On Visiting an Asian Market and Bitter Lemon

Wednesdays have become the day my husband and I go out for lunch together. The aim is to try new-to-us places, as Dallas is packed with them. This past week found us at a revolving sushi restaurant that used robots to bring your drinks to you. I was so bemused by the little R2-type thing that I didn’t get pictures, but it was super cute. It sang to itself as it delivered beverages, and then you could dismiss it by saying “thank you.”  It must be based on Roomba technology. I wonder if they hum about after the place is closed brushing up crumbs? Or perhaps they become robotic guards. The possibilities are endless.

After our tasty lunch, we wandered over to the Chinese market called Jusgo.

We’ve been there several times in our years living here. It has great prices on things like sesame oil and dried seaweed (I make my own California rolls, I’ll post about that in another blog, but it’s really easy). You can find interesting fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh fish.

The first thing I noticed on this visit was that everyone both working in and going to the store wore a mask while inside. Everyone. I believe this to be a cultural difference, as here in Texas the swing of the needle usually goes the other way, towards the “why are you wearing a diaper on your face” end of the spectrum.

Just an author observing.

The next thing I noticed (through my mask, when in Rome…) was how different this market smells as opposed to, say, Trader Joes or Kroger. It’s a wonderful experience, as if it’s magically transported you to a new continent when the sliding doors open. The scent of vegetables, meats, seafood, and spices combine to let you know you’re in for a different sort of experience. There’s also a wonderful takeout place in the far corner where you can get a bowl of stir-fried rice or noodles with veggies and meat for next to nothing.

We always end up trying a new type of cookie or cracker when we come here. We found some great brown rice noodles this time around that we’ve been enjoying the past few nights.

If you like fresh fish, it’s here both on ice and swimming around in tanks in the fish section. If you’ve been missing the seaside and that delightful salty, fishy scent, just walk through this section and inhale. I watched a customer ask for one of the fish swimming around in the tanks. In a matter of moments, they had scooped the fish out, cleaned it, and prepped it for him.

.

For me (even as an admitted hater of vegetables) it’s the bins of produce that catch my fancy. This is what whole jackfruit looks like. They are bigger than two people’s heads put together. My new “what’s this?” was the quirky bit of fruit that’s pictured at the top of this blog. It’s called bitter melon and although it is a fruit, it’s mostly used in stir-fry recipes. Its cousin is the cucumber.

It’s known for its crunchy texture, and biting, astringent taste. It is definitely bitter, like an old uncle whose best girl married his brother back in the day and he’s never gotten over it. But. Bitter Melon has also proven itself as a warrior-type that lowers blood sugars and fights viruses. There is a study out from the University of Colorado Cancer Center that shows that bitter melon juice kills cancer cells.

It really is bitter. I can see why those cells might have just given up.

Not to say you should eat boatloads of it though. It can be harsh on your insides; it can give you heartburn pretty easily and have you “taking out the trash” a little too frequently if you follow my analogy.

I have yet to try any recipes with this fruit, but there are lots of them online. Indian, Thai, and of course Chinese food use it often. Let me know if you give it a try!

And, if you’re lucky enough to have an Asian market near you, pop in and take a look. You never know what you might discover.

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