Adventuring in the International Aisle

dry food market

Moveable feast

Many of us prepare the same rotation of meals week-after-week and order the same menu item from the same restaurant. When was the last time you tried an entirely new food?

At best, it can be an opportunity to find a new regular and at worst can help you to appreciate your old favorites. When living in Asia, I had the fortune and necessity to try lots of delicious and unidentifiable foods. If you ask what you are eating and are told, there is no English translation; you probably don’t want to know. The Mexican buffet in India was an obvious mistake as were the eggs scrambled with what seemed to be worms – they happened to be very tasty and the Chinese waiter assured me they were “small fish” – my fever broke after only five weeks.

Why are small fish more palatable than worms?   Reframing questions and being open to new experiences leads to creativity. In Hong Kong on each trip to the market, I would buy at least one new ingredient – then Google the name to figure out how it could be used. Some of the foods I adopted can’t be easily found in the US but here are some less exotic ones that can:

Pomelo kind of like a grape fruit but not as sour, great in salads with feta/lime/peanuts

Miso Paste – for sauces.

Edamame beans in shells – steamed with a shake of salt.

Daikon radish – shredded raw or boiled for turnip cakes.

Kaffir lime leaves – For Thai food – Remove leaves before serving.

Rooibos – Caffeine free tea from South Africa.
Try a new restaurant, and new menu item, or a pick up a new ingredient in the international aisle of your local market. What is the most unusual food that you like?



  1. What a refreshing outlook. We should always be trying new things and trying new foods is one of the easiest to do. When we find ourselves eating at the same burrito shack every day we should make the effort to try the crowded Afghan or Mongolian restaurant once. So many times we are in our habit but to experience a little more we need to look to find those new experiences both in culinary pursuits and beyond.

    • Thanks Ken!
      I appreciate your comments and you’re right food is an easy way to try new experiences beyond our habits. I mention food often when speaking of creativity since not everyone draws, dances, or sings but everyone eats and most people cook to some extent.

  2. I appreciate your thoughts, and of course, you are right. Even the mundane acts of eating and cooking can be adventures. My 2011 resolution was to find one new, healthy recipe per week, and I’ve already gone through week one without success. You have helped me renew my resolve, but I think it might be best that I spend more time painting than cooking if history is a teacher.

  3. David, I’m a first time visitor. I stopped by from Melinda’s Finding The Humor. I love the International aisle and I love Whole Foods the best. I use Miso paste regularly to make soup. I know it has other uses but that is how I use it right now.

    I’m trying to find some Forbidden Rice. It’s purple and seems to be only used in recipes that are room temperature or chilled. I’m hoping to use it in conjunction with brown rice to make a yin and yang dish. I made a soup last week with Chinese Black fungus in it. I’m open to try new things and the grocery store is one of the best places to try. Great post!
    Tom Baker recently posted..500px Photography- Part 2My Profile

    • Thanks for visiting Tom – I’ve enjoyed Melinda’s blog too she has a good sense of humor –

      Sounds like you keep a creative kitchen. One of my favorite dishes in Asia was Miso Black Cod –
      Black Cod has a different texture than other cods and some of those Japanese chefs really knew how to prepare it. give the general idea, I’ve substituted scallop instead and it’s a new favorite.

      Your in luck, I happen to have a rice expert in my kitchen tonight and I have lead for you: she thinks purple rice may be called UBE and often used in cakes.

      Also Amazon has purple sticky rice:
      Not exactly whole foods but more-and-more things seem to available over the internet.

      Dinners Ready, I have to go,

  4. I always love trying some new foods. Actually, I have not done it I guess for 3 months now. My friends and I, especially when we’re in a trip, always go to new restaurants just to check out some foreign foods. Every country or area has always their best meal.
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  5. Asian countries are not only popular for their tourist spots but also to their local cuisines. But one thing is becoming popular now, some countries are offering exotic foods that really taste delicious but pretty weird. Actually, I’ve tasted some of these weird food like insects. I must say that… it’s a great experience for me.
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  6. Hello David Goldstein I really enjoyed your informative article on Adventuring in the International Aisle. This really solved my problem, thank you!
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  7. Hi David! Asian countries are very popular for me as i am from Philippines. I found Asian dishes as a tourist spot of foreigners.