Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


Cooking With Ethnic Foods

Cooking With Ethnic Foods
Our monthly food hour explores the variety of ethnic markets to be found around San Diego and tips for cooking ethnically-inspired dishes.

Ethnic Markets in San Diego

  • Asian
  • 99 Ranch Market (7330 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. San Diego,CA 92111 858-974-8899)
  • Mitsuwa Marketplace (4240 Kearny Mesa Rd # 119 San Diego, CA 92111-3772 (858) 569-6699)
  • Nijiya (3860 Convoy St., #109, San Diego, CA 92111 (858) 268-3821)
  • First Korean Market (4625 Convoy St. San Diego, CA 92111-2309 (858) 278-8303)
  • Zion Market (4611 Mercury St. San Diego, CA 92111-2419 (858) 268-3300)
  • Lucky Seafood (9326 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126 (858) 586-7979)
  • Sage French Cake (3860 Convoy St #112 San Diego, CA 92111 (858) 571-3484)
  • Sun Flour Bagel (96955 El Camino Real Ste 105, Carslbad, CA 92009 (760) 929-8047)
  • Marukai (8111 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111-2421)
  • Seafood City (Four locations in National City, Chula Vista and Mira Mesa
  • Hispanic
  • Northgate Gonzalez Market 21 (1410 S 43rd St San Diego, CA 92113-4105 (619) 266-6080)
  • Foodland Mercato (Five locations in San Diego)
  • Tropical Star Restaurant and Specialty Market (6163 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111 (858) 874-7827)
  • Mercado 2000 International (1415 3rd Ave Chula Vista, CA 91911-4905 - (619) 427-7701)
  • Pata Negra Market (1657 Garnet Ave San Diego, CA 92109-3117 (858) 274-7282‎)
  • Pancho Villa's Farmers Market (3245 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA (619) 584-4595 ‎
  • Middle Eastern
  • Balboa International Market (5907 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111 (858) 277-3600)
  • Parsian International Market (4020 Convoy St. San Diego, CA 92111-3726 - (858) 277-7277)
  • North Park Produce (3551 El Cajon Blvd San Diego, CA 92104 (619) 516-3336)
  • Eastern European/Jewish
  • Continent European Deli ( 4150 Regents Park Row Suite 110 La Jolla, CA 92037 (858) 623-0099)
  • D.Z. Akins (6930 Alvarado Rd San Diego, CA 92120-5305 (619) 265-0218)
  • Elijah’s (8861 Villa La Jolla Drive, La Jolla - (858) 455-1461)
  • Ralph’s Kosher Experience (La Jolla/Nobel)
  • Sausage King (811 W Washington St. San Diego, CA 92103)
  • African
  • S.A. Deli (8360 Clairemont Mesa Blvd Suite 112 San Diego, CA 92111 (858) 694 0212
  • British
  • Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe (3719 India Street San Diego, CA 92103 (619) 683-2748)
  • Indian
  • Ker and Little India (9520 Black Mountain Rd San Diego, CA 92126 (858) 566-0034)
  • Indian Sweets and Spices (5440 Clairemont Mesa Blvd # B San Diego, CA 92117-2357 (858) 277-5787)
  • List courtesy of Caron Golden

Maureen Cavanaugh: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. Because Southern California is such a desirable place to live, people from all over the world settle here. And as ethnic communities have formed, they've brought their own food. The special herbs, vegetables, sauces, products from abroad and favorite menu items show up in ethnic markets and grocery stores. So basically we've got a world of food at our door, if we're only adventurous enough to take the first step. But that step can be daunting. An ethnic market can be an overwhelming place, full of food and produce you don't recognize, labels you can't read, and language barriers between you and other customers. It's enough to keep some of us within the safe confines of the big supermarket chains because we don't have the time or the knowledge to enjoy experimenting. Well, my guests on this morning's Food Hour show hope to change your mind about that. They will introduce us to the joys of shopping in ethnic markets and give us some tips, and encourage us to get familiar with the other ethnic food choices within our community. I’d like to welcome my guests. Caron Golden is freelance writer, food columnist for and author of the blog, San Diego Foodstuff. Caron, welcome back.


CARON GOLDEN (Food Columnist): It’s always good to be with you. Thanks.

CAVANAUGH: And Trey Foshee is here. He’s executive chef and partner of George’s at the Cove. Trey, welcome.

TREY FOSHEE (Executive Chef, George’s at the Cove): It’s great to be here. Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: We’d like to invite our listeners to join the conversation. Do you shop at ethnic markets? What kinds of foods have you discovered there? Do you have questions about how to experiment with different kinds of ethnic food? Give us a call. The number is 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Now, Caron, I’d like to start out, if you could, give us an overview of the variety of ethnic markets here in San Diego.

GOLDEN: Well, it’s interesting you should ask because last night I was trying to make a list of all the markets so that I wouldn’t forget, you know, anything as I was trying to bring it to mind. And I started listing them and then I realized I needed to start categorizing them. And we’ve got Asian markets, we’ve got Hispanic markets, we’ve got Middle Eastern markets, we’ve got Eastern European markets. We even have a South African market in Kearny Mesa area. We’ve got a British one in – on India Street near the 5 on Washington. We’ve got a whole little Indian enclave off of Miramar Road. And even within those you can divide them up. I mean, with the Asian markets, you’ve got Chinese, you’ve got Filipino, you’ve got Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian. In Hispanic markets, you’ve got not just what we would expect because we’re so close to Mexico with Mexican markets. We have some that specialize in Peruvian food or Puerto Rican food or even Spanish, Pata Negra over on Garnet near – in Pacific Beach is just filled with all sorts of delicacies from Spain. It’s just a wonderful way to travel around the world without leaving San Diego. It’s incredible.


CAVANAUGH: And, Trey, there are actually some ethnic farmers markets as well, aren’t there?

FOSHEE: I believe so. I’m not that familiar with the ethnic farmers markets.

GOLDEN: I don’t know that we have so many ethnic farmers markets but we have a lot of ethnic or unusual products that are brought to market in some of our markets. The most interesting one I think in that area, in that respect, is in City Heights because you’re basically talking about a community where about 48 languages are spoken and I’ve been there and had some guy who has driven down from Fresno with dichon and all sorts of things that that community, which there’s a large Asian community there, want. And then you’ve got a lot of people who are living in that community and growing, in home gardens and public gardens, some of the produce that they can’t necessarily get in the markets.

FOSHEE: I think, also, a lot of these markets are really their own farmers market where some of the produce like the Nijiya Market, you know, they grow some of their own herbs and vegetables so the community goes into these markets as our community goes into farmers markets.

CAVANAUGH: That’s interesting. I wonder, Caron, what are some of the ethnic markets that you’re most familiar with? Where do you shop?

GOLDEN: I hate to admit, I do have like a round of places that I love to go. Balboa International Market is a favorite of mine, a favorite of my mother’s. My mother is there like at least once a week with her friends who are Iranian. This is a place that is in Clairemont off of Balboa. It’s hard – You can’t see it from the street but it’s where the See’s Candy shopping center is across from Ralphs and Target and over there on Genesee and Balboa. If you go behind that building, there’s a whole ‘nother set of buildings and Balboa International Market is there. It’s primarily Middle Eastern. They have a big Iranian customer base. But they also have a lot of Eastern European foods. They have a wonderful eat-in market. Eat-in, to say it’s a restaurant would be overstating it, although they’re building a restaurant. But they have a big eat-in facility there, and you can get delicious foods. And most of these markets actually have wonderful places to go and stop and get a bite to eat. But I love Balboa, I love Mitsuwa, I love 99 Ranch Market. Mitsuwa’s fun because they, too – It’s a Japanese market. They also have a wonderful eatery. Before you even walk into the market, you can get actual homemade ramen as opposed to – you know, we’re used to, you know, thirty-five cent Top Ramen. The regular ramen is really a lovely, you know, treat to have.

CAVANAUGH: And where is that?

GOLDEN: And that is over on Mercury in the Kearny Mesa area. Kearny Mesa area, you’re going to find a lot of Asian markets. You’re going to find Korean Market Zion and First Korean Market are in that neighborhood. You’ve got a couple of Japanese markets – three Japanese markets, Mitsuwa, Mirakai and Nijiya, which, as Trey said, they have their own organic farm…

CAVANAUGH: Right. Right.

GOLDEN: …and they’re wonderful.

CAVANAUGH: And, Trey, shopping in ethnic markets, and you can share your favorite ones with us as well, but that’s really sort of expanded your menu over at George’s, hasn’t it?

FOSHEE: Well, to a certain extent. I think we, you know, we go in there as chefs with eyes wide open. I mean, there’s ingredients that we haven’t seen. A lot of times I’ll take things home that I haven’t worked with before, play around with them at home, and realize that, you know, I can’t really incorporate them in a regular menu item but they’re – there’s items – I was at Ranch 99 (sic) last – yesterday afternoon with my family and they had a powdered form of honey, which is all natural product but it’s granular so I thought, well, gosh, this is – you know, there’s all kinds of things we can do with this, from pastries to savory. So it may not necessarily be a product that we bring back to the restaurant but a concept or an idea that we get from looking at the shelves.

CAVANAUGH: And where is the ethnic market you were just mentioning?

FOSHEE: 99 Ranch…


FOSHEE: …is on – it’s on…

GOLDEN/FOSHEE: …Clairemont Mesa…

FOSHEE: …Boulevard.



CAVANAUGH: All right.

FOSHEE: They’re the biggest market in town.

CAVANAUGH: We are talking about ethnic markets and what you can find if you go there and how that might expand your food repertoire. Our number here, if you’d like to add to the conversation or ask a question about an ethnic market in your neighborhood, 1-888-895-5727. Let’s take a phone call. John is calling from Carlsbad. Good morning, John. Welcome to These Days.

JOHN (Caller, Carlsbad): Oh, good morning. And I’m really glad that you’re talking about this because one of the favorite things I like to do is just go to some bizarre ethnic supermarket and find some food that I’ve never tried before and just see what it tastes like. So one of the things that I wondered about – you know, I’ve gone to the Ranch 99 quite a lot of times and I’ve seen banana blossoms for sale. And I never could figure out what you do with the things, how you cook them. Do you know what to do with those?

CAVANAUGH: Caron’s pointing to Trey, Trey’s pointing to Caron.

GOLDEN: You know what, that’s one of those funny things that I look – I was over at 99 Ranch on Friday and I was so tempted to pick one up and then I just thought I don’t have time to deal with this right now because I know it’s going to, you know, take more than what I have time to deal with. But I would suggest that one of the best things you can do is go to your computer and put it into Google and see what comes up and just experiment with it. You can find endless recipes online for all sorts of ingredients that you’ve never dealt with before. And some of them, they’ll even have videos or really good shots on how to address the – that particular product. I was just – When I was at 99 Ranch, I didn’t get the banana bud but I did buy Dragon fruit and I had no idea what to do with it. It’s this beautiful fuscia-colored fruit, and I didn’t even realize that inside it’s white with black seeds. It’s gorgeous. It’s really kind of art nouveau type thing. And when I got it home, I looked it up online and there was a website that showed how to cut it and how to peel it – the fruit away. And so these are all available for you, so don’t be afraid to try it.

FOSHEE: Also, I think when you’re going to these markets, you know, the communities that are based there that are – that this is their culture and their food, if you – You know, oftentimes they’re much more seasonal than our industrial markets are and when there’s something like Dragon fruit or banana blossom or something that’s a little bit more seasonal, the people will be flocking to that area and you can have conversation about it and find out how they use it and what they do with it. And usually people are really willing to talk about it because it’s something from their culture that they’re really proud of.

CAVANAUGH: And, Caron, you brought in a whole array of…


CAVANAUGH: …ethnic foods here. You know, I was going to ask you what do you buy when you shop there but apparently you buy everything.

GOLDEN: I am – I have to thank my mother. I am a fearless shopper when it comes to ethnic markets. My mom does what Trey just suggested. She will stay – If she sees something interesting and she doesn’t know what it is, she will literally park herself in front of that bin until someone comes over and then she’ll start talking to them and get really great recipes. I brought in a variety of things. One of them – This is one of these things that – why people should go to ethnic markets. If you are someone who goes out for Chinese food and one of the things that you get is some kind of a dish that has water chestnuts or bamboo shoots in them, you’re probably thinking that they all come in a can and that is how they started in life. And, in fact, if you go to a place like 99 Ranch, you can get fresh water chestnuts and they used to sell them in a bin and you would hand select them but now they come in a prepackaged bag. But I brought some in for you to see because they’re – look like a brown nut.


GOLDEN: And you want to go for like a nice firm, not squishy one. What you do with it is take it home and get a little paring knife and peel that brown skin away, and that’s the water chestnut. And you can just pop it in your mouth and snack on it, you can use it in a stir fry. If you have more than you can use, you do what I did, which is to bring in a container with water and just store them in water and just change out the water. I also brought in a black radish from Balboa International Market. And these are absolutely delicious. They look about as ugly as a piece of vegetable or a root vegetable could be but they are a very spicy radish and they’re delicious. And I will eat them raw or I will pickle them.

CAVANAUGH: Right. And some of the most interesting things to me is the sort of canned products you get from other countries that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to find anywhere else. You have brought in a couple of canned things for us, Caron.

GOLDEN: Yeah. This is where my wanting to eat local conflicts with wanting to eat globally. And I am always buying these – Well, at both Parsian Market, which is a little Middle Eastern market in Kearny Mesa, it’s on Convoy, and North Park Produce, which a lot of people are familiar with, and Balboa International, they sell all of these stuffed vegetables and the cans – I think they’re, what, two and a half bucks or something like that. We’re talking not just dolmas, which people know if they go into a Greek restaurant, which are the stuffed vine – grape leaves, but we’re talking stuffed cabbage leaves, stuffed zucchini, stuffed eggplant, and these are wonderful to pick up, keep in your pantry, and if you’ve got friends coming over and you don’t want to go and do a lot of cooking, you can just pop them out of the can and you’ve got some really interesting appetizers.

CAVANAUGH: And, Trey, what do you find the quality of the canned items that you can find in ethnic markets?

FOSHEE: They’re excellent. I think one of the things that a lot of these cultures share is a value for preserving what’s coming out of the season. And out of that has come a lot of ways of preserving, whether it be, you know, preserved fish, which is an acquired taste, or these vegetables. There’s a lot of different things and a lot of these cultures, too, are masters at the quick meal. You know, it’s not that they spend three hours in the kitchen preparing some elaborate thing, it’s that they have a wok, they have some great seasonal ingredients, they throw it in there and they have a great meal for their family with condiments, a side of kimchi or – your kimchi’s another great prepared product that you can purchase that’s really delicious. So I think that these – out of these cultures come really interesting prepared foods and healthy.

CAVANAUGH: We are talking about ethnic markets around San Diego. We have to take a short break. There are a lot of people who want to join the conversation, and we’d like to hear from you as well. We’re taking calls at 1-888-895-5727. And we’ll start taking calls after we return from a very short break. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

# # #

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS, and we’re talking about San Diego’s ethnic markets, what you can find there, what treasures, how they might expand your menu at home. And we’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727, 1-888-895-KPBS. My guests are Caron Golden. She’s a freelance writer, and food columnist for Author of the blog, San Diego Foodstuff. And Trey Foshee is executive chef and partner of George's at the Cove. Let’s go right to the phones and take a call from Su-Mei, owner of Saffron. Hi, Su-Mei, welcome to These Days.

SU-MEI YU (Owner, Saffron Restaurant): Hi. How are you? Hi, Trey. Hi, Caron.

GOLDEN: Hi, Su-Mei.

CAVANAUGH: You know what to do with banana blossoms.

YU: Absolutely, I know what to do with banana blossoms. I eat them all the time.

CAVANAUGH: Well, tell us.

YU: Okay, what you do is that you have to peel out all the burgundy parts of it and then get all the way inside of the blossom, which is kind of whitish in color. And you need to have a bowl with lots of lime juice in it. And as soon as you cut it in half, lengthwise, you put them in this water infused with lime juice, which would help it from turning black.


YU: Then you take out only the petals, not the little tiny, look like stamens that look like little bananas. Those parts are not good to eat. And then you take just the inside white parts, chop them up and rinse it out and mix it with a kind of a creamy sauce of some sort. In Thailand, we use a coconut cream base sauce. And it is delicious as a salad. It is crunchy, a little, it’s stringent, and it’s believed to be very good for nursing mothers because it helps induce the milk for young mothers.


YU: So that’s what I do.

CAVANAUGH: Su-Mei, thank you so much. You’ve solved our puzzle.

YU: Also, you can cook with it. You can put it in soup, in coconut cream soup and they’re delicious. And it’s very, very good for you.

CAVANAUGH: There you go, banana blossoms. Thank you, Su-Mei. Let’s go to Jim in San Diego. Good morning, Jim. Welcome to These Days.

JIM (Caller, San Diego): Hi. Thanks for taking my call. It’s a great show. A couple of months ago during – when we were honoring the boycott of the big grocery stores, I started shopping at a store right up the street from USD on Linda Vista Road. And not only is it fun and exciting, but the savings is considerable between one of the big box stores and the local neighborhood stores. I encourage everybody to go and shop and look for yourselves.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that call, Jim. Caron and Trey, would you agree that it’s also a bargain?

FOSHEE: Absolutely. I mean, I was going through the – just the seafood section at Ranch 99 and when you think, you know, I talk to our purveyors and a lot of the – You know, there’s trap-caught fish and then there’s line-caught fish. Trap-caught fish are a lot of the time sold live to the markets. You can’t get better quality fish, and I can’t get my hands on it or I have a difficult time getting my hands on it through the restaurant. These Asian markets are full of it. That’s where all this product goes. It’s – A lot of times, it’s local because their preference is for the freshest possible. And a lot of times it’s less expensive. I mean, the prices – I mean, they had Maine lobster at Ranch 99 for, I think it was, $7.99 a pound, which is a little bit less than restaurants pay for it, so it’s definitely a great value. Absolutely.

GOLDEN: And they’ll clean – and if you’re squeamish about cleaning any of those live fish, you can get them to clean them for you there, too. They have butchers there.

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727 about ethnic markets around San Diego. And let’s hear from Doris in North Park. Good morning, Doris. Welcome to These Days.

DORIS (Caller, North Park): Good morning. Thanks for taking my call. I was just listening to you and I’ve tracked the migrations of gypsies and how it’s influenced music in the Middle East and Europe. And I wondered if the same thing happened with cuisines? A lot of these Middle Eastern stores have a lot of – like North Park Produce, has a, you know, stuff from Eastern Europe as well as the Mediterranean, and the cuisines are diff – are the same in terms of stews and – And I wondered what gypsy food was like? If there was any information on that. If that might be what links them to each other.

CAVANAUGH: Do we have any idea? Thank you, by the way, Doris, for that call. Any idea about gypsy food?

GOLDEN: You must’ve asked people to call specifically for questions we don’t know anything about. I don’t know about gypsy food. I know that – Obviously, we’re talking Eastern European, and European food, and so I don’t know how that would track in Southern California. I don’t know what kind of a population that we have. It’s interesting though that she mentions the way different markets of what you would think is one ethnic culture have all these other foods that have nothing to do with them. And I notice that in Balboa, for instance, I was over there on Friday and they had cactus fruit. And what they’re doing with cactus fruit, I have no idea but obviously they must get a Hispanic population coming in to buy as well. But they do have – A lot of their focus is Middle Eastern foods but the migrations patterns in the Middle East and Eastern Europe seem to be kind of squishy and so you are going to find a lot of Eastern Europeans foods also in a Middle Eastern market. So it’s interesting. You don’t go there and expect that it’s going to be exclusively one thing. You may find some items from a very different culture.

FOSHEE: I think also…


FOSHEE: …the – these markets are built to support that community, whichever community that may be. And when you go to some of these – When you travel for food reasons, like I do, you end – you realize that, you know, Peru has a lot of influence from Japan in their cuisine and Mexico has obvious Spanish ties, and so does Chile. So there’s cross-references all over the place with food, and that’s what makes it so interesting. And these – I think these markets are there to give a flavor of home to a lot of these smaller communities and so when you go in there, they want things that they’re used to and sometimes that comes from a different country than we would expect.

GOLDEN: Yeah, when I used to shop at 99 Ranch, years ago, and they had a whole selection of foods from the Netherlands. And of course, you know, that makes sense for certain Asian countries in terms of the settlement. And they had a product I hadn’t seen since I was a kid called Haho (sp), which are just basically chocolate jimmies. And the Dutch, you can find boxes of them in Amsterdam and you basically put them on toast and it’s a lovely breakfast, you know, for kids. But I found them at an Asian market.

CAVANAUGH: That’s interesting because of colonization.

GOLDEN: Exactly.

CAVANAUGH: Now let me ask you both a question that I think is really sort of at the heart of what we’re talking about. A lot of people are hesitant to go into an ethnic market. It’s out of their comfort zone. They’d really just rather go into a regular supermarket, maybe look along the ethnic aisles and pick up a couple of things. What do you say to people who really don’t feel that they have the time or the knowledge to be able to shop well in an ethnic market? To take that step and to just take – go a little bit out of their way, get out of the car, go into the ethnic market, what do you say to them to get them there and what should they do once they enter the store? I’m going to go to you first, Caron.

GOLDEN: Well, you know, one of the reasons I started San Diego Foodstuff was because I do love markets and I was really raised to try lots of different things and I was very lucky and I appreciate that my parents encouraged that, which I think is something Trey can speak to as a parent. One of the comments I’ve always gotten after I’ve posted something about some ethnic market has been, oh, my God, I’ve driven by there dozens of times and I’ve never gone in because I’m too afraid. It’s too intimidating. I’m afraid they won’t speak my language. I’m afraid I won’t know what any of the products are. And to that, I say you’ve just got to – you’re a grown up person, you know, be a little bit brave. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Like Trey said before, most of the people in there are so excited to be able to explain to you something from their native culture. I’ve never had anybody turn me down when I’ve asked what do I do with something, and they uniformly have been very kind. Most of these items are not that expensive and so you can afford to pick up some unusual things and take them home and look them up someplace and try them. The other thing I would say is that cooking school Great News offers market tours and they used to do 99 Ranch. I’m not sure if they still do that but they certainly have someone who takes you around to Nijiya, and then there’s another woman who teaches Indian cooking who does a tour of Ker and Little India, which is a big Indian market up on Black Mountain Road. And you can go on these tours, they have prepared materials for you with the ingredients and photos and what you can do with the ingredients and then you go to a nice lunch afterwards and you can talk about it. And I think that’s a great way, if you’re a little nervous about this, to kind of dip a toe in. And read my blog because I’ve got everything up there, too.


FOSHEE: Well, I’m – you know, I’ve got two young girls, a six-year-old and a nine-year-old and I would stress to those parents out there that you take a Sunday and, you know, don’t plan on going shopping, just go to a market with your kids and see what the reaction is from your kids because it’s eye-opening for them. You know, we’re living in Southern California, we’re surrounded by a lot of different ethnic groups, and you go into these markets and it’s just – it’s a real eye-opener. When we said yesterday that we were going to go to 99 Ranch, the girls were excited to go, you know. And if we go to a big chain supermarket, they’re not so excited to go. I mean, it’s really exciting, you go in there and see a bunch of weird stuff and crazy stuff and all – there’s a lot of snacks, a lot…

GOLDEN: And live animals.

FOSHEE: And live animals. I mean, it’s like going, you know, to the zoo, going to, you know, it’s a cultural experience as much as it is a shopping experience for those that are not used to going there on a regular basis. And then if you don’t have a family, you know, there’s plenty of prepared foods that you can pick up that make life a lot easier at home. There’s also great – usually little restaurants or little, you know…

GOLDEN: Eateries.

FOSHEE: …yeah, eateries. So you can go and have a little lunch, walk around, you know, get your toes wet without, you know, going there with a huge shopping list and then being disappointed because you’re not able to find anything.

CAVANAUGH: Because you can’t find the diapers or whatever you’re looking for.

FOSHEE: Right.

GOLDEN: But you will find the diapers, too. I mean, everyone there has families and they’re shopping for all the same things that the major markets have as well. So you’re going to find all of those traditional things but you’re also going to find a lot of unusual things. I used to take my nephews when they were little and we would go to 99 Ranch and – because that is the best show and tell place around, really. And not only did they love seeing, you know, the crabs walking around and the fish swimming but there were hog snouts, there were – I mean, there – they use – You have to really – It’s another lesson, too. A lot of the ethnic groups that we live among, they’re using every part of the animal and that means every part of the animal is for sale. And so we’re not talking wrapped up, nicely packaged pieces of chicken or meat that you get at, you know, one of the big supermarkets, we’re talking a bin full of hog snouts. And they’re used, and it’s really cool and the kids love it.

CAVANAUGH: We’re talking about ethnic markets in San Diego and we’re taking your calls. If you have questions about an ethnic market, if you shop there and you want to tell us your experience, the number to call is 1-888-895-5727. Let’s go to Cee Cee in Imperial Valley. Good morning, Cee Cee. Welcome to These Days.

CEE CEE (Caller, Imperial Valley): Good morning. How’s everybody?


CEE CEE: That’s good. You know what, I live in the Imperial Valley so therefore it’s very hard for me to get up to San Diego but every time I go, I try to make a beeline towards 99 Ranch and I’ve been tempted to find out, because I watch Iron Chef America, what in the world are those ducks’ being like fried and then dried and then, I don’t know, and then they turn kind of purplish or brown? What is that?


FOSHEE: I think you might be talking about the Peking – the process of making Peking duck, which is a lot of times you steam – or you put an air hose sometimes and separate the skin from the flesh. It’s – The whole process, which is very complicated, is trying to get the result of a very crispy mahogany skin with the juicy meat underneath it.

CAVANAUGH: And, Cee Cee, are you asking does – is there anywhere that sells that here? Okay, Cee Cee’s…

CEE CEE: I have a question to your cactus fruits – an answer to your cactus fruits.


CEE CEE: But, yeah, I would like to know where can I get one and then how do you eat those? Do you eat like chicken or something?

CAVANAUGH: Okay, great. Thank you, Cee Cee. Where can you get them?

GOLDEN: Most Hispanic markets. 99 Ranch – Not 99, I’m sorry, excuse me. We’re so busy talking about 99 Ranch, but Northgate Gonzalez. This is a market we haven’t talked about actually.

CAVANAUGH: Are you talking about the cactus…?

GOLDEN: The cactus fruit.

CAVANAUGH: No, I’m talking about the Peking duck.

GOLDEN: Oh, the Peking duck.


GOLDEN: You can get that actually…

FOSHEE: Pretty much any Chinese market.

GOLDEN: Pretty much any of the Chinese markets, so I think you could get them at 99 Ranch. Actually, a place where you can get it is where Jasmine is, the Chinese restaurant, they have a takeout place next door, which not too many people actually realize and you can buy it there, too.

CAVANAUGH: And where abouts is that?

GOLDEN: On Balboa – On Convoy just north of Balboa.

FOSHEE: Most Chinese restaurants, I think, if you went in there, at least with a day’s notice, you’d be able to order a whole Peking duck and take it home.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Well, thank you for that call, Cee Cee. Let’s go to Sue in north Clairemont. Good morning, Sue. Welcome to These Days.

SUE (Caller, Clairemont): Good morning. I have a simple question. It’s an item that I found in a frozen food in Trader Joe (sic), and it’s an Indian dish and my daughter, who’s a strict veggie or whatever you call them, vegan.


SUE: She doesn’t eat cheese.


SUE: And I thought well, this might be something, this paneer might be something she might like so I indicated to her that I had this, very gently, not want to push it down her throat, okay, she says that’s cheese. Well, anyway, what is paneer? Because when I opened the package for myself it was a delightful a – like a custardy taste.

CAVANAUGH: Like a custardy…

SUE: It didn’t taste like cheese.

CAVANAUGH: And how do you spell it?

SUE: P-a-n-double e-r.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. Do – Does anyone know what paneer is?

FOSHEE: Paneer, I believe, is a type of cheese. I’m not that familiar with it but…

CAVANAUGH: It’s cheese. Sorry, Sue.


CAVANAUGH: It is cheese. Whoops.

GOLDEN: Yeah, you need to read the ingredients on the box for these, and vegans certainly are pretty strict about what they’re going to put in their mouths so, yeah, I don’t know even – I wouldn’t even begin to know what to do for a cheese substitute. I know people are going to say something having to do with soy but I’ve had soy cheeses and they’re just miserable.

FOSHEE: One of the things that’s fun about this whole thing is that, you know, no matter how much you know about food, you’re going to go into these markets and be blown away and not have any idea what to do with some ingredient no matter how accomplished a cook you are. And that’s part of the fun of the process.

CAVANAUGH: Before we take a break, Caron, I want to ask you, are there some things, you know, probably the best thing to do would not be to go into an ethnic market with a detailed long list but rather sort of experiment. But are there some basic ethnic staples that you like to keep in your cupboard and you think probably other people should?

GOLDEN: Oh, absolutely. I had brought in, actually, well, the wrapped vegetables, the stuffed vegetables. I have – Yeah, let’s look at the soy wrap here.


GOLDEN: Those of us who like sushi and like sushi rolls, for instance, love working with, you know, your basic – oh, help me out here. The wrap. The seaweed.

FOSHEE: Seaweed.


GOLDEN: Okay, well, I discovered in a couple of the Japanese markets they’re selling these packages that are very colorful and they’re called soy wrappers and they’re natural ingredients but brightly colored. So some are colored with tumeric, some are colored with – you’ve got them in front of you. You can see…


GOLDEN: Paprika.


GOLDEN: Yeah, so you’ve got red and green and just beautiful colors and you can do the same things with these wraps that you can with a traditional seaweed nori wrap. And put rice and different kinds of vegetables. It’s a wonderful thing to have to make appetizers if you’re having friends over. I love to buy these pureed peppers in the can. And you can see, I brought one in that’s a yellow hot pepper. I’ve got one that’s a red pepper puree. A couple weeks ago I made some veal shanks – or, not veal shanks, lamb shanks, and instead of using tomato paste, I used the pepper paste and it was absolutely delicious. There are a lot of herbs that I keep at home and, certainly, in the Hispanic markets you can buy all sorts of dried chiles and fresh chiles that I love to have. You can get episote, which is a wonderful herb that I actually grow. You can buy the herb at the Hillcrest Market and plant it, and it’s wonderful in stews. I’m sure Trey must use that. I love having some of the garlic peanuts that I get at 99 Ranch. They’re delicious to snack on but I’ll also toss them in a stir fry.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, or a salad, I would imagine.




CAVANAUGH: We have to take a short break. When we come back we will return talking about ethnic markets. A lot of people want to join the conversation and we want to hear from you, too. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

# # #

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. And our Food Hour this time is all about ethnic markets, the joys of shopping there, what things you may find. My guests are Trey Foshee, executive chef and partner at – of George's at the Cove, and freelance food columnist for Caron Golden. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And let’s take a call. Jean Paul is calling from Rancho Santa Fe. Good morning, Jean Paul. Welcome to These Days.

JEAN PAUL (Caller, Rancho Santa Fe): Hi. Good morning, Maureen, and good morning to your guests, Trey and Caron. Wow, I have so many questions but I guess I must – I have to narrow it. One comment is that I have – when I grew up in Mexico and one of the things my mom did, she always took us to the mercados and all kind of markets and I always make a point when I travel to get to know the markets and the museums, you know, ethnic markets, basically. And another question I have if I can – if I – if I’m allowed, is I want to know where – where can I find curries or the spices to make curry in San Diego from scratch?

CAVANAUGH: Ah, good question. Thank you, Jean Paul. Anyone want to take that?

GOLDEN: Ker and Little India in a wonderful Indian market. It’s on Black Mountain Road just north of Miramar. And there are a number of little markets in there but Ker is the big one and they have every possible spice and condiment that you would want to go with the curries.

CAVANAUGH: And what is the name again?

GOLDEN: Ker, K-e-r, and Little India.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. All right.

GOLDEN: It’s a big market. People apparently drive down from Los Angeles to go to this market if they’re Indian or want Indian food.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Joe is calling from Carmel Valley. Good morning, Joe. Welcome to These Days.

JOE (Caller, Carmel Valley): All right, thanks for taking my call. I love ethnic markets because you can go there without having to use a passport. But I’ve been trying to find sea urchin that’s locally raised or actually locally harvested. Is there anywhere to find that in San Diego?

FOSHEE: There is Catalina Offshore Products, which is on – where is that?

GOLDEN: It’s right off of Morena Boulevard near the 5. If you know where the Sears Appliance place is, the one that sells the seconds and where the Humane Society used to be, over – Gaines Street, I think, it was, or Sherman. Sherman, maybe.

FOSHEE: I think so.

GOLDEN: It’s in and around there. You can look them – they have a website and…

FOSHEE: They actually don’t – they actually have a online store that’s pretty extensive where they – they’ll sell sea urchin and a number of other fish and sushi type items.

CAVANAUGH: And Gloria is calling from Coronado. Good morning, Gloria. Welcome to These Days.

GLORIA (Caller, Coronado): Good morning. My question is years ago I used to shop at a Mexican market that was kind of like a bazaar in downtown San Diego kind of on the side of downtown San Diego. Would you happen to know where that is?

GOLDEN: Was it a market or was it a farmers market?

GLORIA: Sort of like a farmers market. I remember bins of…

GOLDEN: Yeah, I think it’s like Island and – and, oh, I want to say 10th or 11th. It’s down in East Village somewhere. I haven’t been there in a long time. There’re remnant – it’s still around. It’s different than it used to be. It used to be more of a conventional farmers market and now you can find a lot of, I think, Hispanic purveyors down there.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, thank you for the call, Gloria. I’m wondering about restaurants and, of course, Trey, you with George’s, are you incorporating more ethnic flavors into your foods? And can you find that in restaurants around the county?

FOSHEE: I think so. You know, there’s a – people come to a restaurant like ours with certain expectations and that limits us a little bit in the use of spice, for example, because a lot of times people will be purchasing wine. Spice and wine don’t mix very well. So we have to be a little gentle with that. But we play around – You know, our menu is very flexible. I mean, we look at a lot of different cultures for inspiration whether it’s from Asia or from Spain or Portugal. I mean, there’s all kinds of different ways of looking at it and interpreting these dishes into our dishes and so, yes, I would say yes.

CAVANAUGH: And do you find that as well at local restaurants?

GOLDEN: Oh, absolutely. First of all, Trey’s menu is amazing in the way he goes about doing a lot of the different dishes with different cultural influences. And I was really impressed, for instance, with your fish taco and the Hamachi that you do. There are a lot of things that he gets in there that – which is why I, you know, thought of Trey in terms of talking about ethnic markets because it was obvious that there’s an influence there. But in general, absolutely, we live in an area in which we have a strong immigrant population and we’re not – we assume that it’s basically going to – the influence is going to be Mexican but we have a strong Asian population here and we – I mean, they – we’re talking Vietnamese and Thai and Filipino. We have a strong population coming in from South Africa, which is interesting. So, yeah, the restaurants are absolutely going to reflect those flavors even if they’re not as powerful as what you would find in a restaurant that was strictly of that ethnic origin…

CAVANAUGH: It’s interesting.

GOLDEN: …but they incorporate it.

FOSHEE: As I’m thinking about our menu, I mean, I’m thinking about the most obvious example which is something that those people that know the restaurant probably giggle at. We have a date salad that’s been on the menu for ten years and – but it incorporates dates, you know, which are grown locally but, you know, are a Middle Eastern item. It includes pomegranate syrup, which, you know, for us – I mean, I don’t even think of pomegranate syrup as a very unusual item but I know that there’s a lot of people that aren’t used to it. It – That is a product, in and of itself, that you should have in your cupboard.

GOLDEN: Umm-hmm. Absolutely.

FOSHEE: I mean, it is a great acid addition, it is a great fruit addition. It makes great vinaigrettes. It’s great drizzled on fish. It’s great drizzled on meat. It’s one of those condiments that is just multi-purposeful, you know.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s take a call. Mary is calling from Hillcrest. Good morning, Mary. Welcome to These Days.

MARY (Caller, Hillcrest): Thank you. Good morning. I love the topic here. I shop a lot of ethnic markets. But I’m curious, given the article that ran this weekend in the newspaper about the horrific meat standards, the quality of meat and the E. coli outbreak of a few years back, and I’m just wondering what kind of standards the ethnic markets are upheld to.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that question. I think a lot of people wonder about that. Is there anything you can help us with, Caron or Trey?

FOSHEE: Well, I would say if you’re talking about, you know, pork and beef and lamb, I have – I share your same concerns and I often shy away from those items for my own family, to be honest with you. But I would be more likely to purchase them in an ethnic market than I would in a traditional supermarket because they’re not packaged somewhere else. They most likely came in in a half-an-animal or whole-animal form and were butchered there and sold there, and the turnover is much greater. As far as seafood goes, you know, that’s another very – we could have another show just on that. But, again, I would tend to go to an ethnic market before I would go to one of the standard big box stores because the fish is there fresh. A lot of times if you know what you’re looking for, you can get great local products. Some of the stuff’s not local, some of the stuff’s – you know, in the frozen cases, you’ve got to be a little careful. But if you know what you’re looking for, you can usually find it. And a lot of times, like I said, it’s a local product.

CAVANAUGH: And, Caron, would you agree?

GOLDEN: Yeah, and the turnover is that much greater. I mean, if you go into, say, Lucky Seafood, which is over in Mira Mesa on Mira Mesa Boulevard, you’re going to find lots and lots of fresh whole fish and they’re there because there’s a big demand. And if you’ve got live crabs, I mean, they’re going to be sold. So I don’t have as much reluctance. I think you can worry yourself to death over all of these things and I’m not belittling the E. coli scare at all but I think we’ve got bigger problems in terms of conventional meat producers and going to our regular supermarkets than we do thinking about what’s going on at the ethnic markets.

CAVANAUGH: We can take one last call quickly, Jennifer in Point Loma. Good morning, Jennifer. Welcome to These Days.

JENNIFER (Caller, Point Loma): Good morning. Thank you for taking my call. I love your show, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you.

JENNIFER: I listen to it every morning. I just wanted to actually just tell everybody a great, great little location that I found. I lived in Tijuana for many years and I now live in Point Loma. I am a vegetarian. And it’s called Nature’s Ambrosia. They do the traditional Mexican fruit bowl like the Pico de Gallo. They do these dessert cups called Bionicos, Escamochas. They’re just delicious. You know, they’re a small mom and pop. People are just discovering it all over the place.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that and where is this exactly?

JENNIFER: They’re located off of 3615 Midway Drive, Suite C. I love them so much. That’s why I’m just – I want them to succeed and they’re off of Midway across the Chase Bank in the Von’s shopping center is at.

CAVANAUGH: And the name again?

JENNIFER: Nature’s Ambrosia.

CAVANAUGH: Jennifer, thank you so much and thanks for listening.

JENNIFER: Thank you. Have a wonderful day.

FOSHEE: One of the side benefits of shopping in these smaller markets, especially the smaller markets, are that you’re keeping your dollar locally. These are families that have come to San Diego and set up shop and so you’re supporting our own community.

CAVANAUGH: You know, in the couple of minutes we have left, I can’t leave it without talking about ethnic desserts because I think a lot of people don’t think along those lines and these cookies you’ve brought in, the aroma has been driving me crazy. What are these cookies?

GOLDEN: Oh, these are sesame cookies. They’re from 99 Ranch. They’re like my favorite little morsels to nibble on. I also brought in some pistachio nougat from Balboa International Market. And there’s a place I want to tell you about that’s just wonderful. It’s called Sage French Cake, and this is a French style bakery done Japanese style so it’s a little less sweet than the French and the baker, the owner and baker, is Korean. And it’s right next to Nijiya Market over on Convoy. It’s south of Balboa. And I buy birthday cakes there. I love it. It’s just absolutely delicious, and it’s a slightly different style than actual French pastry but it’s less cloying, I think, and it’s really marvelous.

CAVANAUGH: And, Trey, I read that at George’s there’s a – your pastry chef is Vietnamese and you’ve been encouraging her to bring in more – more flavors from Vietnam and from Asia into the desserts.

FOSHEE: Yeah, Trang has been with us for about five years now and she’s just really starting to blossom as far as creating some desserts that are really spectacular and very unique because she’s coming from a sense where the flavors that she grew up with, the flavor profiles that she grew up with as a kid, are important to be represented in whatever she does. And the desserts are just phenomenal. You know, she’s doing a corn pudding that’s based on like a coconut pudding type dessert. She’s just crossing a lot of boundaries that are really interesting and really delicious.

GOLDEN: With a beer sorbet.

FOSHEE: With a beer sorbet, a white beer sorbet.

GOLDEN: It’s really good.

FOSHEE: Yeah, it’s unusual but it’s delicious.

CAVANAUGH: That sounds wonderful. Any sort of desserts that really – ethnic desserts that sort of stick out in your mind that perhaps people would pass by?

GOLDEN: When I go to Northgate Gonzalez, and my location is over on 43rd off of the 805 freeway, I basically cannot leave there without buying a slice of their flan. They make the most delicious flan there. And you can – Most of these markets actually have their own pastry shops, so you can buy fresh pastries there, and the breads and the torterillas, you know, that you’ll find in there, you can get the most amazing – don’t buy packaged Doritos. Go to these markets and buy the tortillas as they’re coming off the line. They’re wonderful.

CAVANAUGH: I have to end it there now that you’ve made everyone hungry. I want to thank my guests so much. Caron Golden, freelance writer, food columnist for and author of the blog, San Diego Foodstuff. Caron, thanks.

GOLDEN: Thanks so much.

CAVANAUGH: And Trey Foshee, executive chef and partner of George's at the Cove. Trey, thank you.

FOSHEE: Great to be here. Thanks.

CAVANAUGH: I know so many people wanted to join the conversation. If you didn’t get a chance, please do go online and post your comment at And KPBS is preparing a series on the food we eat and we are asking you to participate. Listen for details coming up in the next few weeks. You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.