I was surprised to hear that my fellow G3ers didn’t know about Tsai Grocery, located in that shopping center opposite the Target shopping center. Next to Godaiko. You know? Tsai Grocery rocks. It has an amazing supply of Asian ingredients, primarily Japanese but also Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian and other areas of the far east. It always takes me a long time to shop there because a lot of times I have to hunt for the English name of a product I’m looking for, or ask one of the staff to help me (which they always do with both courtesy and efficiency). Also it takes me a long time because I always just end up wandering around looking at everything – the stuff in the coolers is especially intriguing: packaged jellyfish (whole, sliced, chopped); yam paste; frozen dumplings and buns; pickled everything (garlic, scallions, radish); many types of fish cakes; sushi grade pieces of tuna, salmon, and octopus; 23rd century fruit flavored bubble drinks in kid-friendly foil containers. Needless to say, its an adventure.
Last weekend I cooked up some Udon in Dashi that I learned to make in the Asian cooking class I took last year at ICE. Sort of similar to Maria’s take on the Nigel Slater recipe from a couple posts back. The main difference is the broth, which is made by boiling strips of kombu (a type of sea kelp), then, in this version, adding bonito flakes and eventually straining. Dashi broth is delicate and clean – with a subtle hint of the sea – and the minute you taste it you feel a sense of purification and renewal.
Anyway, for the Udon soup, besides the kombu and bonito flakes, these were some of the items on my shopping list:
daikon (oh yeah I also made daikon marinated with ginger and rice vinegar)
lotus root (oh yeah I also made sauteed lotus root with sesame seeds)
togarashi (which is a dried chili pepper mix)
black gomasio (another mix of spices plus black sesame seeds)
Now, nothing makes me happier than not having to go to 20 stores in order to get ingredients for a meal. Tsai had just about everything I needed, with the exception of the scallions. Pretty amazing. They don’t have a ton of produce but they usually have a small selection of the basics – assorted Asian greens, lemongrass, ginger, and the items mentioned in my list. Plus they have all the staples (soy, tamari, rice vinegar, curry pastes) and more – you’ll be overwhelmed at the variety of products they carry.
So next time you are shopping for Asian ingredients, or you just want to escape Ann Arbor and imagine you’ve traveled to suburban Tokyo for an hour or so – check out Tsai Grocery. Either way, it is always a trip. (omg. I can’t believe I wrote that. I swear that just came out.)
3115 Oak Valley Drive
Ann Arbor 48103
734 995 0422