Asian Markets, Sprouting Up Everywhere!

Uwajimaya, Seattle

One of my great joys is to wander the aisles of a well stocked Asian grocery in fascination of the seemingly endless amount of ingredients and foods of which I apparently know nothing.  I often jot down the names I find, and spend hours of great fun later on the web discovering another new food of the world.  Perhaps too often, I fall to the temptation of buying a completely new ingredient without even knowing how it is used – some of these spend years on my Asian ingredient ‘collection’ shelves before I finally come to my senses and throw it out.  But it’s part of the fun, so I don’t dwell on it.

Of course we don’t have any local Asian markets in my neighborhood, so I save up my needs, and my desire to have a new Asian food adventure for one of our infrequent trips into Eugene, our shopping town.  This is my current heart’s desire:  Sunrise Market.  And I do not jest when I say I can easily spend two hours ‘browsing’ – Sandee is very kind during these times, and she has her new toy – a Kindle – which I guess is her way of having a fun adventure just as I do inside the Asian market – so she patiently sits in the car and reads.

But my absolute favorite Asian grocery of all time: Uwajimaya.  There is no such thing as a trip anywhere near Seattle that does not include a stop at Uwajimaya – and sadly, Sandee knows well that some trips to Seattle have been made specifically to visit.  There is an outpost of Uwajimaya in Beaverton, Oregon, which we have of course visited on occasion, but it pales in comparison to Seattle’s Uwajimaya, which has grown into a ‘village’ containing many independent stores within the mother store – all neatly part of Seattle’s good sized and growing International District.

An Asian Grocery in New York's Chinatown

My fascination with Asian groceries dates back to my college days and the many trips we would make into New York City’s Chinatown – in those days, I wasn’t doing any cooking in my dorm room, so there was seemingly little reason to spend hours mulling the exotic ingredients on the shelves of those stores, but I did so anyway – I found the appeal and allure of those groceries to be uniquely addicting, from the lacquered ducks in the window, to the unpacked boxes of mysterious foreign products that jammed and clogged the aisles, to the unforgettable smells that invited one’s senses to journey to far-away places of imagined romance and adventure – it was enough for a lifetime of inspiration, and my love affair was thus aroused.

In those early days, it was unusual to find an Asian grocery anywhere outside of an urban pocket of ethnic population, but during the 80s and 90s, tiny enclaves of Asian food shops began to spring up across America, almost always in urban centers.  At first, these stores only carried dry goods and foods that had long shelf lives – but this kind of merchandise makes up the majority of the stock in an Asian grocery even today, when there are now much more perishable goods than ever before.

I watched the growth of Sunrise Asian Market from the late 90s, when it began on the edge of town, in a small, cramped store in the rear of a dying shopping center.  It was difficult to find at first, but was soon discovered by those who knew they’d find ingredients there that were only available otherwise by a trip to Portland.  Surprisingly, the store was well stocked, and the prices shockingly inexpensive.  It didn’t take long before it couldn’t handle the crowds of customers jamming its narrow aisles – and in the early 2000s, Sunrise moved to a thriving part of Eugene’s commercial downtown fringe.  Its space more than doubled, and its merchandise soon represented every area of East Asia – I was delighted, and spent many wonderful hours getting introduced to new ingredients and foods.

Sunrise Market's Shelves Filled With Wonder and Mystery

It’s now been almost ten years since Sunrise opened in its new location, and of course, prices are no longer shockingly inexpensive – in fact, if one is not careful, it’s easy to even pay more for rice here than elsewhere – and that’s just not right.  But it took a different sort of breach of trust recently to shake my previous love of this place – one day a few months ago I went into Sunrise seeking some advice -as I had done many times before- about sprouting mung beans at home.  I wanted to do this because although I’ve never thought bean sprouts at my local Safeway grocery were expensive, they were all too often old and nasty looking – I thought, ‘Why not learn how to sprout my own, and then anytime I want them, I’ll just sprout some.’

So I walked back to the rear of the store, where I knew the owner would be, and I asked him if the mung beans he had up front were the kind that could be sprouted at home – he looked at me quickly and said, “No!” – and then he added, “Buy them in the fresh produce section instead (where they could be found in huge bags for a few dollars).”  OK, I’d done that many times – and many times I’d thrown away the majority of them as they turned to mush before I could use them.  No, I needed to find sprout-able mung beans.

I had no reason to believe that he had lied to me, but I suspected perhaps he had.  What did I have to lose?  I walked to the front, found the mung bean section (there were at least 5 types and sizes), picked out a two pound bag for $1.59, and added it to my basket.  I’d give them a try at home, and see what happened – and if they sprouted as I suspected they would, I’d be happy for that – but I’d also be saddened by the willingness of someone I had trusted to lie for the benefit of a few pennies.

Well, of course they sprouted – and the internet is filled with first hand accounts of successful sprouting experiences.  Not only that, but they are easy to sprout – all you really need is a 1 quart mason jar, and the ring from the lid assembly (wide is better), and a small piece of screening or mesh that you can secure with an elastic band or the jar’s ring band.

Enough For 15 Quarts or More

Day Three

And if that sounds easy, the procedure is equally easy – if you have some mung beans, put 1/2 cup into your quart jar, and fill it with warm water – let the beans soak overnight, but not more than 8 hours – now drain them, rinse them, and turn them upside-down on a plate in a dark area of your kitchen counter.  Each day for the next 4 or 5 days, refresh the sprouting beans with fresh water, but be sure to drain it well before turning it over again on the plate – do that morning and evening.  Every day, the expanding sprouts in your jar will grow – when you begin to see tiny emerging tips of green leaves, you’re more than done!  For maximum sweetness, catch them right before they hit this stage.

Day Five

I’ve also used two layers of wet paper towels on a pie plate, with the mung beans in-between -again in a dark area- and each day you simply run cold water over the towels until they are soaked – tilt the pan and let the excess water run off until it’s just dripping – put the plate back in a dark area.  Do this twice a day for 3-5 days, depending on how warm it is, and the beans are well sprouted.  If you wish, you may wash off the loose hulls, but there’s nothing inedible about them – I often leave them in the dish I’m making – more fiber.  And if you want larger sprouts, give them an extra day – but a few may discolor – some sprouters throw these out, but I tasted them and they taste exactly like all the others, so I ate them – and I’m still here – if it bothers you, pitch those.

Equipment For Sprouting - The Jar is Best For Beans, The Plate For Grains

Your Reward for Patience

And yes, I did use the sprouts for dinner that evening – a veg side dish of sprouts and snow peas from the garden, sauteed with oyster sauce – and yes, I did want to have a pic of that dish here, but just as I was moving it from the wok to the serving plates, I couldn’t find the camera – I’m sure all my blogging friends know the feeling!

And for you bakers, if you ever want to try a sprouted wheat (or any grain you wish) bread, simply put a half cup of the grain into either of the above containers, and follow the outlined procedure.  Just be sure you keep your grains out of the light – this is more important with grains than with beans – the grain will quickly begin to ‘green’ in the light, and lose its sweet taste.  In fact, some bakers don’t want their grain to sprout any more than barely beginning to emerge at the tip of the grain, and this takes only a day or two – then find a recipe for a sprouted grain bread and be ready for an entirely new taste experience.

I think I’ll do a sprouted wheat bread post soon.

Photo credits:
top –
mid1 – Doug DuCap,
mid2 –
the rest are my own!

About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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9 Responses to Asian Markets, Sprouting Up Everywhere!

  1. I don’t know that he lied, Doc. I’ve never known the Chinese to grow their own sprouts, and I’m pretty sure if I asked my mother there would be some convoluted and superstitious thinking behind why it shouldn’t be done. 🙂

    I always cook sprouts before eating them – again a legacy from my mum – but this was reinforced recently by my food chemist friend Lee – blog post is here:

    Interesting point – Australia is so close to Asia (or is actually a part of Asia, depending on who you talk to :)) that we don’t really have Asian groceries stores anymore. They’ve all become quite regionally specialised. Nearby Campsie has Korean grocery stores, Northbridge has Japanese ones, Chinatown has Thai and Chinese, Strathfield has Indian and Korean, and Marrickville has Vietnamese. There’s a lot of overlap, of course, but it’s amazing what a variety there are now.

    When you come to Sydney for a holiday, I’ll take you on a international food store trip – just have to remember to allow two hours at each stop.. 🙂

    • drfugawe says:

      Much appreciation, Celia, for the interesting perspective – never occurred to me that it might be cultural. We don’t much care for the raw sprouts, but I will say that I usually don’t add them to the wok until the last second (to assure they don’t lose any of their moisture), so I’m not sure if we’re killing any bacteria. Humm …

      When we were first married, San and I thought long and hard about immigrating to Australia -they were recruiting teachers at that time- but in the end, decided no. We often talk about how that was a life mistake. Would love someday to take the trip, but I’m not getting any richer, and the outlook is dim. But I’m sure your tour would be fantastic – I’ll take a rain check, if I may.

  2. Misk Cooks says:

    A recent outbreak of E.coli in Europe was linked to uncooked sprouts.

    • drfugawe says:

      Yes, I think I remember that – does give one pause. And as I mentioned to Celia, I’m not so sure we cook sprouts well enough to kill any bacteria. Maybe I’ll spray my mung beans with Clorox before sprouting – that should do it.

  3. Jayson says:

    The owner told you no to the bagged mung beans for a good reason. He didn’t want to be responsible for you accidently dying from eating beans sprouts you made with the packaged mung beans he sells for cooking. Cooking is the only thing that will kill off any bacteria/chemicals that might be on the beans in the bag. You should be thanking the owner instead of calling him a liar.
    I used to make my own sprouts way back when in the 70s & 80s, but I would never make them with mung beans from a grocery store package.
    The same as I’d never try to grow potatoes from grocery store potatoes cut up for seeding or garlic. The chances of the mung beans or potatoes, or garlic being treated with unknown chemicals is too high.

    Since I’ve gone through a hellish 5 month long bout of Salmonellosis that left me the gift of microscopic colitis to deal with, I’m extremly careful about what I eat & where I eat. I no longer grow my own sprouts nor will I eat sprouts of any kind, as the amount of recalls and warnings about eating or buying fresh sprouts in the last few years, is not worth it.

    That aside. I’m surprised you who seems to be such a foody, would take the risk of making sprouts with a bag of grocery store mung beans? Your own government has been issuing warnings about consuming sprouts for ages, as has my Canadian goverment.. Not bean sprouts at this very moment, but sprouts in general.

    You say you shop in Seattle.. I know from visiting, you’d find lots of sources for organic and/or chemical free mung beans. Look around next time you’re there and leave those bagged mung beans for what they were intended for. Cooking!

    Links you should give a look over. The last two pdf, but well worth the read.

    Click to access 234-412.pdf

    Click to access PAA%20vs%20Bacteria.pdf

  4. Going to add the sprouted bean/grain to my list of must try…when I first started baking the thought of sprouting one’s own beans/grains since too much trouble but now baking often things fit easier into my routine….

    …thanks for reminding me how easy it is to sprout! 🙂

  5. Keep meaning to say I’ve been experimenting with potato bread my first own recipes failed then tried Hamelman’s one of roasting potatoes but did it using my method of folding etc was successful. I remembered you talking about making potato bread a while back but can’t remember if you mentioned the recipe you used?

    When I’ve tried to make my own recipe I think I added too much potato water to the recipe plus I added the potato to the dough straight away and didn’t do autolyse so the dough just collapsed and had no gluten development…I will be posting the photos when I get a change. This failure made me realise the importance of doing autolyse or similar before adding certain ingredients.

    • drfugawe says:

      My use of potato in my breads is usually intended to make a softer texture in the crust/crumb – and it doesn’t take a lot to do the trick. I usually just use a 1/4 cup of dry potato flakes per loaf, or a small boiled potato, using both the potato and the water in the bread. But I’ve never done a potato bread where chunks of potato was used.

  6. Pingback: ~Stir-fried Mung Bean Sprouts and Tofu with Garlic Chives Recipe, Phuket Cuisine~ « Pranee's Thai Kitchen

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