Farm Industry News Blog

My own mini-foreign-trade-mission to the Far East

On a recent trip to Florida, Team FIN farmer Jeff Ryan explores an Asian food market where he finds quite a few unfamiliar items on the shelves.

View the gallery to see the exotic foods Ryan found throughout the market.

So what will you use for a staple in your diet when you go to an Asian grocery store to make a meal? Rice is going to figure into a lot of items, based on the math I did. We came around a corner and saw what looked like the bagged feed warehouse at my local co-op. They had plain rice, they had sweet rice, they had jasmine rice, they had new crop 2014 rice. It was in stacks and stacks of 50-lb. bags. There were hundreds of them. 

Uncle Ben was nowhere to be seen. All that rice and probably still less than two tablespoons of flavor total. 

Ben always was my favorite Uncle in the Rice family. 

At the end of one aisle was sort of an open cooler with some giant items inside mesh bags. I'd call them just slightly smaller than a watermelon and bigger than a cantaloupe. They are called durian and have an outer texture that almost looks like a dinosaur or an alligator. Perhaps the best way to describe it would be to say that it looks like a porcupine in need of some Rogaine. 

The inner yellowish-red fruit / flesh of the durian has sort of a custard-like texture and a sweet fragrance to some people. Others find it quite revolting, to the point of being tough to position at the market. Durian can give off a strong odor, so the spot right by the front door won't always work for the non-durian fans. ("Hi. Welcome to our home. Please step over the skunk and come on in!") Some people will find it to be a great flavor while others will ask if the rendering truck hasn't yet to stopped to pick up some dead animals . . . from several days before. 

Looks to me like we could consider durian to be the lutefisk of southeast Asia! 

At $2.79 per pound, and an average weight of about 5 to 10 pounds, we decided not to gamble on a durian purchase. Had they had some durian cut up and packaged, we'd have done it, but my friend wasn't anxious to haul a durian back to her house in the car and then gut it once we got there. 

Far and away the best part of the whole store adventure was what you'd call the meat counter, I guess. To be honest, I walked along and kind of made a mental note as I looked at each item. I had this mental coin I was flipping in my brain. It wasn't "heads" or "tails." It was "food" or "bait." 

One area had swordfish steaks, dried anchovies, cooked snails, cooked clams, squid tubes, mackerel shad, lizard fish, dried shrimp, pork intestines, pork stomach, pork kidneys, cubes of goat meat (with the skin on, of course), beef oxtail, and one of the most bizarre items I'd ever seen. There were two, actually. 

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The Farm Industry News Blog features commentary from Willie Vogt, Daryl Bridenbaugh and Jeff Ryan.

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