I went into a Korean market today. I needed both a kimchi fix and a little lunch to tide me over so that I could complete my errands. I filled my basket with cucumber kimchi, rambutans, lychees, spinach and some mung bean sprouts and headed for the register. While waiting my turn I checked out today’s selection of foods that were freshly prepared in their kitchen. Today included chap chae, a dish with transparent sweet potato noodles, spinach and bits of beef, a Korean comfort food; spicy fish cake, which doesn’t taste fishy, and has a neat texture and flavor that my daughter can’t resist (me either), sushi-like rolls with seaweed, rice, eggs, vegetables and “krab”, spicy tofu with scallions, which is very spicy and filling, and a rice cake lightly sprinkled with black beans and shreds of pumpkin. I chose the chap chae and fish cake for my lunch.
After it was all rung up and paid for, I weakened and asked the cashier to ring up the rice cake also. It was my adventure for the day. It wasn’t the type of rice cake that you find in a plastic bag in the cereal aisle. It was a moist, dense, cake-like snack with just a hint of sweetness. It had a very pretty look to it, so I had to give it a try. It was a nice finish for the salty and spicy lunch, very simple. There are enough leftovers of noodles and fish cakes from my lunch to get my daughter fueled up for soccer this evening, so I don’t have to cook if I don’t want to tonight.
I love to check out the food kept by the register in other small markets and convenience stores. Growing up in Southern New England, with its huge Italian population, I thought that all convenience stores had pizza strips next to the register. Pizza strips are rectangles of pizza dough that are about 12 inches long and 3 inches wide, which have a slightly sweet tomato sauce with little puddles of grease, but no cheese, they are utter simplicity and very delectable. They are typically found with a layer of grease soaked waxed paper between the strips.
When I lived in central California the registers all had corn nuts and churros by the register. I haven’t seen corn nuts in many years, so I just did a web search and they still seem to exist, but clearly not in the stores I frequent. Lime & Chile flavor was my favorite. In Pennsylvania I remember baked goods being in that same spot.
Around here in Florida it seems that pickled eggs in bright red brine and boiled peanuts fit the bill for the regional impulse buy treats. I haven’t gotten my courage up yet for the pickled eggs the brine just looks unnatural, but the boiled peanuts’ were less of a leap, their texture and the salt are good for nibbling on the go, if you aren’t the driver.
I just got a book on inter-library loan about dumplings, I may have to read it, test it and write about it in the next couple of weeks.