Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fee Fi Pho - The International Grocers

There it was, the largest International Store in Indianapolis and it was my day off.  We'd talked about doing an expedition here on one of the weekend "Girls Day Out" (as my gal friend T. said today-- "They have Lebanese TV dinners!"), but since I was nearby on another errand, it seemed like the place to see.
Saraga International Market. It's in an old K Mart, to give you an idea how BIG it was.  I don't have pictures as it's not in the best part of town, and I didn't want to be strolling through the parking lot with $4000 worth of camera dangling off of me. It's not an area I'd be afraid to go in the daytime (it's a couple blocks south of Don's Guns, to give the locals an idea) but I didn't want to be obvious about expensive toy.  The cars in the lot in the early morning were all new, late models, while the local foodies and some snappily dressed retirees from all over town, came in to get the best values while the rest of the world was still sleeping in or heading off to work.  There are also two other locations in the area, but this one was the original off of 38th and Lafayette.
But it was a pretty neat store, with food from ALL over the world, and very good prices.  There was every kind of frozen and fresh fish in the world, some of which were the stuff of my particular nightmares (seriously, people eat that?) and all kinds of exotic" meat produce". Duck, Goose, lamb, international hooves of mystery and eels for my hovercraft!
I went mostly just see what they had. And I was seriously  happy to find that they had black rice, a wonderfully filling and nutty treat higher in antioxidants than blueberries for 1/3 of the price of online (plus, it's hard to find). I also got several sizes of rice noodles, big packages, $1.69 a piece.  (OK and the Maltesers and some Cadbury from the UK fell into the basket)
There was a lot of things I had  never heard of, and I still am chuckling at the jar of Shito - which apparently is some sort of spicy sauce from Guana. (juvenile - yes, but I still laughed). And I don't want to know what Golden King "Grass Jelly Drink, Banana Flavor" tastes like (as I doubt it's banana.)  But there were a lot of things I just had to get!
Are you an Indiana Prepper?  There was more bulk beans and rice, of all KINDS and countries of origin, than I've ever seen. Fresh and dried spices as well and seriously cheaper than Costco and such places.
European food was somewhat limited, outside of teas and candy, though I did get a nice collection of English style biscuits which I like with my tea  and they had some packaged German breads and condiments. But If you want exotic fruits, they have them.  If you want the rarest variety of oriental noodles, they have a whole aisle of them (including some with some seriously creepy Japanese mascots).  Want to make authentic Vietnamese or Thai Food?  Everything you need is here. Have a hankering for Russian tea or some French coffee? There's ingredients to cook Middle Eastern, Indiana, Asian, Jamaican, Mexican, or South American or African, all under one roof and the cost for those items was 50-75% less than the "international" section at most supermarkets.
In Europe, I laugh at some "high end gourmet" sections of their stores where the food from the US is displayed--Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Old El Paso taco seasoning, Newman's Own Salad Dressing and B & M Baked Beans. Finland thinks we live on Pop Tarts, Jello, and Reeses Puffs cereal, and in just about every language, Fluff, apparently, is America's Favorite food. Fluff? Conversely, I can imagine someone from some exotic corner of the world, wandering the aisle here and saying "seriously, they think we eat nothing but cephalopod-flavored potato chips?"
The food is lined up mostly by country or area of origin, so you might find rice in 6 different aisles, which can be confusing, but it was fun to look and they even had a little bakery up front where you could get some freshly made flan to go. That's almost as good as my Mom's recipe for Rosettes.  (Insert Homer Simpson voice here saying  Flannnnnnn....).
The only detractor, is you have to sort of hunt for things, and the floor looked like it needed a good cleaning.  However the ladies rest room was spotlessly and recently clean, which is a good sign  It's probably hard to keep the rest of it up, with all the pallets and boxes constantly on the move as they buy in bulk. While we wandered we saw a lot of such activity, as the employees worked hard to keep everything well stocked.
In line at the check stand, was a very nice young couple from Nigeria, buying a huge bag of Nigerian Rice, a BUNCH of red peppers and tomatoes, shanks of meat of some sort, dried beans and some beautiful looking melon. The wife was going to prepare a tomato stew with the peppers, and then combine and cook that with the rice and beans with a bit of thyme, curry, bay leaf and a bullion cube and serve it with the meat  braised with spices and melon for dessert. I thought that sounded wonderful.
Foodies   - we know no cultural lines 
Home with the goodies, it was time to see what sounded good for lunch.
Drunken Noodles -
Yea Doggies - this was good.
Make your own - it's not hard

1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce (Red Boat is the best, avoid "Squid" brand fish sauce, which tastes as enticing as the name even if you could buy a case of it here for next to nothing).
1 1/2 teaspoons roasted red chile paste (or a dash of Sriracha)
3/4 teaspoon soy sauce sweetened with 1/4 teaspoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon honey
a pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into slivers
3/4 cup assorted veggies (mine had thinly sliced carrots, some green beans and a few water chestnuts,  nuked until softened so they didn't take too long in the pan)
1/2 large jalapeño, seeded (depending on how spicy you like it) and  finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 eggs whisked
1/3 pound thinly sliced beef, chicken or pork
1/2 of an onion thinly sliced
4 cups thick sliced rice noodles, soaked in warm water for about 10 minutes to soften.
1 cup fresh Thai basil, loosely chopped

In a bowl, mix stock, oyster sauce, fish sauce, chili paste, soy sauce and honey, set aside.

In a wok or tall, high sided skillet, heat a couple tablespoons of oil over medium high heat.  Add the red pepper, jalapeño, and garlic and stir fry until fragrant, about 2 minute, then push it up along the edge where it's cooler. Add the egg mixture and scramble, breaking it up into small bits, pushing it up to the edge while it's still a little "wet".   In pan, cook meat and onion until the onion is softened and meat is partially cooked (1-2 minutes) adding a dash of red pepper if you like it nice and spicy.  Add the noodles and veggies and stir-fry until  it and the meat is cooked through (4-5 minutes) adding a couple tablespoons of water if the noodles are crisping up too much, Add the sauce and stir until incorporated, folding in the basil and stirring until wilted.  Served with salad with honey mustard salad dressing (OK, not oriental, but Finland thinks we like it) and an egg roll with some sweet and sour sauce from a jar.


  1. Fee Fi Pho sounds like our Jungle Jim's International Market. We find all kinds of goodies there that My Honey was used to having in Norway. :)

  2. James Michener wrote of a flan made "as only the angels do" in his monumental tribute to Spain, Iberia.

  3. I am soooooo green with envy. Where we live we are lucky to get end of the line American food. I would die for a store like you have. You are truly blessed.

  4. Oh.... Drunken noodles are GOOD!!! (And clean the sinuses out too)

  5. I had no idea Indy had such a place! I love spending hours in stores like that, and like you, come home with a handful of goodies that I think I will like (or do research on how to use). Thanks for sharing!

  6. Awesome, and that noodle recipe looks good.

    I daresay if I ever wake up one day and decide to open a noodle shop, I'm naming it "No Pho King Hue".

  7. Your readers who are MSG-sensitive will want to read the labels carefully in the Asian food aisles of the international groceries.

    Contrary to popular belief, the flavor enhancer is not unique to Chinese-American restaurants. Fortune cookies, however, are another story. :)

  8. Lois - I know they're probably not good for one, but I love the little Bilar (spelling?) chewy candy cars from Sweden. My grandfather was Norwegian (name was Gullikson), and immigrated in the 1910's to work as a lumberjack. His wife, was Swedish, also an immigrant

    Bob - there's a fellow in my workplace who is from Puerto Rico and his wife makes flan like that.

    Tewshooz - I lived here close to 10 years and didn't know this place was here. It's a great find.

    Old NFO - they were tasty.

    Robin - we'll go back when we have a little more time. If there's something I can pick up for you, let me know, and drop me an address in a "DO NOT POST" comment and I'd be happy to

  9. I used to go to places like that when I lived near a real city, I used to see some strange things but I haven't run across Shito before, at least in the jar.

  10. I saw some Heinz European products down in Fla. The one I laughed at the most was "Spotted Dick" Oh the first time I saw it of course with my boys we all laughed so hard we all started to cry.

  11. If you are ever on the West coast or in Texas look for a Ranch 99 market. Same type of stores with more of an Asian focus.

  12. Sunnybrook Farm - "at least in the jar". HA!

    Rob - I brought a can of that to deer camp one year and it raised quite a few chuckles.

  13. Love the international markets! I'm overdue for a trip to ours.
    Mmm Drunken Noodles...

  14. H Mart is good if there's one in your area. They make their own Kimchee

  15. Why do I look at your blog when I'm hungry? And now I'm craving Grandma's rosettes.

  16. og - there was not or I would have picked some up for you. World Market has a better selection of Brit goods but overall this was a great place.

    Jennifer - I'm having fun with the rice noodles. Did some stir fry with roasted garlic, broccoli and teriyaki sauce for dinner tonight Cheap and quick

    Borepatch - I'm not heard of that one. I will do some homework

    daddybears dens - the Rosettes took some practice on my part. The first few years of making them solo they either shattered like glass into dust or were chewy, and not in a good way. Now, I'm asked to bring them in to work each Christmas.


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