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Something you have to know about me is that I can’t go grocery shopping at just one grocery store, something I realized was unique when I ran into friends at the Sprouts in Eagle Rock. “Didn’t know you shopped here,” they said. (Their hunch was right, I don’t). Because of course, why would I shop at a store that isn’t my designated go-to neighborhood grocery store? No one leaves their own store, right?

However my style of grocery shopping goes something like this. I might go to Food 4 less to pick up several bunches of cheap cilantro, but they won’t sell fish sauce. I’ll go to Silom Market (RIP Bangkok Market) for my fish sauce but they won’t have tahini. I’ll go to Super King for my tahini but they won’t have chili crisp. I’ll go to 99 Ranch for my chili crisp but they won’t have tomatillos. Not that I would ever use all of those ingredients in the same dish, but regardless, I am always stopping at a minimum of two stores during every grocery run.

So why am I giving out this information? Not only am I a working chef, I also have a unique willingness to drive through rush hour traffic for a very particular brand of mayo (the mayo in question being Kewpie mayo).

Perhaps you find yourself at a store where all the labels are in a foreign language and you’re just looking for vinegar. Perhaps you tasted Bragg’s Liquid Aminos for the first time as a 23-year-old and realized that’s literally just Maggi Sauce. I’m here to convince you which ingredients are worthy of a trek across half the city to acquire and which can be found right down your street hiding behind an unfamiliar label.

I hope this newsletter will also help you discover something new to cook with, to snack on, and to pine over – if traffic is keeping you apart.

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