More Asian than I thought

11 10 2009

After all of these years, my asian roots are finally showing their colours.   Who knew that all of my childhood treats were so foreign to everyone, to the extent that the US/Canada border patrol would question if  ‘shrimp crackers’ were banned in the US.  It possibly  may have been because a travel companion, that shall remain unnamed, decided it was a good idea to put my shrimp cracker and chocolate purchase in the Stow ‘n Go compartment, after saying, ‘No, we didn’t purchase anything today’.  I think I may be blacklisted at the border for trying to smuggle in shrimp flavoured chips. 

Ever since my visit to Vancouver in August I have not been able to get my favourite childhood meal of sticky rice out of my head.  Over and over I’ve been thinking about the recipe and what I need: chinese sausage, sweet rice, dried shrimp and scallops, dried mushrooms.  Normal ingredients for me, perhaps not for everyone.  This weekend we crossed the border to peruse the asian food selection in the great metropolis of Windsor, Ontario.  I know that when you think of Windsor, ON, you too think of crazy multicultural foods.  Great Metropolis it is not!  The China Town in Windsor is more of a China Street.  But, after a delicious dim sum experience, it was off to the Chinese market where I became the proud new owner of White Rabbit candies, lychee jelly shots, and cranberry cakes.  Just the thought of these childhood treats brought back memories of going to the old chinese food store with my mom and wandering around dark, jam-packed aisles of dried bean curd, salted fish, candied ginger,  and little cranberry cakes that look like pennies.    And I repeat, what seemed so normal growing up, caused the US/Canada border patrol guards to analyze everything in this bag of goodies and say ‘this is all new to me.  What does ‘haw’  mean?  Cranberry?”  And, if you know how ‘un-asian’ I really am, you know that all I could say was, ‘I have no idea what ‘haw’ means, all I know is that I call them cranberry cakes, and they look like pennies’.

So we made it across the border with our bounty, and much to my dismay, I had to leave all of the sticky rice ingredients behind.  Because, although I’ve managed to find them now, I still need to find somewhere to cook this meal, since a hotel room is not exactly the best setting to make sticky rice. 

Perhaps the funniest part of this whole weekend was when Nathan came back from the grocery store when we were back in Detroit, with a proud look on his face and acting like he had found me the best present in the whole world.  Earlier this week I complained that because all of our traveling this summer I had missed out on the lychee fruit season, and I love lychee.   While in Windsor we met up with friends who also raved about lychee fruit, and I showed Nathan a picture of one from a can. 

So, we get back to Detroit, Nathan goes to  the grocery store, and when he comes back he has a little plastic produce bag filled with something that looks suspiciously like lychee.  Oh my god.  I jumped up and grabbed them from him and ripped open the bag.  Those of you who know lychee can imagine my excitement. So I open up the bag, and this is what I find….rambutan ftuit

What is that? I have no idea what that is. 

 Lychee looks like this:lychee

It turns out, they are called “Rambutan Fruit” and although they are not lychee, they are from the same family.  So, even though I hadn’t eaten this fruit before, Nathan tossed me the car keys, and I used these keys to puncture this weird hairy shell and split open the fruit to find an oddly similar looking treat.  It’s not bad this rambutan, not quite as flavourful as lychee, but not bad. 

So all in all I’m realizing that my tastebuds are more asian than I thought they were.  And lucky Nathan is being introduced to a whole new world of penny-looking cranberry cakes, rice-paper covered White Rabbit candies and jelly lychee shots, that he’s  never even heard of before.