Do I like to grocery shop? Not really. But, I love a good adventure. And I love to cook - even though sometimes my results can be dangerous. I also love ethnic experiences and finding hidden secrets - no matter how unhidden they are.
Which brings me to the BIG SIGN I saw on the HUGE grey building on Alameda between 3rd and 4th. It said, "Grand Opening of Little Tokyo Market Place," and before I knew it, my trusty Ford Explorer had already turned into the parking lot.
I just had to go. Frankly, it was the first time I had shopped in a Korean market. Ralph's I knew about. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, too. But, a Korean market?
Undaunted and intrigued, I grabbed my cart and realized two things immediately: 1) I was the only middle-aged Jewish woman in the store, and 2) I had no idea what most of the packages said or the products were. I don't read Korean.
But, you don't need a degree in Korean to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. And I was throwing them into my cart by the droves! The prices and quality were simply unbelievable. 10 cucumbers for a dollar. A pound of sparkling carrots for 50 cents. A bag of shiny Granny Apples for $2. I was in heaven. I loaded up my car with 14 bags of stuff and I had paid only $19 for EVERYTHING.
This was paradise. And I was like a bull horn to my neighbors. Have you been to the new Little Tokyo Market Place yet? Fantastic. You must go. Greatest find of the century. Makes the Grand Central Market look expensive. Forget Ralph's. You must go!
After awhile, when they saw me coming, they said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah - we gotta go to the market." And eventually they did. And loved it too.
Now, I can't imagine not shopping there.
As time has gone by, I've become more adventurous with my purchases. Even though I don't know what half of them are. The staff tries to help me out, but since most speak Korean - we smile at each other a lot.
Until....one day a few weeks ago, I just had to ask someone about "Kimchi," a Korean cabbage cole slaw, that I had read about in the newspaper - it was supposed to be delicious and came in a jar.
So I walked up to this friendly-faced Korean checker and proudly said, "I would like the product that starts with a K." (You see, due to my rapid middle-aged memory loss, I had already forgotten the name, but remembered the K part and the cabbage part). She looked at me incredulously and in broken English said, "This is a Korean market, and just about everything starts with a K."
Hmmm. She had a point. I looked down at my package of Komagire Beef and my Kalbi Marinade for Korean BBQ. There were a lot of K's in that market.
She left her check-out stand anyway and we combed the aisles together, and through numerous hand movements, we found the Kimchi!
And you guessed it - I took it home, and didn't like it. Too bad, because it sure is a fun story to tell.