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Washingtons status as an international city is reflected in the
variety of the areas several hundred ethnic markets. For those
who havent explored new foods and cuisinesand for those who
want to expand their choiceshere is a selection of the excellent
ethnic markets found all over the area, plus tips on shopping
Large stores, small stores. You wont get much personal attention in the large stores, other
than someone pointing out where to find a product. In smaller
stores, you may be able to confer with the owner about how to
cook something, but the selection of items is more limited. If
possible, take a cookbook with pictures or the recipe titles printed
in the stores language. I also have found other customers very
responsive when I ask for information; people appreciate a strangers
interest in their food.
Shopping tips. Visiting a Latin American market is worthwhile if for no other
reason than to restock your spice cabinet. The herbs and spices
are essentially the same as those used in the United Statesbut
less expensive. Two ounces of Jamaican curry powder cost about
$1.15, while one ounce of a well-known brand normally costs $3.79
or so. Parboiled rice costs $2.60 for five pounds; that well-known
brand goes for twice that amount. Fresh vegetables and fruits
are often less expensive in Korean and other markets.
Cookbooks. For each ethnic group I have given the name of a favorite cookbook,
but you cant go wrong with the Foods of the World cookbooks from Time-Life Books. Published almost 30 years ago,
the series has volumes on Africa, the Pacific and Southeast Asia,
India, the Caribbean islands, China, Latin America, and Italy,
among others. Check out a secondhand bookstore; these cookbooks
are still excellent references and are worth adding to your culinary
Wrap it up. Tired of the flour tortillas and pita bread youre using to wrap
things up? Indian markets offer several wrapping breads, as do
Middle Eastern, Iranian, and West Indian markets. In Vietnamese
markets youll find rice-paper wrappers that are ideal for enclosing
Ice cream. In Indian, Iranian, and West Indian markets, check out the ice
cream. India likes to enhance with saffron, cashews, raisins,
and pistachios. Iranians relish saffron and mint. Another interesting
ice-cream-like Persian creation is falloudeh, thin rice noodles
in a rose-water-and-lemon syrup. West Indians flavor their ice
cream with wonderful tropical fruits.
Food to go. Dont feel like cooking ethnic yourself? Many ethnic markets
sell prepared foods both for immediate eating or packaged for
Weekend shopping. Ethnic markets usually have their best foot forward on weekendsthe
produce is often fresher and dishes are prepared for the weekend
trade. But dont expect much personal service thentheyll be
From West Africa comes Eko Food Market, where youll see many
dried fish. West African coastal waters are rich in fish and other
seafood, so sun-dried and smoked seafood plays a large role in
regional cooking. Other central ingredients include palm oil,
rice, yams of many sizes, green and ripe plantains, coconuts,
and groundnuts (peanuts). And there are all the herbs and spices
unique to this cuisine. Dried-bean enthusiasts should try the
cow peas; cook them as you would American beans or black-eyed
Expect to find goat meat (with and without skin), oxtail, gigantic
cows feet, pigs feet, feet-on fowl, beef neck bones, chicken
feet, and cow cod. Remember the vast variety of imported soda
pops when it comes time for kids birthday parties. For nibbling,
there are small bags of chin-chin, a crispy fried-dough snack. Imported cosmetics and hand soap,
Eko Food Market, 6507 Annapolis Rd. in Landover Hills, in the strip mall across from Capital Plaza Mall near the Baltimore-Washington Parkway; 301-341-5050. Monday to Saturday 9 to 9, Sunday 9 to 6.
Weyone Market is a good place to buy goat meat, an earthy meat
similar to lamb, unfortunately not much appreciated in the United
States. (As a youth in Tennessee I remember roasting kid, or baby
goat, over hickory-laden fire pits on the Fourth of July.) At
Weyone youll find smoked goat, which lends an interesting flavor
to stews and curries. At the meat counter is a variety of African
cuts of beef, pork, fowl, and goat.
Two types of legumes I havent seen before are African red beans
and yellow-eyed peas, both of which seem similar to black-eyed
peas. There are several unfamiliar herbs and thickening agentsegusi,
or ground melon seeds, and ground okra are used to thicken stews.
Boxed black-eyed-pea flour, plantain flour, and coco yam flour are used to make fufu, an indispensable dumpling-like accompaniment to stews. For another
kind of flavoring, smoked tilapia, catfish, and herring are good
bets. Polenta-like kenkey is merely cornmeal, water, and salt formed into a cylinder for
If you see a container of large nuts sitting by the cash register,
theyre probably fresh kola nuts, a key ingredient of cola drinks.
Mouth-puckeringly astringent, the nuts are said to be breath fresheners
and are reputed to have aphrodisiac properties.
Weyone Market, 510-D S. Van Dorn St. at Edsall Rd. in the Van Dorn Station shopping center; 703-212-7347. Monday to Saturday 9:30 to 9, Sunday to 6. Parking.
From the other side of the continent we have Addisu Gebeya and
Merkato Market, Ethiopian markets a block apart in the Adams Morgan
section of DC. The herbs, spices, and bread needed for the unique
dishes of the horn of Africa are here, conveniently described
Other interesting products include green coffee beans for custom
roasting, injera and ambaasha breads, utensils, crafts, and English-language
magazines about Ethiopia. Theres usually a baklava-like sweet
or a turnover filled with a spicy lentil mixture available for
Injera is made from a fermented mixture of teff (millet flour),
water, and yeast. Moist, covered with tiny air holes, and spongy,
this pancake-like bread is used to scoop up meats and vegetables
by hand. Leftovers end up as chips. Teff also can be purchased
if you want to create this bread on your own; I understand it
can also be used in a porridge.
Ambaasha, usually round and about an inch thick, is more like
what Westerners are used to in wheat-based breads, but with a
hint of Ethiopian spices.
Merkato has a more varied selection of grocery items than its
neighbor, including Indian chutneys and pastes and some Middle
African Cooking (Time-Life Books, 1970) remains the best African cookbook. It
is, unfortunately, out of print. Jessica Harris explains how to
use smoked fish in thiebou dienne, the national dish of Senegal,
in Iron Pots and Wooden Spoons (Ballantine, 1991), an interesting
description of Africas influence on New World cooking.
Merkato Market, 2116 18th St., NW. 202-483-9499. Monday to Saturday 10 to 9, Sunday 11 to 9.
Addisu Gebeya, 2202 18th St., NW; 202-986-6013. Daily 9 am to 10 pm. On-street parking.
The two large Maxim supermarkets in suburban Maryland carry just
about everything you need to cook the Chinese way, including an
array of utensilsparticularly woks and wok stands, lids, spatulas,
racks, and bamboo brushes.
The produce section is one of the best in the area and includes
cabbages and leafy greens of many sorts, sprouts, bitter melon,
long squash, water chestnuts, and chive blossoms. Tired of pea
pods? Try the pea vines (or pea tops); stir-fry them as you would
their pod offspring.
Soy sauce, sesame oil, pine nuts, vinegar, condiments, bean curd,
and frozen products are prominently displayed. The bakery department
stocks the standard Chinese sweets, stuffed buns, and rice balls.
Take home a precooked barbecued duck or piece of pork and you
have an instant entrée.
I buy frozen dumplings, also called pot stickers, by the bagful.
When the urge strikes, I plop three or four into boiling water
or sauté them and enjoy them with a little dipping sauce. You
can make your own, of coursebetter yet, make a party of it. Ken
Homs The Taste of China (Simon & Schuster, 1990) has all the
preparation details, but dont bother making the dough; its much
easier to buy it at Maxim already cut to size and frozen.
Maxim, 460 Hungerford Dr., Rockville, 301-279-0110; 640 University Blvd. E., Silver Spring, 301-439-0110. Monday to Saturday 9:30 to 8, Sunday to 7. Parking.
Weve had a flowering of chinese bakeries in recent years, for which David Seens longtime enterprise, China Bakery, helped pave the way. Seen says his biggest seller is his fresh birthday cake. Light on sugar, the yellow sponge cakes are layered with a fruit, such as kiwi, honeydew, or peach, and frosted with a whipped mixture of cream and milk. Besides several varieties of cookies, my two favorite items are a yeasted bun stuffed with roasted pork and a plain bun topped with ham and green onion.
China Bakery, 11266 Georgia Ave. at University Blvd. in downtown Wheaton; 301-933-6677. Wednesday to Monday 9:30 to 7. On-street parking; walking distance from Wheaton Metro station.
German Gourmet in Falls Church, now under the ownership of brothers
Michael and Cliff Haene, is a sophisticated enterprise with one
of the most comprehensive selections of German products in the
area. Look for German-style cured meats, bread, and canned goods,
30 or so German beers, including the popular Bitburger and Spaten
brands, and some 40 German wines.
There are wursts galore, including bratwurst (ideal grilled over
charcoal), landjaeger, touristen, and blut, rounded out with Westphalian,
bauern, and Black Forest hams and German salami. Hearty breads
include holzofen, vollkorn, pumpernickel, and bauern sauer.
During the Christmas season German Gourmet has imported stollen
and cookies and various handicrafts. Beer-glass collectors will
revel in the selection scheduled to be delivered this fall.
Conveniently, several cookbooks are for sale, including Authentic
German Homestyle Recipes (Youngkrantz, 1994), the picture-laden
Dr. Oetkers German Cooking Today (Rudolf August Oetker KG, 1987),
and a Dr. Oetker series on how to cook selected categories of
German dishes. Youll also notice several provisions under the
Dr. Oetker label, a popular German brand for cake, pudding, and
The Haene brothers benefit from a knowledgeable bilingual staff,
which is happy to explain the stores products and ways to cook
German Gourmet, 7185 Lee Hwy. (S. Washington St.) in Falls Church; 703-534-1908. Monday 9 to 6, Tuesday to Friday 9 to 7, Saturday 9 to 6. Parking.
In the Woodbridge area, check out Elsies German Deli, 14531 Jefferson Davis Highway, 703-494-6919.
While India commemorates its 50th year of independence, Indian Spices in Arlington celebrates 26 years as a topnotch market for herbs
and spices and the many other unique ingredients required in Indian
Many of these herbs and spices are used to flavor myriad dishes
based on dals (beans, lentils, and peas), which are plentiful
here. Basmati rice is a good value compared with supermarket prices.
Fine teas from the Indian state of Assam and other tea regions
round out the basics.
If youre a novice at Indian cooking or are just running short
of time, heres all the help you needfrozen dinners, jar after
jar of pickles and chutneys, packaged mixes and seasonings, a
refrigerator case full of flat breads, and a good selection of
ice creams and other traditional sweets.
The frozen dinners allow you to plan a menu around such dishes
as chicken moghlai (in a rich gravy with cashew nuts), aloo matar
(potato and green-pea stew), lamb curry, and palak paneer (cheese
cubes in spicy spinach). For a condiment you can select one of
the refrigerated fresh chutneys based on coriander, coconut, dates,
or tamarinda refreshing change from the cooked mango chutneys.
Popular pickles feature mango, lime, garlic, or amla berries.
Used to soak up the gravy from curries, idlis are steamed bread
rounds formed from semolina and lentil or rice flour and an amalgam
of herbs and spices. You can make them from scratch or buy an
idli mix. Youll need an idli stand, which you can buy here, to
cook these properly; it resembles an egg poacher, and when filled
with idlis is placed in a covered pot for steaming. Theres also
a frozen version.
Flat breadsversions of puri, nan, roti, pita, and othersintrigue
me, and I particularly like the onion nan, which also contains
cumin, nigella seeds, and several other spices to liven up the
Perhaps the easiest and fastest Indian food to cook is the papad.
Consisting of rice, dal, or potato flour flavored with assertive
Indian spices, papads can be thin, saucer-size sheets, pinwheels,
squares, or sticks, and are known as rice sev, papad, far far,
or potato rackets. Drop them into hot oil for a few seconds, drain
on a towel, and you have crispy, delicious hors doeuvres.
Indian Spices and Gifts, 3901 Wilson Blvd. (at Pollard St.) in Arlington, 703-522-0149. Monday to Saturday 11 to 8:30, Sunday to 7:30. Walking distance from Ballston or Virginia Square Metro stations. Parking.
In addition to a full range of Indian products, Rockvilles Dana Bazar has fresh vegetables and fruits. 1701-K Rockville Pike, across
Halpine Rd. from Congressional Plaza shopping center near Magruders;
301-231-7546. Walking distance from the Twinbrook Metro station.
My favorite Indian cookbook is The Complete Indian Cookbook edited by Meera Budhwar (Wellfleet Press, 1992). For the vegetarian
cuisine of southern India, try Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan (Thorsons, 1994), or for information about
south Indian food at a suburban Maryland restaurant, take a look
Visit Mama Lavash in falls church for two kinds of Iranian bread:
paper-thin lavash and oblong half-inch-thick sesame- or nigella-seed-topped
barbari, both of which are yeasted and contain no fat.
Lavash is an excellent, more flavorful alternative to flour tortillas.
You can also heat until crisp in a 350-degree oven and have bread
chips. Barbari can be eaten as any bread or used as a crust for
a quick pizza.
You can buy Mama Lavash products in many Iranian and Middle Eastern
stores, but its more fun to go right to the source. Both breads
freeze well, so stock up. Arrive between 9 and 11 in the morning
to get warm loaves fresh from the oven.
By the way, you may have seen the black seeds known as nigella
(also known as kalonji) incorrectly referred to as black caraway
or onion seeds. They lend a unique, pleasant flavor to the dishesparticularly
breadsof Iran, Ethiopia, India, and the eastern Mediterranean.
Mama Lavash, 2190-A Pimmit Dr. in the strip mall behind Idylwood Plaza Shopping
Center at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Pimmit Dr. in
Falls Church; 703-827-7788. Monday to Friday 9 to 7, Saturday
10 to 4. Parking.
Yekta Market also sells bread from Mama Lavash as well as Lebanese-style
pita, taftoon (thicker than lavash but thinner than barbari),
and a sweet egg bread. With your bread try some pickled cucumbers,
eggplants, sunchokes, hot peppers, or garlic, or a bit of jam
based on carrots, quinces, figs, or orange blossoms. Wash it down
with cardamom-scented coffee or any of the several brands of tea.
For Persian dishes youll note a full complement of herbs and
spices, including such blends as sabzi aash (parsley, leeks, and spinach), sabsi dolmeh (savory, parsley, dill, and leeks), dried rose and borage petals,
large bags of dried dill, and sour grape powder. Check out the
dozen or so types of bulk olives, the collection of rice, and
the ice cream flavored with saffron, rose water, and mint.
Persian cuisine is best explained in Food of Life by Najmieh Batmanglij (Mage, 1986), who lives in Washington.
Try her recipe for carrot preserves, a personal favorite, spiked
with cardamom and orange peel; I spread it over sourdough bread.
Her most recent book is Persian Cooking for a Healthy Kitchen (1996).
Yekta Market, 1488-A Rockville Pike across from Congressional Plaza North in Rockville; 301-984-1190. Monday to Saturday 10 to 10, Sunday 11 to 7. Walking distance from Twinbrook Metro station. In the same strip mall as European Gourmet, a Russian market. Parking.
A. Litteri Inc.Litteris, as its better knownhas been around
since the 1920s. It may look forlorn on the outside, but inside
its an immaculate Little Italy, and though you wont hear many
of the staff speaking with Italian accents, many of the customers
will. Youll find shelves of olive oils, vinegars (many balsamicos),
tomato sauces, dry pasta, anchovies, olive pastes, and a comprehensive
selection of herbs and spices. Youll pass freezer cases packed
with pasta dishes (manicotti, ravioli, tortellini, stuffed shells,
rigatoni). During the Christmas holidays therell be lots of traditional
sweets, such as pannetone, panforte, baci, and torrone.
What you really want to do is make your way to the salumeria in the backto the cheese, sausage, salami, prosciutto, pepperoni,
pancetta, sopressata, and the like. (Want to save a little money?
Substitute Asiago cheese for Parmigiano-Reggiano.)
A. Litteri Inc., 517 Morse St., NE (in the Capitol City Market area), between New York and Florida avenues; 202-544-0183. Tuesday and Wednesday 8 to 4, Thursday and Friday to 5, Saturday to 3. On-street parking.
Nicks Supermarket in Clinton is noted for its meat market and
some ten kinds of sausage. It also has a good selection of olive
oil, pasta, tinned fish, and other Italian products. In addition
to sweet and hot Italian sausages, youll find German bratwurst,
Polish-style kielbasa, longaniza said to be concocted in the Polynesian
manner, Mexican-style chorizo, Cajun andouille, plus a couple
of designer sausages made with trendy ingredients such as sun-dried
tomatoes. Proscuitto, soppresatta, capriccola, and Genoa salami highlight the deli case. Call the
stores hotline (301-868-7100) for information about weekly specials;
when Italian sausage is on sale (in mid-August it was going for
$1.79 a pound), its time to fill your freezer. Dont be put off
by the supermarket in the name; its a largish store, but intimate
enough to give it that genuine ethnic feeling.
Nicks Supermarket, 7601 Old Branch Ave. (Md. Route 5) near Kirby Rd. in Clinton, about 15 miles from downtown DC; 301-868-7101. Monday to Friday 10 to 7, Saturday 9 to 7, Sunday 9 to 5. Parking.
Three Brothers Italian Market features a market, cafe, bakery, and small salumeria at 4521
Kenilworth Ave. in Bladensburg, about half a mile north of Annapolis
Rd. (Md. Route 450); 301-864-1570.
A good cookbook is Classic Techniques of Italian Cooking by Giuliano Bugialli (Simon & Schuster, 1982).
A standout shop, Daruma stocks the gamut of Japanese products,
all attractively packaged, as the Japanese are so adept at doing.
Youll discover Japan in the fresh produce and fish, salad dressings,
snack foods, dried noodles, baked goods, and frozen foods.
The owners wife, Fumiko Yokoyama, says the shops No. 1 seller
is the Japanese-style mayonnaise made under the Kewpie label.
Its creamier and more tart than American brands and is made from
yolks, not whole eggs. Next in popularity comes yaki soba, frozen noodles with a sauce packet; add some vegetables and pork
and you have your dinner. From a Japanese-owned farm in New Jersey
come outstanding eggs laid by chickens on a special diet.
Mrs. Yokoyama recommends nattofermented soybeans flavored with mustard or bonitowhich she
says is good for you. Handsomely bottled salad dressings come
in such flavors as perilla leaves, sesame and lime, and plum and
bonito. For something more substantial, consider the paper-thin
slices of beef or pork for shabu shabu, a hot-pot dish in which you cook the beef by swishing it around
in boiling broth with your chopsticks.
The produce bins will contain, depending on the season, imported
Japanese peaches of delicate taste and texture; burdock; long,
slim eggplants and cucumbers; thin-fleshed bell peppers; tomatoes
selected for the Japanese taste; and kabocha squash.
Of course, there is lots of shoyu (soy sauce); thick wheat noodles (udon), a thin version (somen), and transparent noodles (harusame); dried laver, seaweed, and kelp; rice vinegar; and azuki (red) beans. Americans returning from Japan often seek out the
chocolate-covered crackers under the Pocky label.
At the back of the store someone usually is putting together makizushi, those colorful rice, vegetable, and crab tubes rolled in dark
green nori (sea lettuce) with the aid of a bamboo mat and a deft
wrist. Nearby are several fresh and brined fish, including tuna
and salmon from New York, and packages of pickled cabbage and
cucumbers. Still further along are a dozen or so tidbits based
on sweetened bean paste; a delicious single-serving pound cake
(mushi pan) is more like a combination cheesecake and sponge cakea wonderful
taste and texture.
Want to learn about Japanese cooking? Mrs. Yokoyama also organizes
Two cookbooks to consider: Step-By-Step Japanese Cooking by Lesley Downer and Minoru Yoneda (Barrons, 1986), and Time-Life
Books The Cooking of Japan (1969), which is outstanding.
Daruma, 1045 Rockville Pike in the Talbot Center strip mall in Rockville; 301-738-6468. Monday and Wednesday to Saturday 9:30 to 7:30, Sunday 10 to 6:30. Parking.
Lucky World is typical of the areas large Korean markets, which attract me for their variety of foodstuffs unfamiliar to the typical Westerner. What does one do, for example, with dried zucchini, dropwort, sea squirts, burdock, and bracken shoots? Finding out is great fun.
The hallmarks of a good Korean market are fresh vegetables, fruits,
meat, and fish; kimchee (a fermented condiment based on cabbage,
cucumbers, and other items); noodles and more noodles; bean pastes;
ground red pepper; tofu, fishcakes (made from pulverized fish
and flavorings); and a carryout section where various combinations
are being mixed, battered, and fried.
Another feature is the self-service side-dish bar. Meant to be
eaten along with more substantial dishes, these dishes can include
marinated radish, cucumber, and pepper strips; tofu slices sautéed
in sesame oil, peppers, and onions; and other items.
Also to be found are packages of precut vegetables and fish or meats that go into typical Korean hot pots and stews. The name of the dish is on the package; just look it up in a Korean cookbook for instructions. My favorite is Flavours of Korea by Marc and Kim Millon (Andre Deutsch, 1991).
Kim bap, a seaweed-covered cylinder of rice surrounding a center of colorful
vegetables, meat, or fish, will be on display. When the cylinder
is cut into one-inch sections, you have a beautiful dark-green
exterior, a white rice layer, and a center the color of whatever
its components are.
As an alternative to tea, brew some roasted barley, the traditional
Korean hot drink.
Lucky World, 3109 Graham Rd. at Arlington Blvd., across the street from Loehmanns Plaza, in Falls Church; 703-641-8585. Monday to Saturday 9:30 to 9:30, Sunday to 8:30. Parking.
Korean Bakery & Rice Cake (4217 John Marr Dr. in Annandale; 703-642-0404) is fascinating
for both its name and its authentic Korean baked goods. Koreans
like their sweets light-textured and gently sweetened, as in the
handsomely decorated sponge cakes.
Americana Market, with five area stores, is the place to replenish your spice cabinet, as well as your supply of rice and Mexican dried chilies, including chipotles, cascabel, ancho, mulato, and, from Peru, panca and mirasol. Also from Peru are yellow chili sauce and a canned version of chuño, potatoes dried according to a process perfected by the Incas.
Frozen tropical-fruit pulp is excellent for puddings, ice cream,
sauces, and glazes. Dream up your own recipes using mango, tamarind,
papaya, pineapple, jocote (a Salvadoran fruit that looks something like a plum), mamey (red-fleshed, cloyingly sweet), or guanabana (soursop). Frozen grated coconut is a time-saver.
The butcher section has plenty of fresh beef, pork, fowl, dried
fish, and sausages. Among the fresh produce are tubers, ripe and
green plantains, and coconuts. The chorizos, or sausages, are
styled according to each countrys culinary dictates. Mexican
chorizos tend to be dried and firmer, while those of El Salvador
will be juicier.
Fresh chayote, a light-green, pear-shaped vegetable that tastes
somewhat like a yellow squash, can be cooked like it, too. Try
cooking with chipotle peppers; you can find them here canned in
a tomato-based sauce or dried. They give food a smoky, spicy flavor.
Another favorite is the dried ancho pepper, a key element of chili
The cookbook most representative of all the Latin American countries
is Latin American Cooking by Time-Life Books, which is out of print.
Americana Market, 1813 Columbia Rd., NW, in Adams Morgan; 202-265-7455 (closing end of October). Monday to Thursday 8:30 to 7, Friday and Saturday to 8, Sunday to 5. Also, 4900 Annapolis Rd. in Bladensburg, 301-864-4870; 1500 University Blvd. East in Hyattsville, 301-434-8922; 8541 Piney Branch Rd. in Silver Spring, 301-495-0864; and 6128 Columbia Pike in Falls Church, 703-671-9625. On-street parking in DC, shopping-center parking at other locations.
Visit Mediterranean Bakery at lunch time when an ethnically diverse
crowd of hungry customers orders sandwiches, hummus (a chickpea
dip), baba ghanoush (an eggplant dip), shish kebab, or something
from the Lebanese-style brick oven, such as the cheese-and-spinach
Opened in 1976 as a bakery, this store now is virtually a supermarket.
The grocery section tends toward the upscale: many fancy olive
oils, vinegars, hot-pepper sauces, pickles, preserves, olives,
and cheesesa sort of Middle Eastern Dean & DeLuca. If you are
bewildered by the 20 or so green- and ripe-olive offerings from
Greece, Egypt, Morocco, Italy, and France, just ask for help.
There is, of course, much other interesting merchandise here.
The bakery is traditional Middle Eastern, as you will see from
the stacks of pita and bread rings topped with sesame seeds. Take
home a bag of the toasted pita pieces; theyre perfect for dipping
or as an accompaniment to soup.
Expect to find buttery, syrup-soaked phyllo-based sweets of several
shapes and sizes, some with pistachios, hazelnuts, or pine nuts;
kataifi (phyllo cut into thin noodles and shaped into a nest, filled
with toasted hazelnuts and drizzled with butter and a rose-water
syrup); date-stuffed mamoul cookies; and namoura, a single-layer cake made from farina, milk, and sugar and soaked
with an orange-flower-water syrup.
Among the delicious bread-based savories, look for zaatar, a cheeseless pizza topped with thyme, ground sumac, and sesame
seeds; fatayer (turnovers) based on spinach, cheese, tomatoes, and meat; lahmajun, a piece of pita dough flattened to dinner-plate size, covered
with a delicious meat mixture, and baked until the edges turn
a golden brown; safetha, or ground beef, lebne (drained yogurt), onions, and spices baked in a little square
nest of pita dough; and kishk, another pizzalike product topped with dried yogurt, hot paprika,
olive oil, sesame seeds, and onions.
Mediterranean Bakery, 352 S. Pickett St., Alexandria, near Home Depot in the Trade Center Shopping Village; 703-751-1702. Monday to Saturday 8 to 8, Sunday 9 to 6. Parking.
If youd like more atmosphere for your baklava diversion, visit
Samadi Sweets Cafe in the Glen Forest shopping center in Baileys Crossroads. This
charming cafe is reminiscent of an ice-cream parlor with its small
tables and metal chairs, and there is no better setting for an
afternoon sweet after a hectic afternoon at nearby malls.
Dont be overwhelmed by the variety (a dozen or so) of Middle
Eastern pastriesjust read the description in front of each offering.
Most are many layers of paper-thin sheets of house-made phyllo
dough, each brushed with clarified butter. Into the middle go
pistachios, cashews, walnuts, sweet cheese, or thick cream. A
sugar syrup, sometimes flavored with rose water, is poured over
the baked pastry. Look for such varieties as baklawa, kool washkour, ush al asfour, asabea, balooria, kenafa,
shayebia, burma, basma, and usmalia.
Samadi Sweets, 5916 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church; 703-578-0606. Monday to Saturday 10:30 am to 11 pm, Sunday to 8. Parking.
Other Middle Eastern markets include Asadur (5536 Randolph Rd. in Rockville, 301-770-5558) and Thomas Market (2650 University Blvd. in Wheaton, 301-942-0839). These stores
are under common ownership and have good selections of Arabic,
Turkish, Greek, and Armenian products.
An excellent cookbook is Paula Wolferts The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean (HarperCollins, 1994). If youre ever in Turkey, look for Turkish
Cooking by Gülseren Ramazanoglu at the Istanbul Hilton gift shop.
Mabuhay Oriental Store is run by Sylvia Rodriguez with a firm,
friendly hand. Shell answer your questions even while tallying
another customers groceries. And she doesnt mind questions;
she wants you to know about Philippine food.
I always leave with a bag of baked goods, a prepared dish, and
something from the freezer case. Among my favorites are the rolls
(pan de sal, de coco, de ube) and the ensaymadas (popovers, sort of) with various stuffings, such as macapuno (immature coconut meat) or cheese. Also good are taisan (a sponge loaf cake iced with sugar and butter) and suman sa ga taw, cigar-shaped sticky rice, coconut, and sugar steamed in a banana
leaf. The bakery sells to several other ethnic markets in the
Many productspreserves, ice cream, juices, vinegars, and mixesare
coconut-based. Philippine-style sausages and bacon are available
frozen. On weekends you can buy ready-made sweets, meats, and
Mabuhay Oriental Store and Bakery, 6615 Backlick Rd., Springfield; 703-451-8986. Monday to Saturday
10 to 8, Sunday to 7. Parking.
Relatives of Rodriguezs run Salinas Oriental Store in Fort Washington (9205 Oxon Hill Rd., 301-567-2733) and Halina
Oriental Store in Camp Springs (5846 Allentown Way, 301-449-5117).
Try The Philippine Cookbook by Reynaldo Alejandro (Coward-McCann, 1983).
European Market, equally devoted to Portuguese and Brazilian products,
features fresh fish flown in from Portugal, presunto (cured hams), sausage, smoked bacon, cheese, breads, and pastries.
The best time to shop is on Thursday mornings, when owner Manual
Santos is back New York and all the fresh fish, meats, breads,
and pastries are displayed.
Other Portuguese offerings include olive oil, coffee, tinned fish,
and frozen fava beans; in bulk bins are green peas, rice, and
beans. When you think of Brazilian feijoada, head here for such
components as pork loins; smoked bacon; and salted pigs feet,
tails, and ribs. There are lots of Brazilian soda pops, pastas,
palm hearts, and guava pastes.
For caldo verde, a typical Portuguese dish, you simmer potatoes and kale with
thick slices of salpicão, a smoked-ham roll. Other Portuguese dishes are explained by Elizabeth
Lambert Ortiz in The Food of Spain and Portugal (Atheneum, 1989). Jessica Harris provides recipes and reminiscences
in Tasting Brazil (Macmillan, 1992).
European Market, 17605 Redland Rd., Rockville; 301-417-0788. Monday noon to 8,
Tuesday to Saturday 8 to 8, Sunday 10 to 3. Near the intersection
of Redland and Muncaster Mill roads. Parking.
Another shop that sells Brazilian products is Brazilian Market at 11425 Grandview Ave. in Wheaton; 301-942-8412.
Discreetly positioned behind three pigs Barbecue in McLeans Langley
Shopping Center, Russian Gourmet exhibits an impressive spread
of foodstuffs in the style of Russia, Eastern Europe, and the
Caucasus. Owners Alexandra Costa and Zourab Tsiskaridze have selected
From Brooklyn come the frozen dumplings pelmeni and vareniki. Stuffed with veal, lamb, turkey, potato and mushroom, farmers
cheese, or sour cherries, these dumplings are boiled until they
rise to the top of the water and are then served with a dollop
of sour cream or butter.
The deli case is packed with Moscow-brand hot dogs, Polish sausage,
Prague ham, garlic sausage, tea wurst, goose-liver wurst, tourist
salami, Westphalian ham, and smoked veal tongue. Dried whitefish,
chubbs, and smelts share space with brined herring, sliced sturgeon,
smoked eel, and three kinds of caviar.
Dairy products include Russian-style baked yogurt, butter, sour
cream, and farmers cheese. Bulk candy is big here, with some
30 kinds going by such names as plum and chocolate, Clumsy Bear,
Birds Milk, and Queen of Spades. Strudels, cakes, gingerbread
biscuits, toffee-nut wafers, and chocolate-nut logs constitute
the desserts. Cakes, such as Prague torte and hazelnut torte,
are from the National Bakery in New York.
Jams come from Russia, Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, Moldova, Croatia,
Turkey, Greece, and Armenia. Hearty bread is from New York: Arnautkievski
(rye), Borodinsky (rye), pumpernickel, and Orlovsky (rye).
Russian books, videos, and newspapers are also on sale. At my
last visit the only cookbook in English was a collection of Armenian
recipes. For a guide to Russian cooking, you might look at Anne
Volokhs The Art of Russian Cuisine (Macmillan, 1989).
Russian Gourmet, 1396 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean; 703-760-0680. Monday to Saturday
10 to 8, Sunday 12 to 6. Parking.
Among European Bazaars attractions are the deli case and its
smoked fish, sausages, hams, salamis, pickled herring, caviar,
and the like. To go with your ham, choose some Russian bread from
New York, and mustard or horseradish. Milk products include kefir
(a yogurt drink of Central Asian origin), yogurt, cream, and farmers
cheese. The cabbage salad and pickled tomatoes will liven your
appetite, and the candies, cakes, and poppyseed strudel will settle
you down after dinner.
European Bazaar, 1488-I Rockville Pike in Rockville, across from Congressional
Plaza North shopping center; 301-230-9371. Monday to Saturday
10 to 8, Sunday noon to 5. Parking. Walking distance from Twinbrook
Metro station. In the same strip mall as Yekta, an Iranian market.
In business for almost a quarter of a century, Asian Foods in
Wheaton is pretty much pan-Asian (products from Thailand, China,
Japan, Korea, Philippines, and Indonesia), but its basic orientation
is Thai, as is evidenced by the multitude of takeout Thai dishes
displayed steam-table style. On a given day offerings might include
pad Thai (the familiar noodle dish), sweet fried beef, hot spicy
pork feet, mustard greens with pork stomach, spring rolls, stir-fried
bean thread, curried chicken or beef, fried whole fish, and other
dishes from the extensive repertoire.
The basic ingredients of Thai cooking are here: chilies, coconut,
cilantro, fish sauce, garlic, lemongrass, kaffir-lime leaves,
holy basil, banana leaf, and numerous curry pastes. These herbs,
spices, and condiments are used in meat, fowl, and fish dishes
as well as in noodles and rice preparations. To learn more about
Thai cuisine, try The Taste of Thailand by Vatcharin Bhumichitr (Atheneum, 1988).
This market is also one of the few places with a sizable assortment
of Indonesian products: candlenuts, kencur (a root that tastes
somewhat like camphor), krupuk (a snack cracker), palm sugar, pandan leaf (used to flavor desserts), salam leaf (cassia or cinnamon family), and many condiments and sauces.
Try to locate The Food of Bali by Heinz von Holzen and Wendy Hutton (Periplus Editions, Singapore,
1994); the food photography is dazzling.
Asian Foods, 2301 University Blvd. E. (near Georgia Ave.) in downtown Wheaton;
301-933-6071. Daily 9 to 7:30. Parking. Walking distance from
Dont want to trek to Wheaton? Try Duangrat Oriental Food Mart, run by the same people who own Duangrats, a stellar Thai restaurant;
5888 Leesburg Pike in Baileys Crossroads, 703-578-0622.
A trip to Eden Center is roughly equivalent to a trip to Vietnam,
and a lot cheaper. A commercial hub of Vietnamese life in the
Washington area, Eden, especially on weekends, is abuzz with people
window-shopping, listening to music from record-shop speakers,
savoring hearty bowls of pho, and dining in restaurants. A number of people will be shopping
at the venerable Eden Supermarket and the more recent Saigon Supermarket
or buying a sweet at Huong Bihn Bakery.
Some products for sampling include the Vietnamese pâtés, known
as cha, wrapped in foil and plastic in the refrigerated case. Cha is
usually based on pulverized pork or chicken and spiked with nuoc mam (fish sauce), a bit of sugar, or maybe cinnamon.
Youll usually find fresh spring rolls near the cash register.
They come in packages of two: rice paper wrapped around a bundle
of vegetables, herbs, and noodles, with sliced shrimp visible
through the sheer paper. Included are a container of dipping sauce
and maybe a tiny, fiery red pepper. You can make these rolls yourself
with ingredients from the market.
From the frozen dishes you might choose the Shrimp on Sugar Cane
Sticks (shrimp mashed with a mortar and pestle with sugar, rice
powder, garlic, and egg whites, and molded onto sugar-cane pieces).
After broiling, you remove the shrimp from the sugar cane and
add it to moistened rice paper filled with vegetables and noodles.
Sometimes this spring roll is wrapped in lettuce instead of rice
paper. Between bites of this, you chew on the sugar cane.
Serving dishes and cooking utensils are available, as are fresh
produce; dried, fresh, and frozen fish; and lots of pork parts.
Freshly roasted duck and pork are also sold.
The Classic Cuisine of Vietnam by Bach Ngo and Gloria Zimmerman (NAL-Dutton, 1986) is helpful.
Eden Center is in the 6700 block of Wilson Boulevard in the Seven
Corners area of Falls Church. Look for the colorful new arch at
the parking-lot entrance.
Eden Supermarket (6763 Wilson Blvd.; 703-532-4950) is open Monday to Friday 10
to 8:30, Saturday 9:30 to 8:30, Sunday 9:30 to 8.
Saigon Supermarket (6795 Wilson Blvd.; 703-533-9430), 9 to 9 daily.
Huong Binh Bakery (6781 Wilson Blvd.; 703-237-9228), 8 am to 9 pm daily.
Some of the basics of West Indian cooking that youll find at
Caribbean Market are allspice, arrowroot, breadfruit, callaloo
(a leafy green vegetable), vinegar, cassareep (boiled-down juice
of cassava), tubers galore, and okra. Breadfruit and callaloo
are frequently available fresh on weekends. In the meat case:
goat, fowl, and beef parts.
Hot-pepper enthusiasts, rejoice. Here is bottle after bottle,
much of it based on the Scotch bonnet pepper, said to be the hottest
in the world. Some products are of Indian derivation, including
chutney, amchar (similar to chutney), channa (a fried dough snack), saffron, and curry powder. Fresh thyme
is usually available. Breads in the style of Jamaica and Guyana
include end bread, hardo, tennis rolls, and spice buns.
Carryout foods include poulouri, dal puri, rice pudding, fish cakes, Guyanese-style patties, tropical drinks
(sorrel, Mauby), and cakes.
A good bet for a cooking guide is Sky Juice and Flying Fish by Jessica B. Harris (Simon & Schuster, 1991). Sky juice? Jamaican
for snow cones.
Caribbean Market, 7505 New Hampshire Ave., Langley Park, 301-439-5288. Monday to
Saturday 9 to 9, Sunday 9 to 5. Parking.
While in the neighborhood you might want to visit Red Apple Market, another West Indian market one block away at 7645 New Hampshire Ave.; 301-434-1819. For a cooling taste of the tropics (papaya, guava, soursop, passion fruit, and the like), visit York Castle Ice Cream at 9324 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring; 301-589-1616.
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