Monday, July 21, 2008

Turning Japanese

I have always had a strange obsession with grocery shopping. I find the practice highly therapeutic--grocery stores provide me with anonymity, alone time, and plenty of eye candy. In New York, sometimes the process is grueling: larger stores are jam-packed at rush hour, thus destroying the relaxing quality I miss from my suburban supermarket youth. But the city has something my childhood strip malls (mostly) didn't: ethnic grocery stores.

One of my favorite things about living here are these kinds of speci
ality shops, which usually cater to homesick expats and immigrants, not curious little white girls like me. Perhaps it's some subconscious fascination with The Other, or maybe it's just that I like looking at weird foodstuffs. Although I won't pick favorites, I do have a tendency to go for Asian in particular, a habit that started even before I spent time in Thailand and China. While some ethnic enclaves require epic subway rides to depths of Brooklyn or Queens, there are a few more centrally located. Of the various options (Manhattan's Chinatown, K-Town, etc.), there is a small(ish) but highly visible Japanese contingent in the East Village, centered near the shitshow of St. Mark's but radiating several blocks out from there. In this zone, there are several grocery stores catering to Japanese clientele, stores that go deep beyond the typical sushi-and-ramen noodles stuff. This weekend I took a mini-field trip to Sunrise Mart, a store on the second floor above the St. Mark's Bookshop, to see what I could find.

Shiitakes #1 & #2, respectively. Note the price difference.

The problem with many of my adventures is that I don't go with a plan: I don't usually need (or sometimes even want) to buy anything, and most of the time I wouldn't know what to do with the stuff even if I did. But I can't be stopped. I am a machine.

Jumbo sardines (does that count as an oxymoron?).

I always feel slightly awkward wandering around, food-stoned and happy, while other shoppers go about their business with no concern for the novelty around them.

Endless condiment choices!

Despite my occasional confusion and the potential annoyance of shoppers around me, my little culinary jaunts are usually worth it. Case in point: I got a bag of dried shiitakes, three rice balls, a tub of pickled vegetables and imported yam-flavored soba noodles for about $7.

Sunrise Mart
4 Stuyvesant St., 2nd Fl. (near 3rd Ave.)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 598-3040

1 comment:

RP said...

Jamie, your maternal grandparents have inherited your Asian proclivities and have just happily discovered Nigori style unfiltered sake. Drunk cold and stirred,it's very tropical and delicious.

We persisted in our Jamie-esque search of our home town, and yielded a specially ordered case in 3 days!!!

Yum.... we'll save u a sip.
Junmai Nigori/ Unfiltered