Set back from Germantown Rd near Malco Cordova is a hot spot of cultural shopping. The Cordova International Farmer’s Market is 2-3 times the size of most grocery stores, and has just about everything you could imagine, and some things you can’t. Every once in a while, when I run out of some of my kitchen staples you can’t find anywhere else, I make the half-hour journey.
If you’re going to check this place out, make sure you have plenty of time! You can easily spend 2-3 hours in this place, even if you know exactly what you’re after. The urge to just wander the aisles can be overwhelming.
When you enter, you’re greeted by the expansive produce and bulk dry goods section. Originally, there were a lot of imported fruits and vegetables, but now most of it, even the exotic stuff, comes from places like Florida, California, or Mexico. (The bok choy [$.89/lb], avocados [$.79/ea], and jicama [$.99/lb] I picked up were from Cali.)
You can even buy things such as whole sugar cane, huge banana leaves, and durian. (Ew.) There’s a whole aisle dedicated to different types of hot peppers, and an open cooler full of different greens, mushrooms, sprouts, and herbs. And yes, there are organics.
The only downside here is that the produce section is unfortunately backdropped by the large live seafood section.
Moving on to grocery, the next aisles you pass are tea and kitchen wares, the small American section, beverages (the $.79 Thai coffee cans are delicious!), candies and snacks (Mochi, chips, cookies, etc.), and then you start getting into culture-specific sections. There’s an entire huge aisle dedicated to sauces and oils, opposite a long row of pasta, noodles, and rice wraps. I usually stock up on rice wraps for spring rolls when I’m here. They make an easy, healthy snack, and you can put together a 3-ingredient spicy peanut sauce to go with them!
Spicy Peanut Sauce Recipe
- 1/4-1/2 cup Crunchy Peanut Butter
- Thai Chili Paste
- In a sauce pan, heat the peanut butter over a small flame until mushy. Stir constantly. (You don’t need to oil the pan because the chili paste has plenty, and will keep it from sticking.)
- Add Thai chili paste until it’s as spicy as you want it.
- Salt as needed.
- Serve! You can use it as a gyoza dip, or spread it on a rice spring roll wrapper before you add the other fillings.
The great thing about the sauce variety is that there’s basically a vegetarian/vegan version of EVERYTHING.
Traditionally, Worcestershire has anchovy juice in it, which gives it that signature flavor. (Blek!) And while it is possible to find a fish-less version at Whole Foods, I’ve never seen an organic, GF one for under $5!
Ponzu typically includes bonito flakes, shavings of dried bonito fish. Keep this in mind if you’re ever out to dinner at any Japanese place. Fortunately, I came across this citrus version! No fish. Yay!
I sauteed some extra firm tofu cubes in about 1-2 tsps of this, and it was great with my pho!
After the Indian, Pakistani, Vietnamese, and Italian sections, you get to the frozen/refrigerated goods. The first thing I always get is this 2.2lb bag of MSG-free vegetarian gyoza. (~$8) I’m highly allergic to MSG, so this is great.
‘So why do you shop at an Asian-centric grocery if you’re allergic to MSG?!’ you might ask. The thing is, we Americans are so used to our food being over-saturated with salt, sugar, and preservative compounds that mainstream Americanized versions of other countries’ foods contain way more of those ingredients than they would otherwise. It’s especially prevalent in fast food, which is why you hear of Chinese buffets adding MSG.
Unfortunately, MSG is a very unhealthy flavor enhancer with nasty side effects, including bloating, fatigue, severe cramping, asthma attacks, limb numbness, heart palpitations (sodium increases the heart rate immensely, which can lead to kidney failure in the long-term), and more. (Source)
Truthfully, most of the imported stuff doesn’t have it!
I’ve seen the spaghetti version of Shirataki Tofu Noodles form House Foods before, but it was interesting to find a macaroni type. It’s gluten free, non-GMO, low calorie, low carb, and contains 2g of fiber per serving. A good substitute for pasta. (Typically, I use quinoa instead of pasta because it soaks up extra sauce/juice.)
On the Vietnamese aisle, I stumbled across some bags of different dehydrated vegan proteins, like ‘beef’ chunks, soy chunks, soy shreds, etc. Apparently, you soak them for a while and use them as an ingredient. Interesting, but probably very carb-y, and might have a lot of unsavory chemicals.
All in all, I got:
- 2 bags of frozen edamame
- 1 pack Jayone veggie spring rolls
- 1 bottle Ichimi Togarashi ground chili pepper (Use on ramen, udon, etc. to spice it up!)
- 2 cans jackfruit in brine
- 1 bottle Ponzu citrus sauce
- 1 bottle Kikkoman low sodium soy sauce
- 1 bag veggie gyoza
- 1 jar Kizami Nori strips (A good topping/flavor addition to Asian noodle dishes)
- 1 pack extra firm tofu, non-GMO ($1.15!)
- 1 tub organic shiro miso
- 2 heads of bok choy
- 1 stalk of lemongrass
- 2 onions
- 1 bunch green onions
- 2 avocados
- 2 jicama
Ichimi Togarashi and Shichimi can both be used to heat up dishes like udon, ramen, soba, etc. The first is crushed pepper flakes, while the latter is a crushed pepper blend. I heard about it in a video by Ryen (VlogAfterCollege), who vlogs about fitness, cooking, life tips, and his corgi Gatsby.
There are around 3-4 different types of miso. ‘Shiro’ miso is the white, light-flavored miso typically served in restaurants, and is my favorite. It can last up to a year in the fridge, so I keep a tub around for a quick meal when I’m craving soup. Throw in some cubed tofu while it’s boiling, add some greens, and you’re done! (Top it with a pinch of the nori for extra flavor.)
This is jicama! (‘hick-ah-mah’) You can do a lot with it, but it’s best when it’s fresh and juicy. I recommend just peeling it, cutting it into strips and either eating it as a snack, or topping a salad with it.
Originally, I was going to pick up sushi-style nori sheets for veggie rolls, but I don’t have anywhere to store bags of rice right now. Instead, I grabbed the roasted strips for garnishing. Either top a finished noodle dish, or mix with rice.
Jackfruit is native to South and Southeast Asia. When pulled and marinated in bbq sauce, it makes a great sloppy joe. Really, you can do almost anything with it that you would with tofu, and it just adapts the flavor of whatever you put on it.
The last thing is a 1oz package of Dynasty dehydrated shiitake mushrooms. Soak them in warm water for ~30min to rehydrate, and the flavor is amazing.
So if you’re headed into Cordova and have some extra time, try something new. Not only is it a pretty cool place, but the prices can be very competetive, and it’s much cleaner and more organized than other international shops I’ve been to. It’s well worth the trip!