My travel-lovin’ husband is stuck with a wife and son who only want to go to Disney World anymore, so he tends to flip over opportunities to experience the “other” in our little suburban haven.
Whenever I can muster the courage to pull myself out of my comfy cacoon, it makes the Hubster incredibly happy to check out interesting venues with flavors of faraway places.
I pass by the Assi Plaza every time I go into the office, but I never gave it a second thought until I started getting interested in bento a couple of months ago. I finally worked up the nerve to stop there in early April, but was so overwhelmed by the packaging and the foods I didn’t recognize, that I basically looked for some bento boxes and tools and then left, my xenophobic tail between my legs.
But this bento obsession is strong and worked and worked on me until I finally brought up the idea of going for an outing with my husband the moment our son was invited to hang out at a friend’s house. (I almost typed “play date,” but had to revert to a more teenagery term.)
I’d checked out the Bento Store Locator over on Lunch in a Box and people had given good comments to the Korean barbeque place in the same complex. We had a plan — a quick stop in a fabric store (for me), a lunch at the Korean barbeque (for him) and a lengthy perusal of the offerings at the Assi Plaza (for both of us.)
The Korean barbeque was actually amazingly cool, even if I did get most of the smoke coming right into my face. We had sliced short ribs and tried all the great side dishes — despite the fact that we didn’t know what any of it was! Our waitress was very sweet and explained what she could and we just tried everything, hoping that we weren’t committing any culinary faux pas by eating how and what we did. (I’m sure I did crack the servers up with the face I made as I tasted the green tea — which I’d first assumed was some bad, green-tinged well water. Hmmmm… I’m no fan of green tea and this tasted just like grass clippings.)
Afterwards, we headed into the Assi Plaza and just explored and explored. I loved seeing all the incredible seafood and very fresh-looking produce. I was mighty tempted, but my fridge is currently full, so I resisted. We were both charmed by the candies and selected a few to buy and try.
I have to say the gummies were very good, with great “peachy” and “true strawberry” flavors — not that processed “strawberry-like” crap most kid candy is flavored with in the US. But, the mochi and the sweet buns with anko bean paste? I liked the flavors, but the texture and the gumminess will take some adjusting to for me and I’m pretty sure my son won’t be a fan. I did like the sesame mochi — but again, the texture was odd, even if the overall taste reminded me, oddly enough, of peanut butter.
I was delighted to find that they had a few bento boxes on offer that day:
The Leaflet Tight boxes are nice, perfect for a sandwhich and a treat. I also got another tight box with 4 individual lidded boxes inside — it’ll be great for traveling.
One of the nicest things for me was seeing how inexpensive the specialty flours and starches used in gluten-free cooking were — significantly less expensive than I’d seen in Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. I’ll definitely be back to Assi Plaza for those when (if) we get the final word on my son’s Celiac diagnosis.
I was also excited by the labeling on the packages as most were either printed with English as well as their native language or had a sticker with nutritional information added by the importer. I was afraid that the GF shopping needs would make it impossible to find “safe” foods at a place like Assi Plaza.
Phew… I was much relieved. And, now that I’ve been there and really allowed myself to explore without fear, I don’t think I’ll need to drag my hubby along to give me courage.
The problem is more likely going to be keeping him away from the place!