Healthy Foods to Buy at Asian Markets
Many healthy and unique foods can be found at Asian grocery stores and often cheaper than the supermarket.
I just love checking out international grocery stores! It's so much fun to go into shops you've never been to and see what sorts of products people from other countries use the most. Frequently, I find all sorts of things I've never heard of or even have a clue how to use! With all the interesting foods, cosmetics and even cooking implements at international grocery stores, you're bound to find tons of items you can't purchase anywhere else in town. Sometimes these are food items that are little known to us but can actually be very useful or healthy for us and even if it is available at your regular grocery store, you will most likely find it much cheaper.
Here are some of my favorite items!
Go to your average Asian market and you're bound to find an extensive selection of a vegetable few of us Westerners have ever tried or thought about: SEAWEED! Varieties may include dulse, kelp, wakame and nori, but what they all have in common is that they are very high in minerals in which most of us are deficient. Seaweed packs a nutritional punch unlike any other food and can prepared in many ways. It is frequently sold dried which makes it easy to store. One of my favorite ways to consume seaweed is making a quick soup with hot water and miso paste. You can also find individual serving packets of seaweed "snacks" which are eaten much like potato chips.
One caveat with using seaweed is sometimes there are bits of sand stuck to it, depending on the variety. Due to growing right in the ocean, harvest methods sometimes prove difficult to remove all the particulate matter from the product, so it is often wise to soak your dried seaweed in a bowl of water to rinse before adding to your dish.
Everyone knows that brown rice is healthier than white rice, but it often costs a lot more! At Asian food markets you can find brown rice that is sold in bulk, usually in large "feed sack" type bags. As long as you have a good container to keep it in at home, this is a great way to stock up on this fiber rich food.
Most people have never heard of natto, let alone tried it. I must warn you, it is certainly an acquired taste. Natto is made from fermented soybeans and you can find it in the freezer section of Asian groceries in small, styrofoam packages. It has an extremely sticky consistency with long protein "strings" created by the fermenting bacteria that appear when you stir it up and spoon it out similar to melted cheese and also has an off-smell that some liken to stinky feet. The flavor is quite unusual and many people, even some in its native Japan do not care for it. So you may ask, why eat this stinky, stringy food? Well, natto is super high in Vitamin K which is of great importance to those suffering from osteoporosis or anyone with thin, weak bones. No other food contains as much vitamin K2 as natto and it also contains an enzyme called nattokinase which greatly helps those with weak circulation and who suffer from varicose veins. If you'd like more information about the health benefits of natto, check out Dr. Joseph Mercola's website at www.mercola.com and do a search. Natto is incredible for the body.
Natto is commonly eaten in Japan as a breakfast food, often mixed with steamed rice, a raw egg and some flavoring like soy sauce or tamari. You may want to try it mixed into other foods such as guacamole. Any way you can find to make this amazing health food palatable and get it into your belly will be a worthwhile effort!
Green tea ice cream
Now I can't say this item is 100% healthy or cost effective, but it is unique and very good and probably healthier than your average grocery store half gallon. You can find unique confections and sweets in Asian markets and this is my favorite. It's a sweet treat and you get the antioxidant benefits from the Matcha green tea in it that gives it an unusually nice, smoothly astringent flavor, sort of like mint. I often find it by the pint for about $3-4.00.
Ghee and special oils
I love going to the Indian/Middle Eastern grocery stores to buy certain fats and oils. One of the best is ghee which is nearly the same as clarified butter (you have probably had this at a seafood restaurant to dip your crab or lobster in). This has a slightly different flavor from butter and has all the casein protein "solids" of the butter removed. It often comes in jars of various sizes.
I also love to buy almond oil at the Indian grocery because it is so much cheaper than buying it at a health food store. This is great for rubbing on your skin after a bath and for massages. Makes your skin super soft and healthy and delivers a dose of Vitamin E!
You will see produce in international markets you've never seen anywhere else! And best of all, it won't come at an exotic price. You may see dragon fruit, breadfruit, durian and other fruits that to a Westerner may look like they came out of a Star Wars movie! Unusual root vegetables are good finds as well as whole spices like tumeric roots and whole cardamom pods you can buy in bulk. Many places even have items like banana blossom buds which look sort of like big, burgandy missles in a way...very cool!
These are just a few of the best items you can find at international markets. If you enjoy food adventures, I would recommend you find one in your neighborhood and check it out ASAP!