Cooking up an ethnic storm


    By Leah Elison

    Where do you buy ingredients if your recipe calls for mangosteen, durian fruit or Korean silkworm pupa?

    An ethnic grocery store, obviously.

    Specialty grocery stores in Provo have found a niche in the market by providing ethnic foods to returned missionaries, exchange students and other adventurers.

    “Other stores carry lots of Hispanic stuff but not much else,” said Jen Harms, a sophomore from Baltimore, Md., majoring in art education. “Ethnic stores carry lots of things that I can”t find at a normal grocery store.”

    Harms, who lived in Korea for eight years, said living in another country cultivates a fondness for food from that country and finding those foods in the United States can be very difficult.

    Ethnic grocery stores fill that gap, she said, even though they do not always have the same selection as native stores.

    “The markets here are pretty tame,” Harms said. “They do not have anything weird at these markets, like live eels.”

    In Provo, shoppers can find grocers that specialize in Mexican and Asian foods, and in Salt Lake, grocers that specialize in African, English and Italian foods.

    “My wife shops at an Asian grocery store,” said MBA student Brad Larson from Ogden. “She buys rice there because it”s really sticky.”

    Weina Chao, co-owner of Chao”s in Provo, said most people come to the store to find unusual vegetables and sauces, especially soy sauces from a variety of countries.

    She said the majority of customers are people from Asian countries, but the number of missionaries returned from Asian countries who shop at the store is significant.

    Chao left Taiwan to join her husband in the United States, and in 1975, they started the store, which is located at 77 N. University Avenue.

    Provo”s market for Asian food is not as good as Salt Lake because the Asian population is smaller, she said.

    Many Lands, located at 1145 N. 500 West in Provo, originally provided only Asian foods, but has expanded its selection as demand for other ethnic foods has increased.

    “The focus was more narrow when it started out,” said Peter Smith, manager of Many Lands Grocery Store. “But, we were the only place in town that seems to want to cater to everyone”s request.”

    Now the store provides Argentinean, Brazilian, European, Indian, Middle Eastern and Polynesian foods.

    Smith started working at Many Lands 15 years ago after graduating from BYU.

    One of the fruits Smith sells is mangosteen is a tropical fruit that resembles an orange.

    According to the Funk and Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, “It has long had the reputation of being the most delicious of tropical fruits.”

    He also sells durian fruit, which comes from Taiwan, is covered with green spikes and measures about 20 inches in diameter.

    “If you cut it open, it really stinks,” said Smith. “It looks like you could hit someone over the head with it.”

    Another item that draws people to Many Lands, is the Korean silkworm pupa, which is used as fish bate, not an ingredient for human food.

    “Sometimes you get people in here looking for chocolate covered grasshoppers for Halloween,” Smith said. “I show them the pupa and they think it is pretty gross.”

    For those readers who are brave enough, the following recipe will send chefs to local ethnic grocers for supplies.

    Bon appetit!

    For those readers who are brave enough, the following recipe will send chefs to local ethnic grocers for supplies.

    Bon appetit!

    Spring Rolls

    1 lb. ground pork

    .5 head of cabbage, shredded

    2-3 carrots, shredded

    1 onion, minced

    A couple of good squeezes of fish sauce

    1 bundle of rice noodles

    2 eggs

    1 package of Lumpia wrappers or egg roll wrappers

    Salt and pepper

    Mix pork, cabbage, carrots, onion, fish sauce, rice noodles, one egg, salt and pepper. Separate lumpia wrappers. Place meat mixture, about the size of your middle finger, in the middle of a lumpia wrapper close to the edge. Roll, tuck ends in and seal edge with the white of the second egg (just use fingers). Fry in hot oil until golden brown. Serve with sweet and sour sauce.

    Recipe from Becky Harms.

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