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Have a hankering for some strawberry Pocky? Trying to find boiled fern for your favorite recipe? Where can you go to find such unusual items, you ask? OK, well maybe you didn't ask, but you should still check out your local Oriental market some day. There, minerals, vegetables, and animals (sometimes even the live versions) are yours for the taking.
Excuse the disrespect, but some products are simply hilarious. For example, the "Oh Yes Choco Cake" from the upscale Seoul Oriental Market (8031 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Sunrise) claims to be chock-full of "Presents for your delicious taste." And, if your "delicious taste" craves blood pudding, soup in a bag, cans of boiled mackerel, or soft drinks in clear, intestine-like tubes, you can find that here too.
For a real education, visit the expansive Hong Kong Market (5371 N. State Rd. 7, Tamarac). Once you make your way past humongous plastic kitty heads stuffed with fruit pudding, you'll come across coolers displaying everything from sesame popsicles to frozen, dried squid. Aisles overflow with dried pork, honeydew-flavored gelatin, roasted eel in sardine cans, and even colorful prawn chips like those that Chinese restaurants used to serve before stale, brownish noodles became popular. Plus, the market has an impressive selection of teas that promise to cure everything from high cholesterol to hair loss.
For a mind-boggling experience (novices beware), try Chung Hing in Pembroke Pines (9803 Pines Blvd.). English is not the first language spoken (or seemingly the second or third), and the shelves spill over with bags of products bearing Asian character descriptions. However, for the heck of it, go inside to see the tank full of live fish. It's literally stuffed to the gills.
If you wish to experience something less overwhelming, stop by Kyoya Japanese Market (1956 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale). This tiny store, no bigger than a standard koi pond, is Zen for Asian-food-shopping beginners. It contains coolers with chilled foods, two aisles of packaged foods (from cod roe with chili to yam noodles), an aisle of beautiful dinnerware, and a small selection of cookbooks and videos. Plus, at the tiny sushi bar in the back, the owner will make you a substantial, flavorful sushi combo for only $6.50.
After eating all these decadent delights, perhaps you should brush your teeth with some bamboo salt toothpaste. Certainly sounds abrasive enough to remove even the toughest rice and seaweed buildup, don't you think? Now, where else can you find a product like that?