Do you ever buy something from the market that you've never tried before? I don't mean a new brand of something that you usually buy, but something so totally new to you that you need to go home and look up what it is and how to cook it. If you are a foreigner in the country where you live, this is probably a common occurrence for you, but most of us who live near where we were raised seem to stick to the same familiar grocery list month after month.
I love trying new foods, and fortunately for me, I live in a big city where I can be a foreigner whenever I choose. Within a few miles of my house, there are some fantastic Korean, Indian, Japanese, Greek, Mexican, Thai, Eastern European, French, Jewish, and Ethiopian grocery stores. My favorite markets for experimentation are usually Asian, because I love so many of the flavors, because I can't read most of the packaging and because I didn't grow up eating or cooking this kind of food. It can be wonderfully disorienting to shop in a market where you don't know most of the products. Sometimes I will pick up a package and wonder, "Is this thing fish, or dessert, or both?!" If the ingredients are listed in English I can usually tell if what I'm looking at is junk food or not, but the flavors are often a complete surprise.
The produce department of my nearby Koreatown Galleria Market yields all kinds of exotic-to-me fruits and vegetables. My current favorite section is the mushroom area, where I can buy fresh Enoki, Oyster, King Oyster, Bunapi (brown and white), Portobella, Maitake, and Shiitake mushrooms. We're working our way through them.
The Maitake, or "Hen-of-the-Woods" mushrooms, pictured above, are a new-to-us favorite. They looked so strange to me that I had to try them... I've just been sautéing them with butter and garlic, and they are so delicious.
I know that this kind of grocery shopping is not for everyone! What about you? Do you enjoy tasting new-to-you foods?