Don Qua, Goba, Durian, Oh My!

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I had a fun time at 99Ranch, the Asian grocery store in Las Vegas' Chinatown.  I really like this place! It's got a wide variety of produce and sells many things more cheaply than the regular grocery stores do.  I saw lots of stuff I've never seen before - including DURIAN!  The whole ones were huge (and were frozen) so I didn't buy one.  They did have it sliced for $10 per small portion, but that was too outrageous a price for me. I did take a whiff though, since everyone talks about how it stinks. It reminded me of mildly dirty socks.

They also carried sugar plums, which I thought only existed in fairy tales (I don't get out much); jackfruit, gobo (burdock root), don qua and many other things I've never seen.  I wanted to buy some of the leafy greens but without knowing if they contain the goitrogens that so many other greens do, I had to pass on them to avoid aggravating my low thyroid condition. I bought bok choy for the first time, though, and fell in love with it (my twitter friends will attest to my bok choy love affair).  I have yet to throw it into the PowerJuicer or VitaMix, but considering how succulent it looks, I'll bet there's a lot of juice in there.

Young Thai coconuts were 99 cents - half the price Whole Foods charges (and I could have gotten a crate of 10 for less than $8).  I bought romaine for 89 cents a head. Green onions were $1 for 5 bunches, while at the regular store they are now $.99 per bunch!  So I can tell those of you in Las Vegas that you will save money, possibly more than at Sunflower Market, if you shop at 99Ranch for some items.  Nothing was marked organic, though, so keep that in mind. 99Ranch is a chain; I'd love to know if in other locales 99Ranch is cheaper than regular grocery stores.

With the temperatures approaching the 90s, I am so looking forward to my first visit to Gilcrease Orchard where you can pick your own fresh fruits and vegetables. Being a city girl, I am very removed from foods in their natural environment. I have a new friend who wants to make the trip with me, so it'll be another adventure.

QUESTION: Have you ever eaten any of the foods listed above? If so, how have you used them? Do you enjoy them? What do they taste like?


NOTE: In response to questions I've gotten, here is a little guide:

Don qua: A green melon reminiscent of squash. It is also called winter melon. It's often cooked in soups.
Gobo:      This is a root also known as burdock. It should be firm when fresh. It is said to be a blood cleanser.
Durian:   There are many varieties of this intensely aromatic fruit. My Filipina friend likes the sweeter Thai version best. 
Jackfruit:  A sweet, sticky fruit eaten raw or cooked (its sap is made into glue!)
Kobocha: Squash, similar to butternut squash.

 

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  • 4/5/2008 9:42 PM Dea wrote:
    Hi Allison, of all the exotic items you listed, I have tried Durian. I ate 3 whole Durians last year while I was in SF on business. I loved it, yes it was frozen but I did not care, it was so good. The skin of durian is pretty thick so whatever they do to it I don't think or hope it penetrates through to the flesh. It cost $8.00 for a 10 lb durian in San Fransisco last year. Enjoy your warm sunny weather in Vegas. Ciao Dea xo
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  • 4/6/2008 5:03 AM Wendi Dee wrote:
    $89 for lettuce?

    I haven't tried Durian, yet. I don't know if I'll be able to get past the odor that I've heard it has. ICK!

    I've had boc choy many times and love it. I've used burdock root, dried, for things like tea and such. But, I've never used it fresh. Same with Jackfruit--I've had it cooked (my husband insisted it tastes like chicken), but never fresh.

    I never heard of Don Qua. Is it a fruit or squash? I can't tell by the picture.

    You've found some great prices on things, Allison!!

    Lots of love to you,

    Wendi
    XOXOXO

    NOTE: I corrected the $89 a head comment- it was 89 cents, of course. That would have been some Very Special Romaine, huh? -Allison

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  • 4/6/2008 5:55 AM Bob wrote:
    I ate Durian and Jackfruit fresh off the vine when in Viet Nam last year. They're awesome! My wife isn't as enthralled as I am with them, but I'll take a Durian or Jackfruit Smoothie over any other!
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  • 4/16/2008 6:39 AM Blaq Berry wrote:
    I love the way you write!! I'm planning to visit some sites for picking your own produce as well. Something I've been wanting to do for ages now. Funny though, I'll have to restrain myself from just plopping down and eating everything!

    The International H Mart where I shop does carry some organic items, which I freaked out about And a lot of what they sell is labeled so you know where the products originated. Each visit is always like a new discovery as they rotate items constantly. And the prices are fabulous, very similar to what you described where you went. Though, the durians here are a lot less per pound and there are usually several different sizes to choose from. I've heard that durian can be quite pricey in some locations. I'm hoping that when an H Mart opens in your area, you'll be able to try it at a fair price.

    And, not all durians reek! The ones I choose to purchase hardly smell and taste creamy and sweet (with the usual but most often mild underlying flavor of onion/garlic). From what I understand durians are only transported frozen to the US, but they can be thawed very easily...stored in the fridge for a few days after that (the flavor continues to round out and may even become sweeter). Some people will section it off and freeze some for later, but ours never lasts that long. My favorite way to eat durian is straight up

    I've not tried any of the other items you listed, but there are certainly a bunch of other things I have tried...if I could only just now remember what they're called, haha.

    Great post!
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  • 4/17/2008 8:18 AM Wild-Kat wrote:
    I'm very curious about durian--I've seen the big guys, Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmerman approach the stuff on TV and not be able to eat it...hard to imagine that a fruit could be so pungent. It's interesting that some of you guys like it--is it because you're already familiar with it?
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  • 5/31/2008 10:38 AM Joy Naseath wrote:
    There is a Ranch 99 about 2 miles from my house. I go in and out of the whole "has to be organic" part of my mission. Why? Because I can't find organic coconuts or durians, even online. I did order some organic coconuts online and almost 1/2 arrived moldy and bad. No-deposit-no-return. Take that off my favorites list.
    Try the frozen durians. They pick fresh and then freeze. It should take about 4-5 hours for it to thaw a little, pry open and eat the pods. Tastes like ice cream. Love them. Now you've inspired me to go get some. My husband hasn't ever tried one so it will be a treat!
    Ranch 99 can be a little intimidating if you're not used to being surrounded by Asians who are shopping. It's cultural. My Mom is Asian so I think that gives me permission to yell, "Hey, DWA, use your blinker, whydontcha?" But even my Asian friends say this is rude so I have curbed my name calling.
    Back to the point, if the store is crowded, you just have to push your way through grab what you want, and then push yourself through the check-out counter. I think it's fun checking out different types of ethnic markes and have found some really good (different and interesting) produce. Think of it as an adventure! - Joy
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