I finally walked into the Asian Pacific Market last summer—nearly four years after moving to Colorado Springs. You’ve probably seen it yourself while heading out Platte Avenue to Powers or beyond. Huge warehouse building with the faintly pagoda-like awning over the entry. Yep, that Asian Pacific Market.
I’m embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t the obvious grocery needs that drew me in—I’m a vegan chef and culinary instructor, and there is an abundance of bulk and specialty ingredients perfect for my style of cooking. No, I stepped through the doors after purchasing an air fryer. I knew that this market, catering to a variety of East Asian, South Asian and even Latin American cuisines, had a robust frozen food section filled with tasty morsels that would cook up in my new countertop convection cooker in no time.
A woman on a mission, I was not deterred by the seafood odor that hit me as I entered the bustling market—a clear indication this market is anything but vegan. Home cooks and restaurant workers filled the aisles, stocking up their respective kitchens. I walked into a colorful produce section filled with hard to find fruits and vegetables: spindly, whole jackfruit (perfect for vegan versions of pulled pork), Japanese potatoes, yucca root (common in Caribbean and South American cuisines), and multiple types of cabbage, bok choy, lettuce and peppers. To the side of the colorful plants, I found a refrigerated section overflowing with packaged bean curd options, including tofu and yuba, an Asian variety of sheets sometimes called tofu skin. Be still my soy-loving heart.
I wound my way to the frozen food section to finally—finally!—find egg roll and wonton wrappers free of egg. Vegan gold! And though I had great plans for homemade Chinese fare, I couldn’t resist nabbing prepared frozen items such as East Asian egg rolls, dumplings, pot stickers, spring rolls and South Asian bread and sweets. All of these I could cook up nice and crisp, with no oil, in only six to eight minutes in my new air fryer.
But I think it was the rows and rows of spices, sauces, dry goods and canned items that pushed me to culinary euphoria. Rice vinegars, flavored soy sauces, multiple types of chili paste, rows of rice paper for spring rolls, large bags of rice and lentils for bulk cooking, cans of baby corn and sprouts. And, of course, jars of kimchi and other sweet and savory fermented foods that can turn any ordinary dinner into extraordinary.
OK, you get the idea. If you’re a foodie and you love a variety of flavors when cooking, plan a field trip to the Asian Pacific Market, and plan on taking your time. The utter joy of walking down each and every aisle knowing you’ll discover something new is worth your first trip—and many return trips.
Do It Yourself Recipe: Vegetable Egg Rolls
Ever tried cooking Asian from scratch? How about Asian, vegan, air fryer fare? Here’s your chance with a sneak peek from JL Fields’ upcoming book The Vegan Air Fryer: The Healthier Way to Enjoy Deep-Fried Flavors by JL Fields, releasing in June 2017. Here’s your DIY recipe for Vegetable Egg Rolls. And you can find the vegan spring and egg roll wrappers at the Asian Pacific Market.