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  #1  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:10 PM
Sicks Ate Sicks Ate is offline
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What might I find in a Mexican grocery?

Whoops, my lack of culture is showing!

There's a small Mexican grocery about 300 yards from my house. It's been there for a couple years now, and I've never ventured in. I always wonder if there's anything really awesome I'm missing out on. I don't know a ton about authentic Mexican food...wait, I do know that Mexican Coke is made with real sugar...but they do seem to have a smoker going out in front on a regular basis. I assume this is for carnitas, but as I said, I really don't have a clue. I look at the Mexican section of the reg'lar grocery story, and don't ever really see anything I feel like I need to have.

Not being one who likes to put myself in situations where I'm clueless, I haven't ventured in to poke around.

Do I need to check it out?
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  #2  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:15 PM
Ichbin Dubist Ichbin Dubist is offline
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You will find:

A better selection of dried chilies than your grocery store. Unusual canned goods. With luck, excellent tortillas made locally. Apple and tamarind soda. Strange chocolate that makes excellent cocoa. Tamale wrappers.

I've been to an unassuming Mexican grocery store in the next county that has four tiny tables in the back, and they serve the most amazing and authentic Mexican food. So maybe that.

Last edited by Ichbin Dubist; 04-26-2012 at 02:16 PM..
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  #3  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:16 PM
Leaffan Leaffan is online now
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Mexicans.
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  #4  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:33 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
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Mexicans.
Beat me to it.
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  #5  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:17 PM
Drunky Smurf Drunky Smurf is offline
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Yes. They probably have some really good salsa and quacamole. Some good Mexican sausage like chorizo. Some good flavored meats like carne or pollo asada. They might have fresh made tortillas which are a million times better than the store bought kind.

I can't think of much else at the moment. But here is southern California Mexican food is everywhere and is considered normal everyday food so there's probably a lot more stuff that I don't consider Mexican but as just normal.

I'd definitely check it out just to see what they might have.
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  #6  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:24 PM
AncientHumanoid AncientHumanoid is offline
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Real sugar soft drinks.

Cans of fruit nectar type drinks.

Chorizo

Candles with Jesus or the Blessed Virgin on them

Candy with chili powder as one of the ingredients

Menudo (not the singing group made up of perpetually 15 yr old boys)

Canned veggies that don't grow around here.
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  #7  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:34 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
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Menudo (not the singing group made up of perpetually 15 yr old boys)
But it does answer the question of what happens to former members of the boy band, when they get too old.
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Old 04-26-2012, 02:42 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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Budweiser with tomato juice.
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  #9  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:39 PM
ratatoskK ratatoskK is online now
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Jumping beans!
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  #10  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:45 PM
Sigmagirl Sigmagirl is offline
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Chihuahua and queso fresco cheese, good melty and crumbly kinds.
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  #11  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:47 PM
Atomic Mama Atomic Mama is offline
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Just. GO. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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  #12  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:48 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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I live and shop in a Mexican neighborhood. Main things I find at my grocery:

A large selection of chile peppers, both fresh and dried. In the fresh section, off the top of my head: serrano, poblano, jalapeno, habanero, anaheim, cascabel, banana pepper, peron (aka rocoto). In the dried: ancho, pasilla, guajillo, morita, chipotle, habanero, pequin, arbol, japanese.

The fruit and vegetable selection may be different. For example, at my store you will find fresh tomatillos, guava, various mangos, prickly pear paddles (nopales), prickly pear fruit (tuna and xoconostles), a selection of different types of plantains and bananas, fresh garbanzo beans, sometimes fresh fava beans, chirimoya, chayote, etc. Lots of different root vegetables including name, malanga, yuca, boniato, yautia, etc. The herb selection will definitely include cilantro, but often also epazote, maybe culantro, fresh chamomile, hoja santa (although not around my parts) and things like that.

The meat section may feature parts of the animal you're not familiar with. There are often various types of tripe on sale. Skirt steak (both inner and outer) is usually a featured cut (outer skirt is generally preferred). You may have goat on sale. You may even find a goat or pig head on sale, depending on the time of year and how "hardcore" your Mexican grocery is.

Also, the butcher section may have homemade chorizo (sometimes both red and green varieties) and pre-marinaded meats of all kinds for grilling or roasting.

The dried herb section will usually be a bit different than your standard US herbs. Annatto seeds, Mexican oregano (quite different than regular oregano--they're not even in the same plant family), dried hoja santa, dried shrimp (both pulverized and whole), etc.

You should be able to find masa (a hominy dough) or masa harina (flour made from hominy) that is used for making corn tortillas and tamales. Also, as said above, your tortilla selection should hopefully be better than at a regular grocery. My store doesn't make their own tortillas, but they get deliveries from several different tortillerias in the vicinity, so when you buy them, they're still warm in their wax paper.

If the grocery also contains a bakery, then you will find all manner of delicious Mexican sweets and some of my favorite rolls in the world: the telera and bolillo.

And that's just off the top of my head, but your grocery may be different. Why don't you just venture in and check it out?

Last edited by pulykamell; 04-26-2012 at 02:49 PM..
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  #13  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:53 PM
Sicks Ate Sicks Ate is offline
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
And that's just off the top of my head, but your grocery may be different. Why don't you just venture in and check it out?
Because I'm not one who is always comfortable immersing myself in unfamiliar situations
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  #14  
Old 04-26-2012, 03:42 PM
purplehorseshoe purplehorseshoe is online now
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Originally Posted by Sicks Ate View Post
Because I'm not one who is always comfortable immersing myself in unfamiliar situations
Dude, it's a grocery store, there's not really anything to immerse yourself in. Aisles of fresh, canned, frozen and/or packaged food, and then people who are waiting to take your money. Unless you make a scene a la Eve, they just want your moolah. It'll be okay. And hey, you might find some new thing you like!

If you find tamarinds, either in paste form or the original bean, they upgrade any beef stew into Awesomeland.

Oh, and here in north Texas, the Mexican grocery stores have waaaaayyyyy better prices on fresh food like produce and meat than the U.S. based chains. That's reason enough to go.
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  #15  
Old 04-26-2012, 09:16 PM
bump bump is online now
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Originally Posted by purplehorseshoe View Post
Oh, and here in north Texas, the Mexican grocery stores have waaaaayyyyy better prices on fresh food like produce and meat than the U.S. based chains. That's reason enough to go.
¡Viva Fiesta! (Fiesta's the name of a rather large Mexican grocery chain here in Texas)

The meat seems kind of sketchy to me, although a lot of that may be the lighting, which for whatever reason, is not the same as in a normal US grocery butcher case.

The produce on the other hand, is both stellar quality and considerably cheaper than what you'll find at a normal US grocery store, and in many cases, there's more variety in fruits than what you're used to as well. Things like multiple varieties of banana, tropical fruits like guavas, mangos, and papayas are all common.

They have fresh (often still warm!) corn and flour tortillas for super-cheap- I think I've seen 88 cents/100 corn tortillas before. They also have some really interesting snack foods and frozen foods that you won't find in other stores- things like plantain chips, yuca chips, and frozen yuca, and convenience foods like empanadas that you may not be able to find elsewhere.

Plus, they usually have an old lady at the front of the store selling $1 tacos that are delicious.
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  #16  
Old 04-26-2012, 09:22 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Horchata
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  #17  
Old 04-26-2012, 04:29 PM
Taomist Taomist is offline
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Originally Posted by Sicks Ate View Post
Because I'm not one who is always comfortable immersing myself in unfamiliar situations
Hehe, don't feel bad. I went into a korean grocery, found a GREAT deal on a bag of frozen scallops, only to get home, try to cook them, and realize they weren't scallops at all but some kind of discs made of...gluten, as far as I can tell. I have a much easier time in hispanic stores.
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  #18  
Old 05-02-2012, 11:28 PM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Originally Posted by Sicks Ate View Post
Because I'm not one who is always comfortable immersing myself in unfamiliar situations
And as a 6'8" blond guy, it's not like you'll stick out in a Mexican store or anything. Go in, no one will notice, you'll blend right in.

But seriously, go in. I like to say that every big grocery store has two Mexican sections. They have the one with the Pace Picante Sauce and the Old El Paso Taco Seasoning and then if you go down the aisle a bit you'll find the Mole Sauce, Chipotles in Adobo, masa and Jesus Candles, right? The Mexican store will be only that stuff. It's pretty cool and if you have one right down the block that you've never been in before you're missing out on a lot of really good stuff. Even if you're not an adventurous eater, the butcher is likely better then the one at your megamart and the meat is probably cheaper to boot. If it's a big/crowded Mexican store, you should go in just for the experience. Cinco de Mayo is this Saturday. Go in Friday afternoon and they'll be friggen swamped, it'll be fun.

Totally just got that...6'8"=Sicks Ate.
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  #19  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:56 PM
Cheez_Whia Cheez_Whia is offline
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The "smoker" out front is probably for charring the skins of fresh (usually green) chiles so that they are easy to peel. Carnitas aren't smoked IME.
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  #20  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:55 PM
blondebear blondebear is online now
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Reusable canvas bags with vibrant color schemes.
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  #21  
Old 04-26-2012, 02:59 PM
Sicks Ate Sicks Ate is offline
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Originally Posted by blondebear View Post
Reusable canvas bags with vibrant color schemes.
Well holy crap, why didn't anyone say so in the first place?!?! I'm there!

Nah, I'll go in and look around soon. I Just wanted a little info before I did. I don't know what to do with many of those new foods. Except tortillas, I know some things to do with those.

Maybe I should find a couple authentic type recipes, so that I have a list of things I need to look for...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheez_Whia View Post
The "smoker" out front is probably for charring the skins of fresh (usually green) chiles so that they are easy to peel. Carnitas aren't smoked IME.
Ah, a little more research on my part would support that observation See? Toldya I needed to do a little homework first!

Last edited by Sicks Ate; 04-26-2012 at 02:59 PM..
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  #22  
Old 04-26-2012, 03:04 PM
Cheez_Whia Cheez_Whia is offline
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This is a cookbook that I own, and it is an excellent primer for newbies to Mexican cuisine. Try the Pollo Aguascalientes, it's delicious!
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  #23  
Old 04-26-2012, 03:06 PM
Eve Eve is offline
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About ten years ago I was thinking of moving to a town where the only nearby grocery store was Hispanic. I had cats at the time, and did not see any cat stuff: food, litter, etc. My high-school Spanish did not cover this, so I tried to ask the clerk using the universal language of mime. I pretended I was a cat, I squatted, I buried with my paws, I scooped.

They asked me to leave.
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  #24  
Old 04-26-2012, 04:31 PM
Taomist Taomist is offline
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Originally Posted by Eve View Post
About ten years ago I was thinking of moving to a town where the only nearby grocery store was Hispanic. I had cats at the time, and did not see any cat stuff: food, litter, etc. My high-school Spanish did not cover this, so I tried to ask the clerk using the universal language of mime. I pretended I was a cat, I squatted, I buried with my paws, I scooped.

They asked me to leave.
I laughed out loud.
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Old 04-26-2012, 05:29 PM
Missy2U Missy2U is offline
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Originally Posted by Eve View Post
About ten years ago I was thinking of moving to a town where the only nearby grocery store was Hispanic. I had cats at the time, and did not see any cat stuff: food, litter, etc. My high-school Spanish did not cover this, so I tried to ask the clerk using the universal language of mime. I pretended I was a cat, I squatted, I buried with my paws, I scooped.

They asked me to leave.
This made my day. Thank you, Eve.
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  #26  
Old 04-26-2012, 09:35 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Originally Posted by Eve View Post
About ten years ago I was thinking of moving to a town where the only nearby grocery store was Hispanic. I had cats at the time, and did not see any cat stuff: food, litter, etc. My high-school Spanish did not cover this, so I tried to ask the clerk using the universal language of mime. I pretended I was a cat, I squatted, I buried with my paws, I scooped.
Reminds me of trying to buy mousetraps in Vietnam, as our hooches were overrun with the critters. Pantomiming a mouse, a mouse running across the floor, and a mouse getting caught in a trap resulted in a "aha!" moment, and the shopkeeper proudly showed me to a live trap so I could keep them for pets.

Then I had to imitate being a dead mouse -- you can imagine that, I'm sure. Aack! But they didn't see why anyone would want to kill one -- it was just a normal part of domestic household activity.

I gave up -- I had to get some traps from the states.
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Old 04-30-2012, 03:19 PM
whitetho whitetho is offline
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They asked me to leave.
Just like Sara Bareilles in her Gonna Get Over You video. (A favorite.)
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  #28  
Old 04-26-2012, 03:05 PM
Anne Neville Anne Neville is offline
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Originally Posted by Sicks Ate View Post
Nah, I'll go in and look around soon. I Just wanted a little info before I did. I don't know what to do with many of those new foods.
The disks of chocolate with cinnamon: eat them right out of the package. They're good.

If you make any recipes with canned or dried beans, you'll probably find a better selection of those at the Mexican market than you will at a supermarket.

If you like salsa, you will find a better selection of salsas at the Mexican market. You don't need an authentic Mexican recipe to know what to do with salsa.
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  #29  
Old 04-26-2012, 04:47 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Originally Posted by Sicks Ate View Post
I don't know what to do with many of those new foods. Except tortillas, I know some things to do with those.
Cook some chorizo. (Take the skin off first, since you want to break it up.) Cook some potatoes. Put some chorizo and potatoes into a tortilla. (Add scrambled eggs if you want, but I like just choizo con papas.) And there's your breakfast burrito. Or lunch burrito. Or snackage.
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  #30  
Old 04-26-2012, 04:50 PM
Alice The Goon Alice The Goon is offline
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A lot of Mexican stores around here have package deals on meat. So you'll get a variety of, say, pork products, for a set price. It's usually not the best quality meat, no- but it is often a good deal.
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  #31  
Old 04-26-2012, 04:51 PM
purplehorseshoe purplehorseshoe is online now
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Cook some chorizo. (Take the skin off first, since you want to break it up.) Cook some potatoes. Put some chorizo and potatoes into a tortilla. (Add scrambled eggs if you want, but I like just choizo con papas.) And there's your breakfast burrito. Or lunch burrito. Or snackage.
Your suggestion would be improved with the addition of salsa.
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  #32  
Old 04-26-2012, 04:54 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Originally Posted by purplehorseshoe View Post
Your suggestion would be improved with the addition of salsa.
What, and dilute the chorizo spices?

I use salsa (and sometimes Vegemite) on all other breakfast burritos. But not chorizo con papas.
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  #33  
Old 04-26-2012, 03:07 PM
twickster twickster is offline
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Moved MPSIMS --> Cafe Society.
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  #34  
Old 04-26-2012, 03:10 PM
Cheez_Whia Cheez_Whia is offline
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Somehow, I knew that was coming!
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Old 04-26-2012, 03:13 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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  #36  
Old 04-26-2012, 03:16 PM
Sicks Ate Sicks Ate is offline
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Moved MPSIMS --> Cafe Society.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheez_Whia View Post
Somehow, I knew that was coming!
I wasn't sure initially...didn't necessarily intend it to become a discussion about cuisine, but I guess it has taken its logical course!

And now I also know that threads about food at 2:30 in the afternoon are a bad idea
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  #37  
Old 04-26-2012, 03:29 PM
guizot guizot is offline
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Candles with Jesus or the Blessed Virgin on them
Specifically, Guadalupe.
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
For example, at my store you will find fresh tomatillos, guava, various mangos,
Also, it's where you can get frozen Goya products, such as maracuya (parcha) for making tropical fruit drinks from fruits that don't get imported to the States.
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Originally Posted by Anne Neville View Post
The disks of chocolate with cinnamon: eat them right out of the package. . .
Just the idea makes me feel a little sick.
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Old 04-26-2012, 03:31 PM
Anne Neville Anne Neville is offline
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Just the idea makes me feel a little sick.
Send them to me, then.
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  #39  
Old 04-26-2012, 04:35 PM
mister nyx mister nyx is offline
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I came in here to say this.
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  #40  
Old 04-26-2012, 03:41 PM
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Has no one mentioned paletas?
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Old 04-26-2012, 04:22 PM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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I've found that a lot of the Mexican/Hispanic grocers around here are more likely to have dried beans and sometimes rice in bulk. And if you go through a lot of dried beans, this can save a lot of money. Some of the stores have bulk spices, too. The selection is usually different, and many products are labeled in Spanish. Sometimes they're also labeled in English, sometimes it's Spanish only. The book and magazine section has Spanish language books and magazines, and rarely has English language offerings.

It's entirely possible to conduct business without being able to speak Spanish, money talks in a way that most everyone understands.
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  #42  
Old 04-26-2012, 04:31 PM
stegon66 stegon66 is offline
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My ex-wife didn't like going to the local Mexican store because it "smelled foreign." She was more than happy to eat their burritos though! They also made awesome chorizo tacos. Mmm...

Last edited by stegon66; 04-26-2012 at 04:32 PM..
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  #43  
Old 04-26-2012, 05:33 PM
Zyada Zyada is offline
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Our hispanic grocery has a really large section of Goya food products. Goya ginger beer is about rjk's preferred brand - it has a touch of capsaicin in it to add to the bite of the ginger.

They also have really good store-made chorizo, and a great variety of hispanic cheeses, unusual canned and frozen produce, as well as a few fresh veggies that you don't see in your local Safeway.

Check out the beauty section for items you haven't seen in a grocery store since the 70s.

The herbs and spices tend to be a lot cheaper.

I would recommend that you stay away from Mexican vanilla though. There is a plant that tastes similar to vanilla, and is used to make cheap vanilla but is potentially toxic. It's illegal to sell it in the U.S., but that doesn't always stop sales.
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  #44  
Old 04-26-2012, 05:58 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Rice ice cream! Also, actually ripe avocados.
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  #45  
Old 04-26-2012, 06:03 PM
Alice The Goon Alice The Goon is offline
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And frozen fruit bars and ones with coconut- my favorite.
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  #46  
Old 04-26-2012, 06:20 PM
Sicks Ate Sicks Ate is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheez_Whia View Post
This is a cookbook that I own, and it is an excellent primer for newbies to Mexican cuisine. Try the Pollo Aguascalientes, it's delicious!
Cool! I will look in to it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Bodoni View Post
I've found that a lot of the Mexican/Hispanic grocers around here are more likely to have dried beans and sometimes rice in bulk. And if you go through a lot of dried beans, this can save a lot of money. Some of the stores have bulk spices, too. The selection is usually different, and many products are labeled in Spanish. Sometimes they're also labeled in English, sometimes it's Spanish only. The book and magazine section has Spanish language books and magazines, and rarely has English language offerings.

It's entirely possible to conduct business without being able to speak Spanish, money talks in a way that most everyone understands.
And that was maybe something I was concerned about! But I guess if I dump an armload of stuff on the counter and look at the total on the register, the mission will be accomplished.

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Originally Posted by Taomist View Post
Hehe, don't feel bad. I went into a korean grocery, found a GREAT deal on a bag of frozen scallops, only to get home, try to cook them, and realize they weren't scallops at all but some kind of discs made of...gluten, as far as I can tell. I have a much easier time in hispanic stores.
There are a couple asian markets here that I've visited...apart from reminding me of Japan, and ogling all of the 'fresh' fish, it was fun to try to figure out what's in the brightly labeled packages.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Cook some chorizo. (Take the skin off first, since you want to break it up.) Cook some potatoes. Put some chorizo and potatoes into a tortilla. (Add scrambled eggs if you want, but I like just choizo con papas.) And there's your breakfast burrito. Or lunch burrito. Or snackage.
Ok, I'm hearing chorizo loud and clear! I was reading the Wikipedia article about it a few weeks ago, so I was kind of curious to check it out, anyway. So, top of the list.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zyada View Post
Our hispanic grocery has a really large section of Goya food products. Goya ginger beer is about rjk's preferred brand - it has a touch of capsaicin in it to add to the bite of the ginger.

They also have really good store-made chorizo, and a great variety of hispanic cheeses, unusual canned and frozen produce, as well as a few fresh veggies that you don't see in your local Safeway.

Check out the beauty section for items you haven't seen in a grocery store since the 70s.

The herbs and spices tend to be a lot cheaper.

I would recommend that you stay away from Mexican vanilla though. There is a plant that tastes similar to vanilla, and is used to make cheap vanilla but is potentially toxic. It's illegal to sell it in the U.S., but that doesn't always stop sales.
I do kind of want to try ginger beer. Let's pretend the label is in Spanish, what would it say?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
Rice ice cream! Also, actually ripe avocados.
Oh wow, also worth a trip. My default for avocados right now is Aldi, since they tend to have ones that will be too ripe in about 6 hours...
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  #47  
Old 04-26-2012, 08:35 PM
Cheez_Whia Cheez_Whia is offline
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I do kind of want to try ginger beer. Let's pretend the label is in Spanish, what would it say?
Cerveza de Jengibre
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  #48  
Old 04-26-2012, 11:29 PM
Pyper Pyper is offline
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Originally Posted by Sicks Ate View Post
I do kind of want to try ginger beer. Let's pretend the label is in Spanish, what would it say?
You shouldn't have to worry about this. From what I can tell, Goya Ginger Beer is a product only manufactured in the U.S. with an English label. It's basically ginger ale.

If you are partially to drinks with chunks of stuff in them (as I am), try some agua de coco (coconut water) or aloe juice. I was just at my favorite Mexican market today, and they are now selling aloe juice in many assorted flavors!

What I picked up on my quick shopping trip:

Refried beans*
Chicken tamale and cheese tamale
House-made tortilla chips
Coconut water
Guava-flavored aloe juice and tea-flavored aloe juice
Crema mexicana (sour cream, but tastier and runnier)

*Anyone in the Westminster, CA area must immediately proceed to El Ranchito and try their refried beans. No beans ever tasted so good, ever.
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  #49  
Old 04-27-2012, 05:23 PM
Zyada Zyada is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sicks Ate View Post
I do kind of want to try ginger beer. Let's pretend the label is in Spanish, what would it say?
Good question. Here's what the goya brand actually looks like: http://www.sodapopstop.com/products/detail.cfm?link=330


And here's what it might say in Español: Cerveza de jengibre - However, ginger beer/ginger ale seems to be enough of an english import that they usually just say "ginger beer/ale" (Even in the spanish wiki)

BTW, in Spanish, jamaica means hibiscus. And you can buy jamaica soft drinks (refrescos) and jamaica Kool-aid
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  #50  
Old 04-28-2012, 10:42 AM
jnglmassiv jnglmassiv is offline
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Pulykamell pretty well nailed it.

If they have house-made chorizo in the butcher case, grab a chunk, cut the casing from it and fry in a skillet. Avoid the factory stuff in transparent, plastic casings.

There is a Mexican grocery by my work that had hot rotisserie chickens for $3.49/ea! One of those and 4 or 5 dollars worth of store-made green salsa, onion, limes, tortillas and cilantro is a great couple of meals. They also have a tub of rice for $1.49, a nice add-on.

Outer skirt steak mentioned earlier in the thread can be half the price compared to more mainstream groceries.

Avocados are cheap and the turnover is good.

A block of prepared achiote paste mixed with the juice of an orange for a chicken or pork marinade is hard to beat on the grill.

Cotija cheese resembles grated parmesan but doesn't taste like it. Try some.
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