Mochi & Rice Noodles (aka: A Visit to the Asian Supermarket)

Asian Food Shopping ListDon’t you just hate it when you are planning to make pad thai, but you’ve run out of rice noodles? Or when you are seriously craving a steaming bowl of chow fun, but you don’t like to pay high restaurant prices? For me, there is only one logical solution to problems like these. A trip to my friendly neighborhood Asian supermarket.

Okay fine, these days, you can often find a lot of great ingredients for Asian cooking at your local chain supermarket. And really, there is no Asian supermarket in my neighborhood. But I am always happy to have an excuse to drive 30 minutes across the city to shop at one.

Shopping at the Asian market is a very different experience from shopping in a typical American chain grocery store. Although you can find a number of familiar products, you can also find many foods which you’ve probably never seen or tasted.

Dragon Fruit at Asian Market

Dragon Fruit, anyone?

Jack Fruit at Asian Market

Just how does one eat Jack Fruit, anyway?

Yummy Frogs at Asian market

Froggies? Is this a grocery store or aquarium?

Foods are also packaged or presented differently. For example, the fresh fish looks like – well, like fish, instead of the pre-boned and filleted slabs we are accustomed to buying. fresh fish And if you prefer your seafood very, very fresh, you may find tanks teeming with live fish and crustaceans – or even, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, live frogs. Yum-yum.
Fresher seafood

The prices at the Asian supermarket are generally quite reasonable, especially for seafood and produce. But it is easy to go overboard and spend more than you had intended. For example, just yesterday, my kids and I went shopping with a nice little list of foods, but also ended up buying several types of mochi, a ton of ramen noodles with cool flavors, shrimp chips, and chicharrones (wait…what?). And then, upon leaving the store, we could not help but stop at the café and load up on hot dim sum (which my 12 year-old ordered in the Mandarin language).

Lots and lots of Mochi

Mochi Heaven (This time, we bought mango, red bean, lychee, and hami melon)

Naturally, our menu for this week is filled with delicious Asian meals and snacks – thai curry, miso soup, stir-fries, spring rolls, and my personal favorite – pad thai with shrimp. Nope, no frogs for us. At least, not this time.

I’m Not Asian — I Just Eat Like One

Almost Perfect Stir-Fry Chow Fun

I’m pretty sure that my taste buds are in a constant state of identity crisis. They reject most of the typical American foods, such as mac ‘n cheese, heavy casseroles, pizza, and tacos. Sloppy Joes for dinner? No way. Fried chicken? Not in my house. But offer me a plate of pad thai, or won ton soup, or potatoes vindaloo served with basmati rice, and my taste buds will be your best friend. Maybe in some other life, I was Asian. Who knows?

After popcorn and sushi (no, not at the same time), my absolute favorite food is Mongolian B-B-Q, which actually is not Mongolian food at all, but Taiwanese stir-fry. Yeah, confusing, I know. But stir-fried noodles with lots and lots of veggies, and sometimes a little meat or seafood, is indeed one of the BEST FOODS EVER. I could eat it every day. Well, with occasional breaks for popcorn.

Of course, eating Asian food at restaurants can be pretty expensive. So I have been practicing for years to cook my favorite dishes at home. In this post, I will show you how to cook the perfect stir-fry. Okay, maybe “perfect” is too conceited, since this is my own recipe. So we’ll call it Almost Perfect Stir-Fry. Got your wok ready? Here it is:

The Noodles:

There are many different types of Asian noodles. In my photo, the ones on the right are made with wheat flour, and are the kind you typically find in Chow Mein dishes. To prepare for stir-fry, cook in boiling water for 1 minute. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT overcook, or they will be mushy and gross. Drain in  colander. Set aside. For today’s recipe, I used my favorite, rice noodles, also known as rice stick. When cooked in a stir-fry, this dish is often known as Chow Fun.

Rice Noodles must be soaked in cold water for about 30 minutes, and then drained in a colander before they will be ready to stir-fry. Do this before preparing your sauce and veggies.

The Sauce:

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 Tbsp. oyster sauce

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 cup minced fresh ginger OR 1 tsp. ground ginger

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

Mix together soy sauce and cornstarch to make a smooth paste. Slowly mix in remaining ingredients. Set aside.

Everything Else:

You can stir-fry a huge variety of vegetables, meats, tofu, or seafood. It is a great opportunity to try veggies that you may not have eaten before. For today’s example recipe, I used:

*1 onion

1 yellow zucchini


green beans

1 Asian eggplant

2 jalapeños

*2 cloves garlic

*several green onions

this weird yellow squash I’ve never seen before but found in the Asian supermarket


*I highly recommend always adding onions, garlic, and cilantro to your stir-fries, as they are very flavorful. Cilantro and green onions are best added at the end.

Prepare everything before you cook!

The first key to success in making stir-fries is to prepare everything before you cook. Slice, chop, peel, get those little stringy tips off of your snow peas. Prepare. Then have everything in bowls, ready to be tossed in at the right time. Heat 2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil in your wok (high temps!). Get your wooden spatula ready.

1. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeño. Stir fry 1 min.

2. Add hard vegetables (green beans, carrots, etc.) Stir-fry 1 min.

3. Add soft veggies (zucchini, mushrooms, etc.) 1 min.

4. Push all veggies to the sides of your wok to create a well in the center. Add your noodles to the well. Stir-fry 1 min.

5. Pour sauce directly on top of noodles. Stir-fry everything together for 1 min.

6. Toss in cilantro and green onions

7. Remove from heat and serve in cute Asian bowls with chopsticks. (Chopsticks are not optional, sorry)

One last tip: if you want to add meat to your stir-fry, cook it before the onions and garlic, then remove from the wok and set aside. Add to pan just before the noodles. If you are adding pre-cooked shrimp or peanuts, do this just after step 5. Feel free to adjust my Almost-Perfect sauce until it is almost-perfect for you. Add hot sauce! Try sesame oil! Or forget the homemade stuff and buy one of those pretty little bottles of pre-made sauce. I won’t be offended. Remember, I am not Asian. I just eat like one.