November 07, 2009

Uwajimaya / tamarind-tofu-cabbage-bowl

My cousin is an only child, and I am one of three siblings - not that any of us are children anymore — but we were. He had a LOT of toys, and he didn't like to share. My cousin lived in a large four bedroom row-house with his parents and our grandparents. That house was a source of seemingly endless entertainment for my brothers and me. For one thing, it had one of those magical double staircases — you could go to the second floor from the living room, travel through the upstairs hallway to the rear of the house, and descend a second staircase into the back pantry. The second-floor area with the second staircase was dark, cluttered and spooky, making it very alluring for games of hide-and-seek or "disappearing cousin." Technically, we weren't allowed to use the rear staircase because it was "too dark," "too dangerous," "too cluttered." All the more reason why we were unstoppable in its use. But, as enticing as this physical aspect of the house was, nothing was as alluring as the toy room.

There was one bedroom in the house dedicated solely to toy storage. The room was stacked, floor to ceiling along all four walls, with every game, puzzle, science kit and general toy that could be imagined. My memory has the stuff stacked three-deep so that there wasn't a lot of walking space left, but that could be time embellishing memory. Or not. My cousin was the ruler of this cache, and it was up to him to decide which toys we could play with. Now, I'm not saying he was selfish, or a tyrant, but he was a little arbitrary about which things we could use. I knew he'd never let us use the chemistry set, but there were certain other things I gravitated towards, and was often frustrated by his iron grip. His parents encouraged him (sort of) to share, but didn't make him.

He'd usually let us play Clue, but not always. Sometimes he'd allow the Lincoln Logs, which was good since I was the only one who liked them. The boys would tire of them quickly and go off to run up and down the staircases while I built farms and housing developments. But the real object of my desire, the Legos, were usually off limits. I'd plead and beg for those Legos, and only rarely would he concede. The cuz had a most remarkable collection of tiny little Legos, including little white window frames and shutters. He had zillions of intricate pieces, and playing with them was heaven. My brothers would soon get bored, and I'd have them all to myself until my cousin required them back in their storage location.

I'd love to go back in time and have a glimpse at that room again to see if it really contained every toy made, or just seemed like it. It was a little daunting to be in the presence of so much stuff I wanted. Kind of like last weekend, actually, when I found myself in the grown-up food equivalent of the toy room.

Part of our stash from Umajiwaya
When we walked into Uwajimaya Inc in Seattle's International District, I literally burst out laughing. Uwajimaya is an Asian supermarket that has everything you could possibly want, from fresh vegetables to the most obscure seasoning AND an entire gift and kitchen tool department. I didn't know which way to turn. You can get one hour of free parking if you spend six dollars, and the minute we walked into the store, it was pretty clear that wouldn't be a problem. We didn't buy any veggies, though they were sorely tempting, having just been to the farmers market the day before, but headed toward the aisles of Asian foods. I had a shopping list that magically expanded as I spied more and more ingredients I suddenly remembered "I just had to have." We found all the expected things like dried mushrooms, brown rice vinegar, rice noodles and yuba, but also unexpected things like an organic mix of brown jasmine-red-black rice from Thailand. We were able to find locally made tofu and tempeh, as well as Shark brand sriracha (without preservatives) in a giant bottle for just $2.99, less than we'd previously paid for a small bottle.

The first things we used from our shopping expedition were the tofu and rice in a recipe from our "Vegan Yum Yum" cookbook. Though not an Asian dish per se, the tamarind tofu cabbage bowl was satisfyingly delicious. It was a simple and tasty last minute dinner solution.

Everything we've made from the cookbook so far has been easy and delectable, and this was no exception.

The rice reminded me of a delicious Thai rice we'd been given as a gift some time ago. When this rice is gone, I think I might make my own three-rice blend from the rice available at the coop. I'll use a jasmine brown rice for the bulk of the mix, a red rice and a black rice.


  1. I remember the little windows in the lego sets! And the garage doors - I had those too! And do you remember the curved pieces? Three or four together made a circle, the basis for a round tower.

    You make my mouth water with those photos and descriptions. I wasn't going to buy Vegan Yum Yum because I already have enough cookbooks. But maybe I'll just have to make another exception...

  2. Claire,
    There were house doors that opened and closed but I don't remember garage doors. And I have no memory of curved pieces. You must have had more legos than my cousin - I'm impressed!

    We left most of our cookbooks in Wisconsin (I miss them a lot) so now it seems "necessary" to get some new ones since I can't re-buy ones I know I have packed away. I can borrow the older ones from the library.

  3. Isn't the Asian supermarket great? I usually get my veggies from the farmers market except for ones that aren't locally grown. And the tofu and rice dish looks delicious! :-)

  4. What a fun story about you and your cousin! I loved reading about your childhood story:)

    I always have that feeling too when I go to Marukai Japanese market near my house, they have everything just like Uwajimaya, I don't know which way to turn either. I want to look at everything they have!

    I LOVE Vegan Yum Yum blog, it's time for me to buy her book. "Easy and Delectable" from you are the key words!

    p.s. That Thai rice you cooked is very interesting. I've never heard about them

  5. Chow vegan,
    I'm looking forward to experiencing the year-round farmers market in Seattle. In Wisconsin, the winter markets had some storage veggies like onions and garlic, but not much. It was mostly things like maple syrup, sorghum, cheese and such.

    Thanks for reading! Uwajimaya also is a Japanese market. I can't wait to go back but will try to wait until I really need to.

    We've really enjoyed cooking from "Vegan Yum Yum" so far. The photos in the cookbook are beautiful, too, as you might expect from reading the blog.

  6. That shop sounds wonderful! And about the Lego (we leave out the final 's', over here! :) ) I was so pleased when my kids got 'into' it, as I loved building houses! They had doors and windows and flowers and everything!
    BTW, I love your new heading! :)

  7. Penny,
    I still love legos! Hope your studies are going well. (Thanks for the compliment about the heading.)


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