Fake Duck, and Pork Buns, and Thai Eggplants, oh my!

So, one of the things I continually say that I miss the most about living in the US is the food. Not all the high fructose corn syrup, no, but the general availability and variety of fresh vegetables and ingredients and the breadth of affordable and interesting cuisines. It’s not to say that interesting an unexpected foods can’t be found in Reykjavík. I keep seeing fresh turmeric at the Bónus, which blows my mind, for instance, and we just got our first Ramen shop—a coworker told me they had Udon noodles, which he had to Google because he’d never seen them before. But I’m not always sure of where to look for these things here, or when I find them, they can be rather decadent expenses (i.e. the Halloween pumpkin when we first arrived).

But I’m starting to discover that while food options might be limited here, they are not as limited as I thought.

For one, there are a lot more specialty/ethnic markets and shops than I realized and I’ve started to explore these a bit more. So far, I’ve gone to two Thai markets—one in Kolaportið (found sesame seed oil, bottled Thai coffees, bok choy, curry pastes, frozen lime leaves, lemongrass, and a range of fish there), Mai Thai, across from Hlemmur bus station (fresh okra, canned shellfish, lots of spicy sauces)—and one Indian market, IndiaSól, where I found dried curry leaves, a variety of dried pulses (big bags of lentils, for one) and beans, and also, unexpectedly, a big can of Callaloo on what appeared to be their random Jamaican shelf.

And then, last weekend, I made it to Vietnam Market, where a friend told me I could purchase fresh tofu. I didn’t find the tofu, actually, but instead, I found fake duck/chicken/abalone (really: fake abalone), baby cherry or pea eggplants, Thai green eggplants, and freshly-made pork buns. (As you might notice from the list, this is more an “Asian market” than a strictly Vietnamese one.) Anyway, this was a revelation. Mark and I used to order Thai takeaway with fake duck all the time—it was our go-to (also our ritual meal when watching the Oscars with our friend Alanna). And then these crazy eggplants I had never even heard of? It called for some major meal-planning. I got a pork bun to tide me over on the way home, talked to the lady working there to find out about how to prepare the eggplant (her advice: Google it), and loaded up with ingredients to supplement a curry that I had been wanting to make anyway.

I don’t think that I totally replicated a classic Thai recipe—I sorta just combined things I had (the aforementioned lime leaves and lemongrass made it in there)—but we sure did have a tasty dinner. See:

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This has been great for me, so I’ve asked around a bit more to find out what other markets might be out there. Next, I’ve set my sights on the new “containerless” shop, Uppskeran, at Skeifan, the Istanbul Market (where I’m told it is possible to get bulgar wheat, grape leaves, and pre-made dolma), and the Polish market which burned down not long ago, but I think has been rebuilt and reopened again.

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