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Of mangosteens and Korean cucumbers

photo-69Yesterday I went into full-on “throw it into the cart” mode at the Buford Highway Farmers Market. I went up and down the aisles, and got the most random assortment of appealing food items including:

  • Huacatay paste: An inimitable Peruvian herb also called “black mint.” It tastes like mintbasilantro, and was fantastic on the cauliflower I roasted for dinner.
  • Abuelita Mexican hot chocolate tablets.
  • Russian smoked fish assortment (the sea bass is amazing) with hard rye bread and pickles. Great Sunday dinner
  • Hoo Roo Rook ramen noodles (the best instant noodles out there, IMO)
  • Camaronazo spicy shrimp-flavored tomato juice. It’s usually used for Mexican shrimp cocktails but, per the label, it makes a mighty tasty michelada when mixed with beer. (I honestly got this as a joke, but we all loved it and the bottle is now nearly empty.)

My two favorite finds, however, came from the produce aisle.

Fresh mangosteens (pictured above) thrill me to no end. I remember eating bags upon bags of these fruits in Thailand 20 years ago, never for a second tiring of the nearly perfect way the juices pierce with sweetness and acid to deliver something akin to a blend of tangerine and melon flavors. It has none of the sticky, honeyed flavor I associate with tropical fruit, but rather a clean, ocean-wave-in-your-face flavor, like citrus or passion fruit.

The first batch I bought here were a little iffy. Some were overripe or overgrown, so that the juicy white segments inside the hard purple shell were mealy and starting to form into seeds. This batch, so far, has been amazing. The trick is to look for very glossy purple ones that won’t easily dent or bruise when you push the shells. You need either a knife or claw-like nails to break the shell. Mangosteens are expensive: about $7 a pound, or a buck apiece.

Korean cucumbers are new to me. Very pale and very long, they are as sweet and crisp as any I’ve tried. The seeds are small and tender. I haven’t tried pickling them yet, since they’re so good raw. Last week, I was thrilled to discover Persian cucumbers at the Dekalb Farmers Market, which have a distinctive, almost rosewater, flavor. How great that there are alternatives to the waxed, overgrown cucumbers big agriculture has been feeding us for so many years.

- By John Kessler, Food and More blog

12 comments Add your comment

Kar

February 14th, 2011
10:07 am

My favorite ethnic store still. The new franchises just don’t seem to have the fresh vegetables or the variety of the old Buford mkt. Three types of chives? Ten types of bok choy? Soybean paste types from five nations? Love it. Not to mention the variety of meat and fish.

And the best grocery store sushi in the city.

I also love how you can find staples from around the world there. However, if you don’t remember the source of a food product, you’re screwed. Took me an hour to find lemon vinegar one time, turns out it was Korean.

jimmy

February 14th, 2011
10:54 am

Good stuff thanks. I wondered around BuHi farmer’s market for 30 minutes looking for yuzu juice. Wish I could find someone who works in that store besides the sample people and produce stockers.

John Kessler

February 14th, 2011
11:07 am

I get yuzu juice at the little Asian market by the Dekalb Farmers Market.
Also, didn’t get into it in the post above, but the dense Latvian rye bread I bought is astonishingly good.

FoodFan

February 14th, 2011
11:31 am

Agreed on the throw it in the cart mode when I go there. I usually walk through every “aisle” (really, more like “country”) and just have the most random of items together as well. One of my favorite things is to get an assortment of funky veggies & make an asian soup with one of the random dumplings from their freezer case, accompanied with a ton of kimchee. Mmm…gotta go back now!

MMMMMMmmm. Foood

February 14th, 2011
1:04 pm

I live in Smyrna and our little Cobb Market on Spring Rd. has come along way, but still has some ways to go. The BuHi is like a family road trip. What a place!

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Soupy Sales

February 14th, 2011
5:02 pm

JK: That Latvian rye bread is especially terrific paired with slices of the Hungarian salami – - and a pint of the wonderfully briny and crispy half-sours – - found on the same aisle.

KoPP

February 14th, 2011
5:11 pm

Used to drink red beers with Coors and V-8. Them were the days…

holland

February 14th, 2011
5:31 pm

LOVe the Bu-Hi Farmers Market…they have done an amazing job with cleaning up the store and making it easy for us newbies to join in the fun! and the cooking classes…dang $20 for a class, where you sample and learn about the products and then you get a $10 gift card…AWESOME!

John Kessler

February 14th, 2011
7:34 pm

FoodFan: Great idea!

Lisa

February 15th, 2011
8:22 am

Camaronazo — Must be the Mexican equivalent of Clamato in Canada.

Tristan

February 16th, 2011
4:06 pm

If you are ever looking for a product that you can’t find visit the customer service desk and ask for Tristan or Bill. We will be able to help you find it or if we don’t have it then we can look into getting it in for you.