Ethni-cities….

31 Aug

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Today we’re in the mood for something exotic; a trip to China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, or Madison Heights… People from all over the world call Metro Detroit home. Arab Americans are the third largest ethnic population in Michigan, Asian population makes up 13.25% of Troy, 6% of Sterling Heights, 5% of Madison Heights. With such a variety of nationalities businesses such as markets and restaurants offer products that span the globe. We’re close to home, but it feels like we’re somewhere far away…

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H Mart on Big Beaver and Dequindre is an Asian grocery store specializing in Korean food; this is like no other grocery store I’ve ever been to. The market has wide aisles filled with brightly colored packaging, cartoon characters or photos help me identify the contents. Glass jars hold unique Asian specialties like pickled mango, pickled garlic and bamboo shoots with chili. Refrigerated items include rows of prepared kimchi, fresh udon and soba noodles, heat and eat specialties. Beverages come in colorful cans; grape cider, orange cider and cream soda.

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Seafood is available live or frozen in the fish market, live lobsters and dozens of crabs have no idea what’s in store for them… The produce section is really cool, everything is colorful and attractive; dragon fruit are bright pink with green scales, another fruit is yellow with white stripes, Jack fruit come whole or cut into chunks-the inside looks like a pineapple with pumpkin seeds. Items represent Japan, Korea, China and Thailand. Cucumbers are long and ribbed, I’ve never seen so many kinds of peppers. There are greens galore; bok choy, mustard leaf, leaf lettuce. 

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Next is 168 Asian Mart on John R in Madison Heights, it claims to be Michigan’s largest Asian market. Floors, ceiling, shelves are painted white, aisles are wide, the store goes on as far as I can see. Stacks of beautifully decorated metal tins hold Moon Cakes, customers compare one to another. We find ourselves in the produce section, I like the chartreuse color of the spiny durian. There’s a line to order in the food court, menu boards include color photos, metal trays hold freshly prepared items including dim sum and noodle dishes; it looks delicious. Roast ducks hang from chains, you can even buy a whole roast pig for $168.88; tables in the cafe area are full.

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Fresh seafood includes fish swimming in aquariums, lobster, squid shrimp and turtles; all are available frozen too. There are aisles of rice and noodles; Geisha grace the packages of Jasmine rice, Kung Fu is a brand of instant noodles….Awesome. Chinese tea comes in ornate tins, Sake is packaged in pretty bottles, animal crackers feature ox and camels and are seaweed flavored. We see Ding Dong’s, La-la’s and green tea mochi, Kit Kat comes in raspberry, green tea and sweet potato varieties. The frozen section is home to popsicles in flavors like durian, black bean, lychee, mung bean, sour sop and guava. Wouldn’t it be great to take a bite of each?

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All of this shopping has made us hungry, we’re off to our favorite Indian restaurant Phulkari Punjabi Kitchen on Dequindre. The eatery has been in business for over 20 years serving up some of the tastiest food we’ve ever eaten. Located in a strip mall the interior walls are bright pink and orange, very cheerful looking, menu boards hang on the wall, so much to choose from. Their Samosa’s are the best, we get the samosa chaat: 2 potato and pea turnovers topped with yogurt, onions, sweet and spicy chutneys. Along with that we order the Thali, a traditional Indian meal consisting of rice, bread, various dishes and dessert. Selections vary from day-to-day, we choose vegetarian options, paneer makhani: homemade Indian cheese in a thick tomato gravy, mah ki dal: very tasty lentils, yogurt and cholay: curried chick peas; rice pudding is for dessert. When served, a steel tray with multiple compartments is filled with little bowls containing the flavorful dishes, the food is outstanding.

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We are now in the Middle East, Dream Market sells groceries, produce and prepared foods representing that part of the world. We walk through an area with bulk bins, tins of candy rest on high shelves. In the produce section  we see the familiar and the not-so-familiar, cucumbers come in a variety of lengths and textures. Throughout the market murals cover the top portion of the walls, most are of smiling women pushing shopping carts, holding up canned goods or packaged items; I wish grocery shopping was as much fun as they make it look! The store sells a huge variety of tea, grains such as barley, harina and bulgur are sold in bulk, lentils come in an array of colors. 

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Sweets include cookies, cakes and candy, dates are popular and can be purchased covered in milk or dark chocolate, coffee is sold in colorful bags. Our nose leads us to the in-store brick oven, flat pieces of dough have just been placed inside, in seconds it begins to rise into individual loaves. When properly browned it’s removed to a basket where anxious customers wait until it is cool enough to handle. If I wasn’t so full I’d eat some right now! The deli counter holds dish after dish of prepared food: grape leaves, chick peas, salads with olives, falafel, everything looks so good. 

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Across the parking lot we see Palm Sweets, let’s check it out. Kris and I love Middle Eastern pastries; this bakery has everything from baklava, birds nest and fingers to burma, moshebek and asabe zainab. The middle display cases hold fancy layer cakes, tarts and bars. The section closest to the door features coffee and ice cream, they offer the usual chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, but we want something different, something like baklava or white pistachio ice cream. The friendly woman behind the counter helps with our decision, white pistachio it is, just one scoop, we’ll share. We take a seat at a high-top table, the interior is lovely; booths, tables, a fireplace surrounded by couches and chairs rest among attractive decor. The ice cream is scrumptious. We have plenty of souvenirs from our adventure: Laksa noodle soup from Singapore, sweet potato Kit Kat from Japan, pistachio baklava; best of all is how much fun we had seeing, tasting and experiencing something totally different.  

 

 

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