Asian groceries are worth a visit for more than the chicken-foot freak-out factor. They carry obscenely cheap produce and stock herbs you won't find anywhere else. While working on my review of My Lan, I walked over to the Hiep Thai Market to double check some of the herbs the restaurant was serving with its soups. Here are a few I found:
Shiso (pictured above): You can see this plant is related to mint. They share jagged-edged leaves, are both very aromatic and have a similar minty flavors. Green shiso is much stronger than the red served at My Lan. They were both available at the market when I visited.
Mint: Sure, you can get fresh mint at any grocery, but at Asian markets you'll get a bunch five times the size for half the price. You'll have enough for more spring rolls than you can eat with just one bundle. Make some tea with the rest.
Thai basil: Pretty similar to Italian or sweet basil, this herb has an additional anise-like flavor. It also stands up to heat better, staying bright and green in soups and stir fries, instead of wilting and turning brown.
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Vietnamese coriander: This one is really tender and has an intense lemony flavor. It's eaten fresh in salads and summer rolls and commonly served with balut, the boiled, fertilized egg sold Hiep Thai (link Not Safe For Lunch). Lucky for
me you there will be no balut story here today. But if I keep writing about it there's no telling what my editor will make me do.
Editor's note: Tune in next week, when we'll make Scott eat balut.