Flavor Excursions: Head East for Inspiration

BY  |  Saturday, Jan 21, 2012 8:00am

Your little ones may have to hold their noses for this Flavor Excursions trip, but it’s the best little Asian market you’ll find in the area. For years, I’ve been going to East West Asian Gourmet Market to stock up on ingredients to make dumplings, wontons and stir fries – staples in my family meal repertoire. The prices are so reasonable you’ll never buy another jar of soy sauce or sesame oil at a mainstream grocery store again. Often times I’ll coerce my kids to come with me to the “smelly store” and let them ogle the live crabs and fish in the seafood department. It’s a bit slimy and stinky, but it feels like we’ve just stepped into a market in Chinatown. But you’re really in Bloomfield on Belleville Avenue in a nondescript strip mall and it takes less than ten minutes to get there.

I’ll load up on canned and jarred staples like oils, sauces, water chestnuts, coconut milk and bamboo shoots and then head to the fridge and freezer section for the wrappers I need to make spring rolls, wontons and dumplings. You would think I’m part Asian with all the east/west cooking I do in my house! But the sweet and spicy flavors please everyone in my family. I make and freeze big batches of wontons, dumplings and spring rolls with friends and then pull them out for quick snacks and lunch box items for the kids. We survive on what I find at the Asian market!

There is an extraordinary assortment of dried noodles and rice paper wrappers too. But head towards the fish market, where you’ll also find mounds of fresh vegetables, from baby bok choy and string beans, Chinese cabbage and broccoli to exceptionally fresh ginger, scallions and herbs like cilantro and basil. The carrots are so huge you only need to buy one to last you the week! And the ginger, with a bright flesh and crisp consistency, will make you wonder why you ever bought ginger anyplace else. Be forewarned, it’s not the prettiest store and could use a makeover but it’s hands down the best quality I’ve found anywhere in Baristaville — all for bargain prices.

Here’s the recipe for Chicken Spring Rolls, my kids’ favorite. I like to use the spring roll wrappers since they are delicate and can be baked with a simple brush of olive oil. But if you prefer, egg roll wrappers work just fine but are best when lightly fried.

Chicken Spring Rolls
Makes 20

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cups onions, finely diced
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup chopped green cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 packages Spring Roll Wrappers (found at Asian Markets)*

In a medium sized skillet, heat canola oil. Sauté the ginger, garlic and onion for a minute. Add the ground chicken and cook, breaking apart the chicken as you stir. When the chicken is mostly cooked through and no longer pink, add the salt, soy sauce, cabbage and corn starch. Cook for another few minutes until the flavors have combined well. Remove from heat and cool mixture.

To fill wrappers, place the wrappers point side down and place about 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of the wrapper. Bring the bottom point up and fold each side in and roll tightly upwards. Moisten the wrapper slightly at the edge to seal.

East West Asian Gourmet Market
67 Belleville Avenue
Bloomfield, NJ
(973) 748-0030 ‎

*You can also use eggroll wrappers but you’ll need to cut the wrappers vertically in half to make smaller sized eggrolls.

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Carbs be damned! There's no reason to buy bread anywhere else. It is a heavenly indulgence.

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