Last week I felt like I went to Asia and Latin America, without my passport or even leaving Winston-Salem! Our city has some great resources for those of you looking for a little culinary adventure, so I thought I would share my food adventures from the past week, ending on Saturday with a great tailgate.
It all began on Monday with a trip to Oriental Oasis. I have been a customer of this store, located on Lockland Avenue near Silas Creek, for at least 14 years or more. It is my go to place for real soy sauce (yes there is a difference in what you buy there and Kikkoman in the grocery store), and items I needed for my Asian dinner pick up last week; such as Kaffir lime leaves, great Napa cabbage, lemongrass, nam pla, and more. Nam pla is not a typo, it is authentic Thai fish sauce that is a must have ingredient in preparing Thai and other Asian foods. Along with lettuce wraps, crunchy Asian salad, and marinated cucumbers I also made a delicious infused coconut chicken soup… it was a morning of fun. I decided I was going to rename my kitchen the “playground” on Tuesday!
With the Wednesday pick up out of the way, it was time to get ready for the weekend and the exciting arrival of my La Caja China. La Caja China is this amazing “roasting box” I have been wanting for a couple of years and finally decided to purchase for work. I have no idea why I waited so long as this cooker is totally amazing, but more on the details of that later. First, I had to get some real Latin ingredients, which is best found with a trip to Compare Foods.
Now, I will just go ahead and say that I am willing to bet most of you have never been to Compare Foods, and think it is a discount store. Not entirely true, although the prices are really good I would say it is more of huge ethnic market. Words can’t really adequately describe it, but the pictures below will give you an idea. It is FUN, capital F-U-N, and you should go there and check it out the next time you’re having “Taco Tuesday” and spice up your ingredients a bit! If you’re a little intimidated that would be normal, I would be happy to meet you there, with the disclaimer that there is tons of stuff there I don’t even know how to use!
With bitter orange juice in hand, limes, cilantro, real tortillas and tostadas, and more, I was off to the kitchen to play with my food! For those of you wondering, bitter orange juice is a crucial ingredient in mojo criollo, a delicious marinade for Cuban and other Latin American foods, it can be made by mixing orange juice and lemon if you don’t have bitter orange. And mojo criollo was exactly what I was marinating and injecting the hog I was planning for thevSaturday WFU/NCSU tailgate. In case you have never ordered a whole pig before, I ordered mine through Ogburn Meat Station, located out past the airport on Liberty Street. The owner, Hermin, is about the nicest man and was tickled about how excited I was about this hog. The smallest pig he could get came in about 90 pounds, which was entirely too big, so we ended up using half which worked out perfect!
With a little hiccup on the way home, (I was rear ended at a traffic light! I mean really, who else has a wreck with a pig in the back of their car but me???) I set off to get ready for the premier voyage of La Caja China and the fun began with setting this thing up! It is at this point I have to mention and thank my sweet husband. I am so lucky that he enjoys the crazy ideas I get, too, despite a little eye rolling when they’re first mentioned. I always remind him he knew this about me when he married me, and typically it ends up being a lot of fun for both of us together. Please note the critical elements of set up below, as in the cold beer! Cold beer, flip flops and assembling a cooker….that’s right!
Actually, set up was very smooth and probably took thirty minutes total for this, proud to say, made in the USA item.
The hard part was waiting until the morning to set up and use it!
Pictured above, the hog marinated and ready to go on cooker, and the Caja China at work!
After about 3 hours we flipped the pig over, skin side up now, so the skin would crisp, and had to painfully wait about 45 minutes and she was done!
Finally, she was well worth the wait! It was served with salsa verde, guacamole, tortillas and tostada’s, red pepper cole slaw, black bean salad, and yummy pumpkin cupcakes to finish off. Throw in the champagne enjoyed while she cooked and it was a fabulous foodie day!
This little piggy sure did go to the tailgate in style, and it was a week full of enjoying the best of food and life. I hope you’ll try some of our area stores and challenge yourself to step outside of the box a little! (pun intended, caja is box in Spanish!) Enjoy…