Best Place to Find an Unexpected Ingredient to Transform Dinner 

Critics' Pick

click to enlarge Ethnic markets provide many more choices when it comes to exotic ingredients.

Ash Daniel

Ethnic markets provide many more choices when it comes to exotic ingredients.

Supermarkets have become comprehensive when it comes to ingredients that are difficult to find, but small markets provide more choices. And on each visit, you can stumble across something from an unfamiliar cuisine that might become your new favorite thing.

At Tan-A Supermarket (6221 W. Broad St.), the fish sauce selection is extensive. Not making Asian food? You’ll find that just a teaspoon or two can transform a marinara sauce or, after a quick sprinkle before cooking, redefine grilled or fried chicken. It’s packed with a meaty umami taste and adds depth to dishes without the fishy flavor you might be wary of.

The secret to the perfect summer salad can be found at Laxmi Palace (3423 Old Parham Road) or at the brand new — and enormous — Grand Mart (7415 Midlothian Turnpike) on South Side. A dollop of pomegranate molasses combined with a simple oil-and-vinegar dressing sweetens while adding tartness to a heap of farmers market greens. It, too, makes for a great addition to a marinade for an indefinable, exotic taste. And you must pick up some smoked paprika. It’s good on absolutely everything and so ubiquitous, almost everywhere you stop for groceries will have a can or jar.

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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