Thursday, December 3, 2009

Impulse Buy(s) - a mini-road trip to San Jose

Last Saturday, to help ease me back into California living, Daniel humored me with a trip down 280 to sample some of what San Jose has to offer. We didn't have much of an agenda, so with only iPhone Google Maps to guide us, we stumbled on to some tasty finds. Here's the day in pictures:

Our first stop was Mi Pueblo Food Center, which from online reviews sounded like an open-air market, but was in reality a big grocery store, specializing in Mexican, Central American, and South American products.

A pretty yummy chicken tamale. The chicken was a little dry, but nicely flavored

We bought a container of salsa. Although the man at the counter assured us it was the spiciest, it wasn't that hot, but it had a nice, smokey flavor to it.

Some chipotle hot sauce. Because we currently have approximately twelve open bottles of hot sauce in the fridge, I have restrained myself from breaking into this. Not sure how much longer I can resist.

Next, we headed over to Little Saigon, or so it was known before the great San Jose naming controversy of 2007. No matter what you call it, this area is known for its sizable Vietnamese population, which is apparently the largest outside of Vietnam.

First we hit the grocery store, where of course we were forced to make a couple of impulse buys...

A fried onion paste, which is INCREDIBLY salty, but has already added some powerful oniony flavor to the savory casserole bread I made on Sunday.

Mackerel in tom yum sauce. Yet to try it, but I love small, canned fish.

I also love small, packaged, fried fish. Anchovies with sesame seeds! I really am kind of in love with these. Daniel bravely tasted them but wasn't sold. I think I'll sneak some into a salad and see what happens...

Here's what we didn't buy...

In fact just one look at this can of slimy, preserved bananas was enough to get my gag reflex going. Ick. Here's a close up.

Double ick.

From there we went walked down the shopping center concourse to a little take-out joint specializing in meat substitutes. As we know, no one does meat substitutes like the Asians.

I'm honestly not sure what is in this cup. We couldn't decide what to order, so the nice woman behind the counter made us a mix of gluten-based goodness. The resulting sampler was very chewy, a little sweet, and when topped with loads of sriracha, very yummy. While we would have naturally erred toward large amounts of our favorite hot red condiment, we did so with even greater abandon on the recommendation of a kind older gentleman who was himself enjoying a Styrofoam cup of mixed gluten.

This is ban boc lac chay. Very gelatinous rice gluten (I think) wrapped around little bits of tofu.

Finally, we headed over to the indoor shopping mall across the street, which seemed to specialize in jewelry shops and Vietnamese appetizing stores, where we purchased two baggies of beef jerky. One hot and spicy for Daniel and one fruit cured for me (in honor of the delicious fruit cured pork jerky that my Nina introduced me to.)

While there was a big food court, nicely appointed for the holidays, we decided to forgo it.

I was craving a salad, and since I had yet to capture the obligatory "Daniel eating a sandwich in the car" photo, that needed to be remedied...

And so, with banh mi in hand, we journeyed back north to SF to catch up on Mad Men.

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