Asian Vegetables in Bogota

Marinated perilla leaves.
Marinated perilla leaves.

The Chinese porcelain cat with the waving paw is the give-away. In the U.S., it’s called “napa cabbage” but in Bogota, it’s called “Chinese cabbage.”¬† Whatever it’s called, it’s almost impossible to find in Bogota, I guess because it’s not a normal part of the diet here.

Kimchi in the making, raw napa cabbage.
Kimchi in the making, raw napa cabbage.

I went on the hunt. I’m not sure if it’s my imagination but I feel like in the months that I’ve lived in Bogota, more and more grocery stores are offering “Asian” vegetables like napa cabbage, daikon, and leafy greens other than spinach. But, in most of the stores, the Asian vegetables are droopy and expensive (whenever I buy bok choy in the market, it’s never the tiny ones served to me at Gran China but I guess they, as a restaurant, get preference). It’s better to go to Paloquemao. In particular, “Peter’s Fruits and Vegetables – Chinese Products Available” which I call “Peter’s Chinese Vegetable” just because I think it would sound better. There are quite a few stands in the same area of the market selling asparagus, giant daikon, arugula, chives, and leafy greens.The last time I went, I bought two large backpacks worth of vegetables and it cost me 24,000 pesos (about $11). There is a separate lady who sells nothing by chiles. The other “Asian vegetable” which is hard to find even in the U.S., is perilla leaf. Maki Roll on Carrera 11 sells that.

Japanese-Korean seafood pancake with long green onion-chive vegetables.
Japanese-Korean seafood pancake with long green onion-chive vegetables.

As an aside, Peter’s also sells sweet potato (yams to Americans and “Peruvian camote” here — a sweet potato with an orange color, used in Peruvian ceviche and North American food) and kale. Some of the vendors even use the English words and if they see a foreigner, they’ll call out “kale” or “sweet potato” to attract customers.

Diverse Food Cultures in DC – H Street

Three kinds of fancy ham and a stuffed artichoke.
Three kinds of fancy ham and a stuffed artichoke.

As I’ve mentioned before, Washington, DC, is filled with food adventures. Newly gentrified H Street in northeast DC is the newest “hot” area of international food eclecticism. It has quirky pubs, rice dives, and even the chain pizza restaurant has fancy pants “jamon iberico” on the menu. Plus, this being DC, you can even get pizza with sweet potato. And, of course, they bake the pizza in a wood burning oven.

The orange pieces are the sweet potato/yam.
The orange pieces are the sweet potato/yam.

At the Lebanese restaurant, they sell “ayran,” a salty yogurt drink, “mamoul,” a Fig Newton-like treat, plus the usual middle eastern treats like baklava. An extra experience we had was getting good¬† tips on Iraqi music from the guy behind the counter (there’s an app for that!).

Not as sweet as a Fig Newton.
Not as sweet as a Fig Newton.