squash), cabbage, toilet paper, sponges. 

My second grocery experience is off the compound (or “off campus” as I like to say). Although it is only the equivalent of a few city blocks away, it is a bit challenge to get to as I have to cross a very busy street and pedestrians do not have the right of way in the KSA.  This grocer is decidedly more “Arabic”. Less random household items and a nicely stocked deli counter filled with a variety of olives and cheeses and a separate spice section where one can buy bulk items. Items I have purchased here include bananas, cauliflower, garlic, pasta, olive oil, toothpaste (*note, the toothpaste cost more than the olive oil), cotton swabs, laundry detergent (Tide for general stuff, and a special abaya wash for the delicates – it keeps your blacks staying black!), stuffed grape leaves in a can.

My third grocery experience is also off campus at a place called Tamimi’s. It is actually SafeWay, which I am told is an “American” grocer, but I have never seen or been to one before.  It is a very large, suburban type grocery store – wide isles, large carts, and they also sell more than food items like household items, small toys, and such.  And for reasons I am not sure of yet, you do not have to wear your headscarf inside. Special sections that I took notice of are the nice little plant section, a date section, a well stocked deli with olives, local cheeses and imported cheeses, and an extensive spice and bulk bean section.  Inside my grocery bag: my first house plant, zatar spices, ginger, silken tofu, a broom & dustpan, general household cleaner, flat bread, dates.
Today I decided that I had to cook something, despite my meager, dorm-like kitchen. Menu: pancit. For those of you not in the know, pancit is Filipino noodles.  My mother makes a delicious vegetarian version and I honestly do not have to cook it much as it has always been so easy to go my parent’s to have some home cooking.  In my battle to fight homesickness, I tried my hand at making some pancit.  The kitchen is small and at the moment I don’t have the proper pots, pans, or even a chopping board.  So, did what I could and the results were pretty tasty. The recipe below is quite basic – I could not find shitake mushrooms in my adventures, which I really missed. Please be creative and add your own twist.

How to make:
1. Soak bean thread noodles for about 5 minutes
2. Meanwhile, chop up your favorite vegetables. I used baby bok choi & cabbage.
3. Sauté some tofu in oil with ginger and garlic.  It is preferable if you use regular or cotton tofu as it stands up to the sautéing more. However, I only had access to extra firm silken tofu, which did work out nicely.
4. Pull tofu out and set aside.  Keep any remaining oil in the pan.
5. Put in more garlic, then your veggies. Add a bit of salt and sauté until wilted. Pull out your soaked (and now softened) bean thread noodles and put inside your pan. Continue to sauté and add some soy sauce and a good squeeze of lemon juice.  As the cooking nears completion, add some scallions and your reserved tofu. Heat through.


Masarap! (Delicious!)

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