The Southern Woman That I Married is an accomplished, multi-cultural cook. Over the years, our table has been graced with examples of authentic fare from the world over. If there is one limitation to the diversity of the menus that Cathey can create here in the south of France, it's the availability of proper ingredients. Sometimes, it's the simple things. I've spent my entire life enjoying lox on a bagel smeared with cream cheese for breakfast on a Sunday morning. There's fine smoked salmon on display in just about every supermarket here, but even though the packaging of Philadelphia Cream Cheese looks the same as in the States, the formula is clearly different. It just doesn't taste the same. And a bagel? A real, honest-to-goodness, Brooklyn-style bagel? In the rural south of France? Fuhgeddaboudit.
For Cathey's cookery, more exotic fare than bagels and cream cheese is required. Almost immediately after our move here four years ago, she lamented the difficulty in obtaining tamarind paste. I'm sure that there are dishes that I enjoy that require tamarind paste. I just don't know which ones they are. And in any event, Cathey did convince a friend to secure a batch from an Asian market in a city about an hour away. But apparently you can run out of tamarind paste if your supply is not replenished every three or four years. Who knew?
Then a very good friend, a chef who Cathey admires greatly, told us about the new Asia Marché in Beziers, just off the ring road at the exit to the Auchon, right next to KFC. (Yep. KFC!) Off we went. And it was worth the trip. The photo above shows our first haul including, of course, a block of tamarind paste, at a total cost of under 30€:
Won Ton Wrappers (labelled Ravioli Leaves)
Dried Black Mushrooms
Canned Water Chestnuts
Canned Bamboo Shoots
Crispy Fried Onions
Sesame Seed Candy
We'll return. There are things to buy in bulk whose purchase will be negotiated with Cathey's friends and family. But the point is that the market has it all - dried, canned, frozen, fresh. There may be exotic ingredients that a true Oriental chef might not find, but Cathey was happy. And when Cathey's happy, you can't beat the food coming out of the kitchen.