El Paso surprisingly has several different Asian markets across town, but I’ve only been to two on the eastside. I’m not familiar with the northeast, so I jumped at the chance to visit Arirang Market, located at 9728 Dyer, near the police station and library. Becky Rodenberg, who is the owner and chef of Singapore Cafe, also happens to be a member of the Vegetarian Society (VSEP). She graciously offered to give VSEP members a tour of the market, demystify ingredients, provide cooking tips, and answer questions for free!
I really loved this store. It’s clean, the aisles aren’t crowded, the staff is friendly, they carry a small selection of fresh produce, and they specialize in Korean products, but still a carry a good variety of other Asian products at affordable prices. I was able to recognize Jubu, the Korean magazine that we subscribe to at the library. If you love mochi (confectionary rice cakes), then you need to go to this market! I think they had every type of packaged mochi: fresh, refrigerated, unrefrigerated, frozen, etc. Not that I’m familiar with Korean cuisine, but I had no idea that the use of acorns was so common in Korea. Acorn flour/starch, jelly (similar to jello), and fresh noodles are sold at Arirang.
Becky is super nice and personable, and really knows all about various Asian cuisines! She might even host a cooking class! Below, you’ll find an overview of what we learned from her yesterday. To find out about upcoming events or become a member, visit the Vegetarian Society’s website at www.vsep.org, or catch them on Facebook and Twitter.
Becky’s Tips & Opinions:
- On dried shitake mushrooms: She recommends soaking them in cold water for a couple of hours, but you can cheat and soak them in hot water for 30 minutes. Cold water will help retain more flavor.
- On Asian products: She prefers products from Korea and Japan, rather than China. They are usually of higher quality.
- On Sesame Oil: Add sesame oil at the end of the cooking process. You’ll lose flavor if you add it at the beginning. She recommends using Kadoya Brand Sesame Oil, or any brand from Japan.
- On Spring Rolls: The trick to rolling tighter spring rolls: Briefly soak rice paper in warm water, place filling on the rice paper, & wait a minute or 2 before you begin rolling.
- On Soybeans: You can make soybean pancakes by soaking the beans overnight and blending them in a blender.
- On Daikon: Packaged daikon has added saccharin. To reduce the sweetness, rinse and soak in vinegar.
- On Rice Cakes (not mochi): The packaged rice cakes in the refrigerated section of Arirang can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Becky likes to soak them, saute them in oil, and sprinkle brown sugar over them. The small flat oval rice cakes can be added to soups.
- On Vinegar: Becky likes to use plain white vinegar. Korean vinegar is different; it’s very concentrated and acidic. She hasn’t been able to find it here.
My purchases included cut wakame (dried seaweed), Nori Fumi Furika rice seasoning (this stuff is addicting!), fresh sesame leaves, sesame oil, a purple sweet potato, and a bottle of Hite beer (Korea’s most popular beer!). I made a quick and simple dinner that was inspired by the tour that I’ll share in my next post. The beer really was refreshing and had a malty flavor.
If you missed the tour, feel free to ask any questions. I can pass them along to Becky. If you were on the tour, feel free to correct me or add anything I missed.