Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thai Eggplants (and truffles)

In a recent drive near Chinatown, I could not help myself but to yell out "Pull over! Pull over!" while yanking on my boyfriend's shirt when I saw a huge Asian market. Obviously you would expect this near Chinatown, but for whatever reason I had yet to make my way to one around here.

I love Asian markets. They're always full of some of the strangest things you'll ever see in a food market - furry and pointy fruits, tons of jarred shrimp and squid, strange smelly items that you can't quite identify. Foods that have been lost in translation - what exactly are "chemical eggs," and what exactly is in "flavor juice?" If durian is making a presence, count on a rotting garbage odor to permeate the fresh produce section. Meats that are ambiguous in their packaging. There were two identical packages of beef testicles - one labeled "Beef Testicles" and the other labeled "Beef Balls." Cue Beavis and Butthead-style laughter. 

This particular Asian market was also a fish market, with huge tanks of live tilapia, live catfish (REALLY big catfish, with quite a few dead on the didn't exactly give me confidence in their products), live crabs, and even a large box of live frogs. I hope one day, just for the sake of amusement, someone knocks the box of frogs over and they escape - now that's entertainment better than 75% of what's on prime time TV. They even had bags of frozen crickets...and cockroaches wrapped in sets of four! This was the first time I'd seen it, and it's somehow fascinating and gross at the same time. And I'm terribly disappointed that I didn't have my camera.
Next time I go I'll be a little more adventurous, but this time I played it safe. Various types of vermicelli noodles, a mango, a few cans of coconut milk, and some Thai eggplants (for something new) made their way home with me.

The Thai eggplants weren't as exciting as I'd hoped, but they sure are pretty little things. A little bit of a cucumber taste. I made a curry with them but it was hard to get their flavor out that way - so I'll roast the rest in the oven to see how good they can be on their own. Inside, they're full of little seeds, and on the outside they have gorgeous green markings with a tiny little husk on the top, kind of like a tomatillo.

On another note, I'm worried about my career based on the fact that I recently tried black truffles and found them to be...well...kind of gross. Feel free to give me a good punch. Chefs go on and on about truffles - how could I dislike them? Well, honestly, I don't like mushrooms either and that might have something to do with it. In Scott Ian's Food Coma article about truffles, he describes them thusly:

"When an angel poops, it poops truffles...I was at Providence here in LA and chef Michael Cimarusti invited us into the kitchen and he pulled out a plastic container with what had to be a pound of the good shit. He told me to hold the container to my nose and open the lid. The intensity of the smell that rushed out was the sheer power of the earth. It smelled like ancient forests. It smelled like what food must have tasted like before chemicals, what the air smelled like before we polluted it. It smelled like what I've always imagined The Shire (dork) to smell like. It awakened a primeval feeling of a connection to the land that I've never felt before. All that from just smelling them. Eating them is all that and more as the power of the earth is released into your bloodstream and the euphoria takes over. What I'm sayin' is, they getcha high. And once you've had them, you have to have them again. I've never smoked crack or meth or any of that fun stuff...truffles man, that's my thing. No hangover, no tweaking and you don't lose your teeth."

It's one of the best descriptions of a food I've come across. But really? Other than their value, why are they so sought after when they kind of taste like dirt? Is it an elitist thing, like people that brag about eating caviar even though it's really just salty and kinda rank? Or am I just a complete fucktard for not liking them or caviar?

Maybe Hopefully they'll grow on me.

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