This is a recurring series of posts based on what we find in the marketplace that is new, different and FLAVORFUL! We love finding new treasures in grocery stores – seeing new product launches in every aisle inspires us and we hope it will do the same for you. While it’s great to see these new products, it’s also good to know if it tastes GOOD. Let’s explore.
Cincinnati, Ohio is an exciting food destination for many reasons: an interesting style of chili, its own french-pot created ice cream, Cincy-style pizza, sausage, you name it. It’s also home to Jungle Jim’s International Market. Jungle Jim’s has been written up in countless travel articles – especially for the original location’s bathroom and ‘monorail’) and has been seen on many TV shows. It’s a tourist attraction in its own right and one of the largest international markets in the country.
Most countries and cuisines have their own aisle. So as you may guess, it is a HUGE store. For Hispanic-inspired month, this was the place to find the flavors of our neighbors. For a grocery shopper-nista like myself, this is heaven. On this particular visit, however, I wanted to find products native to Latin/South America that have fused with US food and beverage trends. Let’s get started on this Hispanic infused fusion!
Yerba Mate, Argentina
Yerba mate is referred to as the “green gold” of South America. It has the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate all in one beverage. It also has been growing approximately 40% on menus around the US! Go down the beverage aisle of your local market, and you are bound to see some flavored yerba mate.
I simply brewed this as a loose-leafed tea. Personally, I prefer my flavored bottled version of yerba mate – but this definitely gave me a needed afternoon boost. I feel like I stumbled on a find here, as one huge bag was around $8, and a bottled beverage runs you over $2 a bottle.
Plaintain Chips, Colombia
If you haven’t tried plantains (fibrous green bananas), I highly recommend you start with plantain chips. Plantains are very thinly sliced and then fried until crispy. In the US, we’ve seen a huge growth in plantains and plantain chips/snacks in the grocery store, and they are here to stay.
These reminded me of those bags of chips where you open and can’t stop eating them. The main difference is the subtle sweetness the plantain imparts. YUM! Drizzle some hot sauce over them (see below) and they are irresistible.
Hot Sauce, Mexico
I couldn’t write an article about Hispanic foods without covering hot sauce. This condiment is now a mainstay in restaurants and homes around the US. At Jungle Jim’s, there is an entire section of the store with THOUSANDS of bottles of hot sauce. Many of these sauces actually originated from Latin/South America and the native chiles grown in the region.
This particular sauce was not quite as spicy as Sriracha (a Thai chile sauce), but was ridiculously addicting, and made a great addition to the plantain chips I was eating, and also a rice dish I happened to have for lunch that day. I’m looking forward to my next trip to Jungle Jim’s to head down the same aisle and try another native hot sauce among the many featured from Mexico.
Guarana Soda, Brazil
This is the 2nd highest selling soft drink in Brazil and tastes like a Red Bull energy drink. Guarana is becoming more and more of a household name in the US as it is used in many energy drinks on shelves of C-stores and grocery stores alike. Many of the beverages I found on the shelves from Latin/South American countries were very sweet and brightly colored. The flavor of Guarana was much more nuanced, while still sweet. It was incredibly interesting to wander down the beverage aisle and see the florals and guarana that have inspired so many flavors and ingredients in our market!
Beans and Sofrito, Cuba
Sofrito is a cooking base in Spanish and Latin American cuisine; it’s mainly a combination of bell pepper, onion, garlic and spices that are slow cooked, then used in savory dishes. These cooking bases form the basis and depth of flavor we find in so many iconic dishes, so I was thrilled to be able to see in a convenient side dish.
One of my favorite things about this product was the serving suggestions given on the package. Try it for breakfast with eggs, lunch with avocado, and dinner with rice! Simply, easy, and perfect for so many consumers! I think this dish is before its time, and I’m surprised to not see more sofrito called out in US dishes. Stay tuned!!
I hope you enjoyed the trip down the Hispanic food aisle. Stay tuned for more flavorful finds next month!