Foodie at Large: Bangkok Center Grocery, NYC
Names: Micol and Dino
Occupations: Micol and Dino run an Italian cooking center for cooking classes, wine tastings and culinary tours to Italy. Visit Rustico Cooking.com for more info.
Buying: Thai basil ($1.50), lemongrass ($1.50), cha um ($2) which looks a bit like a hairier version of dill, chilies ($1), and galangal ($2).
Tonight Micol and Dino will make curry and stir-fry. For a break from Italian cooking, they visit Bangkok Center Grocery (104 Mosco Street, between Mott and Mulberry Streets, New York, NY) every week. Nong, the owner of one of Manhattan's few Thai groceries (for a listing of others, visit Thai-Food.com,) greets visitors with a sing songy Swatdee Kaa.
Lots of unfamiliar ingredients can cause panic and paralyzation. Nong will happily guide you through Bangkok Center Grocery's array of fresh bamboo, betel leaves (These are used for Miang Khum - an amazing and amazingly easy northern Thai appetizer that I've yet to find in any Thai restaurant. Though this recipe calls for the more readily available spinach leaves, use betel leaves if you can), makrut lime leaves ($2) and fresh banana blossom (used in Pad Thai).
Whatever Thai dish you're making, you'll probably find the ingredients at Bangkok Center Grocery. At the very least you can pick up fried squid chips or some Gasheeg, a dessert of sweet black rice and coconut, and evoke Thailand that way.