So I rolled in on the bus late last night, perky for some reason, humming inaudibly to myself for most of the trip (Dr Worm by They Might Be Giants for anyone who’s curious. It’s catchy!). I didn’t even nap like I usually do. And it’s probably a good thing the trip itself was easy, because I came home to a mailbox full of mysterious bills written all in french for exorbitant amounts with weird phone numbers attached and a kitchen that would make pigpen blush. *sigh*

It’s times like this I should (well, okay, start some administrative detective work, and yes, I am on hold right now) pore over probably my last fun grocery splurges for a little while. A few days before I left I went to the Kowloon market in Ottawa’s chinatown and found scads and piles of fascinating dried things, powders, pickles, extracts, roots, sodas and noodles, beans and seeds and instant desserts with happy fruits on them, cakes and canisters and flakes, oh my!

I also ducked into a middle eastern bakery and picked up the sumac and harissa you see right there at the front of all the treasure. The rest of it is (clockwise from the jackfruit can), green jackfruit, mochi cakes, licorice dried plums, mung bean noodles, the cool rice-noodle-thingers I loved at the Green Door (the package says to let them soak for 12 hours — we’ll see how that goes), spicy pickled turnips, black sesame seeds, and YES a big stick of agar! Weehee. I can make lemon bars now, and any manner of fiddly cupcake devices, I’m excited.

Total: a little under $15

And being in Ottawa I had to replenish my spices at my favourite bulk bin health place. When I first started cooking I couldn’t fathom the idea of tossing out spices after a year, I just couldn’t understand how that wouldn’t waste anything. And then I noticed my thyme canister was down a few teaspoons and I got simultaneously proud and concerned about my next quiche. Kardish is great for this kind of thing – I got basil, thyme, oregano, dill seed, ground and whole coriander, ground cardamom and cumin, aniseed, cinnamon sticks, kelp powder, mustard powder, onion powder, tons of paprika, white pepper, fennel, caraway and cream of tartar.

Total: $4.28 <—– (why I shop at Kardish)
The mochi was one of those pure experiential purchases. Having never tried it I didn’t waste much time breaking into that package and inspecting the chewy little blobs within. I was surprised to find them all filled with pastes (and pleased, at first, to find this), and the three flavours were pretty obviously sesame, peanut butter, and plain white with red bean.

I’m not sure if this was just low quality mochi, and it probably was, but I wasn’t totally bowled over by the stuff. The peanut butter was especially tasteless and UN-nutty, and the sesame was aromatic and crunchy but not much better. The plain white was without question my favourite, and I discovered that eating the paste first and *then* the plain mochi was definitely the way to go. But all in all I’ll leave this stuff to the macrobiotic crowd (actually, these ones did have sugar, so maybe I got the candy-style kind, I don’t know). They were really really fun to poke!

So in the interim I’ve hung up the phone, the musak even stopped playing. Time to put on pants, knock on some doors and squeeze my culinary dreams into whatever a bag of rice and the contents of my pantry can bring me. I have sumptuous photos from the rest of my trip to blog about after I get some work done, and hey, I actually love steamed rice and brown veggies (*guffaw*), so I’ll-a be fine.

And I DO have agar. Rawr!!