Remember around Halloween when haunted houses, much more tame at the time, would have things like the darkened room with a bowl of worms to put your hands in (wet spaghetti) or the bowl of human eyeballs (peeled grapes)?
Well, they should have used peeled longans; they're just like eating an eyeball, albeit a tasty one with a seed inside.
Stopped in Angor Wat Market for the first time (Lawrence and Broadway, SE corner under the el). Somewhat pan-Asian selection of canned goods, frozen, smoked, preserved and fresh seafood and some decent produce including longans, the poor cousin to the much more fragrant and tasty lychee, but which ripen later and thus extend the season. They look dry and hideous, but are juicy once inside the bark-like peel. Just don't think of eyeballs when eating.
I also couldn't resist trying the "Creeping Jenny Drink", though at $1/6 oz., a little pricey. It had a name (in... Khmer?) that I don't remember. Ingredients: juice from C. Jenny leaves, sugar, water. C. Jenny, for you non-gardeners, is Lysimachia nummularia, a common groundcover. The taste was really refreshing, musky, vegetal, fruity. I'm going to pull some of mine tomorrow and try to imitate.
Across the street is "First Lao Grocery" which I will check out later, and kitty corner is an East African place. As Uptown gentrifies, and I'm guessing it will as a Borders is going in nearby, I suppose these places will eventually vanish.
Later ended up at Thien Noodle (6241 N. Clark, where it meets Ashland) which bills itself as Vietnamese and Thai. A family owns it, the chef-mom is 1/2 Thai, but the family is from Vietnam. Very friendly service, not crowded (bad location), very clean bathroom (I always feel good about this). I had four items:
Jackfruit slushy drink. Very good, though probably the jackfruit-in-a-can + ice + blender. Still, good summer liquid.
Vietnamese pancake: crispy pancake, but bland filling (shrimp, etc.), and fish sauce that came with it too watered down.
Noodle salad w/shrimp: when I think of Vietnamese salads like this, I think of greens augmented with basil, maybe mint, cukes, bean sprouts, carrots, rice noodles and whatever meat you want, all drenched in a dressing made of fish sauce, sugar, minced garlic, peppers, hot water. This one had overcooked but tastily marinated shrimp, lots of noodles, a few greens, sprouts, carrots and on the side, weak fish sauce. Only $4 though.
The best was the catfish in hot pot. Very spicy peppers and scallions atop the fish in a (finally!) pungent fish sauce-based liquid. This was the best of the bunch. I'd try the place again, given that entrees were $4-7.
Two blocks south was a sign that said "Somali cuisine" and I caught the words "lamb" and "beef" on hand-lettered signs. Anyone been?
Later on the way home I stopped by two of the mexican markets on n. clark street. At the one supermercado (can't think of name, the one on the west side just before you get to the new Dominicks), the have some of the usual pan dulce, but then also "elotes pie", which was like a sweetened cornbread/cake base with a custard top, really, really good - not too sweet and a buttery corn flavor. Can anybody tell the the spanish name for this, or point to recipes?
I also got some unmarked candies that I loved and would like help with - one was fantastic, I think it was tamarind paste covered with chili powder, and the other was some other fruit paste (with extra citric acid) with the same powder. Any names, history, other places for these?