Friday, November 30, 2012

Mercado de San Juan

Since I’ve been in Mexico, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by all that I am able to find at the supermarkets.  Sure, sometimes I have to go to more than one in any given week and I have to give Mexican brands a shot while also making minor substitutions here and there, but I’m almost always able to recreate my favorite dishes using locally found ingredients.  Have you all found the same thing?  Is there something you are looking for that you haven’t found, or at least a reasonable substitution?  Let me know and perhaps we can find a solution together so you can make your favorites, too. 

Me with the Turkeys at Mercade de San Juan
Even for me, though, there were a couple of things I was missing and I knew I had to go out of my comfort zone to find them.  For example, I knew I wanted a fresh turkey to serve this Thanksgiving, and I knew I wasn’t going to find it in any of the major supermarkets as they only sell frozen birds.  (Please note, I do not think there’s anything wrong with using frozen turkeys, I just enjoy finding fresh turkeys and comparing flavors.)  Additionally, I have really been missing having large, flavorful shallots.  All I have been able to find are tiny ones at Chedraui, which are a pain to dice and often already rotten.  Finally, I have been sad that I couldn’t find some of my favorite Asian vegetables.  Not that I was complaining!  I know we really have it good here in terms of what we can acquire, but I thought maybe if I went on a little adventure I could find what I was looking for, and I did!

My Finished Turkey!
So last week, the Monday before Thanksgiving, I went to Mercado de San Juan, mostly in search of my turkey but also to see what I could discover.  It was a blast!  I have never in my life seen a 40 pound turkey, but they had it there!  It was bigger than my preschooler.  Needless to say, I chose a smaller, 20 pound turkey as I was feeding 10 people plus 4 kids.  The turkeys were still whole, but they fabricated it the way I wanted and even gave it a “bath” for me.  (I washed it again with a little bleach solution when I got home for safety!)  The turkey turned out amazing with great flavor, and everyone at my table was excited that they got to experience a real Mexican turkey.  At Mercado de San Juan, I also found the HUGE shallots I’d been seeking, and got about 12 for only 15 pesos!  They also had a huge array of Asian vegetables, such as bok choy and different types of radishes.  I was thrilled.  They also sell quality, whole Mexican, Italian and Spanish hams at greatly reduced prices, amazing cheeses you cannot find anywhere else, tons of rare Asian ingredients, and so much more—including more Mexican specialties than I could possible list—as well as amazingly beautiful, delicious fruits and other produce. 

If you’d like to go on your own adventure to Mercado San Juan and see what they have to offer for yourself, here’s how you get there.  The market is in a very large warehouse on Ernesto Pugibet, between José María Marroquí y Luis Moya, four blocks from Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas. From the Embassy, go northeast on Reforma, right (east) onto Donata Guerra, right (south) onto Eje. 1 Poniente, then left (east) onto Ernesto Pugibet.  There is parking available right outside the market for a small tip to the attendants.  Here are two links to Google maps:

Here’s what I’m making with my finds!  Feel free to substitute leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken for the turkey, and almost any hearty green you like for the bok choy.  (Swiss Chard, labeled “acelga”, is commonly found in Mexican grocery stores.  If you use a more tender green such as spinach, skip step 3 and add it with the turkey in step 4.)

Asian Turkey Noodle Soup with Bok Choy
Adapted from                                                                                                                                                                            Photo by Scott Phillips
Serves 4

4 oz thin Asian noodles of your preference, such as glass noodles or rice vermicelli
4 Cups chicken or turkey broth
3 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 2-inch long piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced then mashed
1 ½ Tbsp. soy sauce (more for serving)
1 medium head bok choy (about 8 oz.), sliced ¼-inch thick crosswise (about 3 Cups) [see note above for greens substitution ideas]
2 Cups coarsely shredded cooked turkey or chicken
2 scallions, both white and green parts, thinly sliced

1.      In a 3-qt saucepan, bring the broth, garlic, ginger and soy sauce to a rapid simmer over medium high heat.  Cover and continue to simmer for 10 minutes; remove and discard garlic and ginger.
2.      Add noodles to the broth and cook until tender.  Using tongs, distribute the noodles among 4 bowls, preserving the broth in the saucepan.
3.      Add the bok choy to the broth and cook, uncovered, until the white parts start to become tender, 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove the bok choy and distribute among the bowls.
4.   Add the turkey to the broth and simmer until just heated through, about 30 seconds.  Distribute the meat and the broth among the bowls.  Top with the scallions and serve with more soy sauce on the side.