Thursday, December 6, 2012

Field Trip #2

Field Trip #2
Shanghai Wholesale and Truong Thanh Vietnamese Grocery Store

Shanghai Wholesale
I am currently enrolled in a horticulture class taught by Changbin Chen growing, processing and marketing Chinese medicinal herbs. Last Friday we went on a class field trip to Shanghai Wholesale and Truong Thanh a vietnamese grocery store and herb dispensary.
I felt like I was entering a secret warehouse when we went into the Shanghai Wholesale. From the picture, you can see how small the sign is and the door is pretty non descript. 
The front part had bagged and preserved herbs and goods. Changbin taught us how to tell the good quality herbs from the poor quality herbs. For some herbs lighter color indicates better quality, but you have to be careful because herb processors will sometimes use bleach to make it whiter. In goji berries you want the less plump/more dried out ones because the softer plumper ones indicate a lot of added sugar. He also showed us that herbs were often mislabeled as other herbs. I also noticed that most of the bagged herbs were preserved with sulfer, chlorine, aluminum phosphate. The experience made me wary about using herb products from China; there don't seem to be many regulations.
In the cooler/vegetable section there were all sorts of vegetables I had never seen before. Most of them just had a chinese symbol on the tag with a price. Changbin told us to always check the firmness and smell. He said to always smell check mushrooms because often they are preserved with formaldehyde gas giving them a distinct smell.

Truong Thanh Vietnamese Grocery Store
The Truong Thanh Grocery store on Nicolet and 25th had a great herb display and variety. The grocery section also had many vegetables I had never seen before.

Changbin showed us how the prices compared to the warehouse prices. A classmate pointed out that the American Ginseng was only about $16/pound compared to the $300/pound at the Seward Coop.

One thing that really caught my eye was the artwork and design of the packaging; very simple and kind of old fashioned. I couldn't always tell what exactly the product was but I would have bought a poster of the packaging because it looked so cool.

After Truong Thanh, some classmates and I walked across the street and enjoyed a delicious pho lunch!

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