It has been a while since my last blog post. My apologies–home/work life has gotten busy. I never mentioned this on the blog before, but in addition to my job at the university, since Fall 2019 I took over as Market Manager at the East Falls Farmers’ Market (EFFM). Out of convenience and necessity, this Saturday market under the Twin Bridges in downtown East Falls has gradually become the source for most of our food at home. Today I’d like to introduce you to our farmers and maybe give you some ideas of how you can use local farmers’ market produce to make some great Asian-influenced meals at home.
Since the lock down, the East Falls Farmers’ Market (4100 Ridge Ave) has become my primary source for fresh produce, fruit, meats, yogurt, cheese, wine, beer, etc. My wife and I still cook primarily Thai and East Asia inspired foods on a daily basis, but we have largely adapted to what is available at the market. That does generally mean fresher and more flavorful ingredients compared to what we can get from any nearby mainstream big-box grocery stores, though we have access to fewer specialty Asian items. That said, the products are local and in season, harvested with care and even produced with environmental and ethical considerations. It feels good to be able to support our local talented and hardworking farmers and food vendors while (finally) learning how to cook more according to what is in season for our region.
In March the EFFM took quick precautions to move vendors to online pre-order and pickup models, and we implemented safe social distancing measures. Because of those steps, we were able to stay open every weekend, even during those dark and challenging days early on in the lock down. Now vendors are back to day-of sales, though distancing precautions remain. The market has grown substantially this year, both in terms of farmers and food vendors, and also in terms of a stronger customer base. In short, the market is doing well, and frequent new offerings along with open air safe distancing make it an increasingly desirable place to shop for locals. This has got to be one of the few positive outcomes of an otherwise incredibly distressing time.
Since I’m down at the market every Saturday (year-round!) helping to get vendors situated and otherwise ensure the market runs smoothly, I’ve made Saturday my main food shopping day. Occasionally I supplement my farmers’ market purchases with a visit to relatively nearby favorite Asian markets like Seng Hong (a great Southeast Asia-focused market in N Philly) or the H-Mart in Elkins Park for any necessary specialized Asian ingredients. I do miss visits to the city’s many small corner stores (especially South Philly’s great Southeast Asian stores). As things begin to open up, I look forward to continued explorations of our city’s many markets.
I hope you take advantage of your local farmers’ market offerings (if you are lucky enough to have one). You are welcome to come visit ours too! The East Falls Farmers’ Market (4100 Ridge Ave) is open every Saturday, 10am-2pm. In Mid-late December we expect to again shift to a 2-hour market, 11am-1pm until it starts getting warm again, i.e. May. Hope to see you there!
Some examples of the farmers’ market products in our meals under quarantine
Dtam dtaeng ตําแตง (“bashed cucumber” salad)
Dtam dtaeng is a funky and sour salad very similar to som tam (green papaya salad). For this we used McCann’s Kirby cucumbers, tomatoes and chicken eggs, together with Everwild’s fresh garlic, Thai chiles and Mesclun salad mix. We ate it together with some homemade Thai herbal sausage and smoked jerk chicken wings from Side of the Road in East Falls.
Guilin mifen 桂林米粉 with ground beef and maitake mushrooms
Half of the ingredients for this came out of the pantry (dried rice noodles, pickled long beans, homemade airfried soy nuts, and a Sichuanese crispy chile in oil (川南油辣子), some braised meat stock came out of the freezer. Farmers’ market ingredients included ground beef made into meat balls from Brophy’s Spring Hollow Farm, and maitake mushrooms and cilantro from McCanns.
Stir-fried kabocha squash with pork belly and Thai basil ฟักทองผัดหมูสามชั้น (with a side of fried kale)
This Thai-style weekday meal was prepared almost entirely (except salt, garlic, and fish sauce) from EFFM ingredients: Kabocha squash, kale, and long hots from McCann’s, eggs and pork belly from Spring Hollow Farm and Thai basil from Susan Schnee’s herbs (Susan was a vendor in 2019).
Fried pom pom (aka lion’s mane) mushrooms
Sometimes there are some more unusual mushrooms at the market! Pom pom mushrooms fry wonderfully in some oil with salt and pepper. The result is also like a scallop or something. Really delicious and great as a side to anything.
Isaan-style chicken stew with oyster mushrooms and dill อ่อมไก่ aum gai
This is a great dish that freezes well for nice fall weekday meals. Soup chicken (layer chicken) from Spring Hollow Farm, oyster mushrooms, chiles, and dill from McCann’s. Lemongrass and galangal came out of the freezer for this one. Kaffir lime leaves came from our tree!
Stir-fried Asian cauliflower with pork belly
This year Everwild Farm had long-stemmed cauliflower, just like the kinds you can get at Philly Asian markets! Stirfried with Nathan’s pork belly.
Grilled pork chops with Thai-style nam jim sauce, and grilled eggplant with ground pork, along with grilled corn, long hots, and zucchinis with flowers
This one was also nearly entirely EFFM materials, and was a collaboration with Alex, a chef who’s quarantining in the neighborhood. Alex grilled the pork chops (and decorated them with several edible flowers from his garden) and made the nam jim sauce, and we grilled some Japanese eggplants and corn and made the eggplant ground pork dish. Meats were from Spring Hollow Farms, corn and eggs were from McCann’s, and peppers, Japanese eggplants, and zucchinis from Everwild Farm.
Rapid-fire gallery of much more eye candy