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Finding Budget Meals in LA's Ethnic Supermarkets
I can trace my interest in supermarkets as tourist attractions to time I spent in the Dominican Republic 17 years ago, when, shopping with local friends, I was downright shocked by the variety of shapes and sizes of the kitchen tool invented to smash a once-fried plantain slice before tossing it back into the oil to make a tostón.
Supermarkets provide an insight into local life, serving as a collective community cupboard. That goes for inside the United States, too, at what we clumsily categorize as ethnic supermarkets. They are almost always as entertaining as they are educational. Does your local market offer Jeprox Fish – a salted, dried Filipino product — “Ready to Eat!”? How about 57-cent Jarritos glass-bottled sodas from Mexico in flavors like tamarindo? Or shelf after shelf of cheap Armenian wines?
During a recent 24-hour layover in Los Angeles, I rented a room at the Ramada Inn near LAX (via Hotwire for $62.07), got a car from Atlas Car Rental ($30, booked at a desk in the Ramada lobby), put $20 worth of gas in the tank and took an ethnic supermarket tour. If there’s a better day’s entertainment to be had for $112 – plus a small amount for a lot of terrific food — I’m not sure I know it.