Friday, December 17, 2010

Touch at Your Own Risk

This morning I went on a mini-adventure to try to find some of the ingredients for a special holiday appetizer [1].

One of the things that characterizes the holiday season, according to much of the buzz on, is holiday parties, and specifically "the dreaded potluck" [2]. I really enjoy cooking, so I love bringing food. The problem is, that party-organizers always seem to ask my family to bring appetizers, which tend to be pretty boring (although my mother has come up with some clever things in the past). This holiday season I found an appetizer that I wanted to make: the Gỏi Cuốn from My Year on the Grill.

The Gỏi Cuốn are non-fried vegetarian spring rolls-- essentially the salad rolls from my favorite Thai place by my Alma Mater. These wraps are yummy and full of vegetables with a spicy dipping sauce. In order to make them, one needs rice-paper wraps in order to make them. In order to do that, my mom and I took a trip to the local Japanese (but really more general Asian) grocery store.
I borrowed this picture from My Year on the Grill.

The first thing I noticed about the store were the 20 lb bags of rice. The best part, was that there were not only 20 lb bags of white rice and brown rice, but rice from different regions (California seemed to be the most common) as well as sweet white and brown rice (which looks more like seeds than actual rice), different sizes of rice grain, red rice, black/forbidden rice, and various mixtures. There was even brown jasmine rice! I've never heard of brown jasmine rice. I also noticed that there was some wonderful cookware, including every size and shape of rice cooker imaginable.

My favorite moments came in the fish and shellfish section. On the pre-packaged shelves, there were some lovely cuts of salmon sitting beside what proclaimed to be fabulous cuts of squid. The most amusing part, in my opinion, was the shellfish. There were tanks upon tanks of crabs and lobster. The tanks themselves were kind of sad-- the crabs and lobsters were pretty crowded. However, there was a gigantic...vat (for lack of a better word)...which contained some kind of shellfish. I did not actually peer in because I was distracted by the sign above which said "Touch at your own risk. We are not responsible for your injury." Suddenly, I was struck by one of those ridiculous impulses to stick my hand in and see if something bit it, but luckily I refrained. The sign totally cracked me up.

Cerinthus later told me that I should make a comic strip out of my life and that he could totally imagine the cartoon version of me sticking my finger into the tank, getting pinched by a lobster, and saying "this one's fresh!" Ponticus introduced Cerinthus to Questionable Content a few months ago, and Cerinthus is clearly addicted.

Most of the rest of the trip was without incident. We found the rice wraps.  As we were browsing around we also found wonton and gyoza wraps [3]. We also wandered by the hot food section in which a very snappily-dressed Japanese man looked at my mom suspiciously, as if she might be tempted to impede his efficiency.

I am really excited about making the Gỏi Cuốn. I will report back!


  1. Obviously the term "adventure" is amusing after my last blogpost on Sartre's Nausea.
  2. Personally, I do not attend that many holiday parties and I have never been particularly partial to holiday food, so (since I almost entirely stopped eating holiday cookies) I do not gain that much weight during the holidays.
  3. I love vegitable gyoza. if anyone has a recipe, please send it my way. I saw a couple having it at the table next to Cerinthus and me at my favorite Japanese place near my Alma Mater and I ordered it on a whim. This was definitely the right decision.


  1. I wish you were coming to our house with those! Can't wait to hear how they turn out...maybe we'll give them a try.

  2. I will let you know what happens. It looks like they will be an adventure in production, but they should be fun (and tastey).