Even if you are not an adventurous eater or cook, ethnic markets can be a great place to find new, healthy ingredients to add interest and variety to your food.
One of the best things about living in Toronto is that because we have such a diverse population (one of the most diverse in the world!), you can find a wide variety of ethnic foods.
I love shopping in Kensington Market, St. Lawrence Market, and China Town. If I care to venture further away, there is the Pacific Mall, and Little India. Aside from these hubs of wonderful food shopping, the Greater Toronto Area is sprinkled with grocery stores specializing in everything from Polish food, to Mexican food, to Middle Eastern delicacies.
Although it can be intimidating, particularly if product labels are not in English, and/or salespersons do not speak English, I encourage you to take a risk and try something new.
T&T (http://www.tnt-supermarket.com/en/index.php)is a large Asian grocery chain with several locations across the GTA. I have been wanting to go for a while now, but the nearest store to us is still a 20-30 minute drive (because of traffic in the downtown core!) so we only managed to get there this past weekend.
It has a huge selection of well-priced Asian groceries as well as prepared foods (sushi, kimchi, etc.). They do carry mainstream products as well, but the prices for these items aren't great.
They had an impressive array of fresh and frozen seafood, meats, noodles and rice.
Big A has been wanting to make our own cucumber rolls so we picked up nori, sushi rolling mats, and the shortest grain brown rice I could find - which will hopefully stick together enough to make maki).
We also found:
*Unsweetened mango pulp in tetra pack (I love using this to sweeten curries and make marinades/dressings, etc. - I usually can only find sugar-added versions in the regular grocery stores)
*Unsweetened/preservative-free dried mango snacks for the girls (much cheaper than what I find in the health food stores), which also comes in pineapple, mangosteen and some other fruit versions)
*Dry wheat gluten (great meat alternative, but most prepared versions in health food stores are super expensive and high in sodium)
*Pickled Korean turnip...not sure yet what I'll do with this.
If you have allergies or health/dietary concerns, just make sure to always read labels and, if they are not in English, find someone who can read them, or stick with products that do have labels you can understand.
A lot of Asian condiments are VERY high in sodium and sugar, and many also contain MSG. Either use things like teriyaki or hoisin sauce very sparingly, or try making your own and limiting the sodium and using fruit to sweeten, instead of sugar.
I encourage you to explore ethnic markets in your area for new cooking/food ideas. Don't be scared...just be creative and open-minded! As we always tell our kids, you never know until you try.
Check out this article about chips from the Toronto Star today:
Truth about potato chips revealed: Baked is not better than fried
November 8, 2011
STAFF REPORTER, TORONTO STAR
Are you one of those who browse the snack rack at your local convenience store looking for those “healthier” baked potato chips as opposed to the artery-clogging fried variety?
If so, you may be wasting your time.
Reports from the United States confirms that baked chips — although featuring a lower fat level — have high levels of acrylamide, a cancer-causing and potentially neurotoxic chemical.
It’s not an additive but is formed — as a general rule — when food is heated enough to produce a fairly dry and brown/yellow surface.
The research supports work in Canada and other countries that point to the chemical as being a concern.
According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration data on acrylamide levels in foods, baked chips may contain more than three times the level of acrylamide as regular chips.
Same holds true when you bake French fries in your oven hoping to avoid the issues of deep fat frying. That golden-brown hue contains acrylamide.
A lot of bake goods, such as toasted bread and cereal, contain the chemical but chips are notoriously high.
So high, in fact, that in 2005 the State of California actually sued potato-chip makers for failing to warn California consumers about the health risks of acrylamide in their products.
A settlement was reached when the chip makers agreed to reduce the dangerous level of the drug, thus avoiding a cancer warning label.
Health Canada scientists were among the first to demonstrate how acrylamide forms in certain heat-processed foods and both the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization have identified the chemical in food as a potential concern.
However, Health Canada says its currently not possible to determine the precise level of risk for humans.
Although acrylamide is known to cause cancer in experimental animals the agency says more research is needed before total risks can be fully understood.
It also says it’s impossible — at this time — to determine recommended maximum exposure to acrylamide but, like the American research, states French fries and potato chips typically contain the highest levels.
By the way, next time you’re munching on those designer chips that come stacked in cylinders (you know the ones we’re talking about), you just may be swallowing more than potato.
Some manufacturers use rice, wheat, corn with a sprinkling of potato flakes that are pressed into shape and then fried.
Also, read Leslie Beck's article about prolonged sitting, soy, and Vitamin D relating to cancer risk in the Globe and Mail: