Easy items from the Chinese grocery store
May 11, 2011 9:46 AM   Subscribe

What can I get from the Chinese grocery store for an easy, delicious work lunch or snack?

I work very close to a chinese supermarket and want to start buying more breakfast, healthy-snack and lunch type items there to keep in my office.

Right now I'll get the occasional ramen bowl, packs of frozen greasy red bean cakes to heat in the toaster oven, and instant miso soup packets, but I'm looking to branch out.

I love getting ramen bowls because I can easily keep it in the drawer, pop off the top, and add hot water - and it's easy to eat at my desk. I'm not a huge wasabi/horseradish fan, but I do like other spicy flavors. I adore kimchee but don't want to keep a stinky jar in the work fridge. I have access to a shared mini-fridge, a toaster oven, microwave, and a water cooler with cold and hot water.

any ideas on what would make an easy tasty lunch from an asian grocery store?
posted by ghostbikes to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Cabbage buns. It's all about the cabbage buns.
posted by jeffmshaw at 9:51 AM on May 11, 2011

Char siu bao (wheat buns stuffed with barbequed pork). Or any bao, really, that you like. They probably sell them frozen; heat them up in the microwave. Best lunch ever.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:52 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Does you Chinese grocery sell onigiri?
posted by LN at 10:06 AM on May 11, 2011

Definitely bao. (Also known as nikuman in Japan; they go by various names across Asia.) You should be able to get a whole bag of frozen ones.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:15 AM on May 11, 2011

Pork and vegetable buns are good too if you eat meat, also our local Asian store sells cold noodles with sesame sauce ready to eat that are delicious. They also have a little food court that has Vietnamese sandwiches that are cheap and tasty, beef, chicken or pork.
posted by mermayd at 10:15 AM on May 11, 2011

They probably have Yakult which is just two sips of awesome. And an ice cold Mr. Brown's is amazing on a hot day.
posted by Duffington at 10:21 AM on May 11, 2011

I'd pick up produce and protein to put in your ramen. Pop the lid off and add hot water, and you end up with okay ramen. Add some bean sprouts, slice up a hard-boiled egg, and stir it all together, and you have awesome ramen. Or maybe mushrooms and tofu? The possibilities are pretty much endless.

Get some pickled radish just to munch on. It's sweet and tart, so it's excellent to give you a break from heavy salty Chinese food.

With some tofu, a tub of miso paste, and some bonito packets, you can make some not-quite-authentic-but-still-delicious miso soup, either in the microwave, or with hot water from the cooler. Pair it with a bowl of pre-cooked rice with furikake. Technically I guess miso and furikake are Japanese, but I'd be surprised if your Chinese grocery store doesn't sell them.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:39 AM on May 11, 2011

posted by troublewithwolves at 11:05 AM on May 11, 2011

Pick up salted duck eggs. The package looks like this. Peel and mash one duck egg with one diced tomato - this heavenly, salty, refreshing mix is good by itself and also on rice or with tortillas.

Also, pick up a bottle of sesame oil and add some to your daily ramen. So delicious.
posted by pluot at 11:07 AM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by Mountain Goatse at 11:26 AM on May 11, 2011

Along the lines of zongzi (AKA "Chinese tamales"), lotus leaf wraps (lo mai gai, to the purist) are bigger and tastier in my opinion. Also kind of messy to eat, but that's part of the fun. You need a fork and room to spread out because that leaf is really big and it flops all over the place before you can tear it off neatly. Do not attempt this near your computer.
posted by Quietgal at 11:51 AM on May 11, 2011

Seconding throwing interesting and healthy things into your ramen bowl - keep a tiny cleaver and chopping board at your desk and the world's your oyster - bean sprouts; edamame; snow peas; chili; cilantro; soy, fish and sriracha sauces; dried fried garlic or shallots; pressed dried meat (or squid); dried shrimp; prefried ikan bilis; and you can get some awesome multiveg pickles (the one I like best seems to be bamboo shoots, daikon, cabbage and peppers packed in chili and Szechuan pepper flavored oil).

Or if your shop does fresh herbs, throw together a salad out of mint, cilantro, sliced shallots, chillies, dried shrimp (or cooked fresh/frozen if you've got em), and dress with a little jar of lime juice/fish sauce/palm sugar that you can keep in the fridge for a few days at a time.
posted by Ahab at 11:57 AM on May 11, 2011

Funny, I've had this open in another tab for a few days: Ramen Hacks: 30+ Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Instant Noodles.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:59 AM on May 11, 2011

Also, do they do Vietnamese bánh mì rolls? If they do, stuff with pate, carrot, daikon, chili, cilantro, and sprinkle with vinegar/lime juice and maggi seasoning and you're in heaven!
posted by Ahab at 12:01 PM on May 11, 2011

Congee! (breakfast)
Edamame! (snack. oh hell anytime is edamame time)
posted by whatzit at 12:28 PM on May 11, 2011

For quick breakfast, look for a box of envelopes of powdered cereal. The boxes will have pictures of grains and beans. You add it to hot water to make hot cereal (like oatmeal but seven or more grains and beans). This makes for a cheap breakfast.

And any kind of bao, which you'll probably find in a frozen section.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 1:13 PM on May 11, 2011

Sachima (comes in different varieties and colors) are basically an ancient Chinese (and less artificial) version of Twinkie. It won't fall into your healthy snack category, but you could have it instead of a croissant or bear claw with your breakfast coffee and it might be a little bit healthier.
posted by Bwithh at 3:17 PM on May 11, 2011

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