I’m in here a couple of times a month. It’s the large supermarket on Paseo de Sant Juan close to the Arc de Triomf. Yellow sign. I can never for the life of me remember the name. And if I look on google maps, it doesn’t exist. Xin Yang Kuang is the name. I picked up the card the other day. No website, obviously no social media. But there is a fax number.
Inside it’s like a foreign land. I would like nothing more than to have a tour of the place and have some of the mysterious ingredients explained and used in a cooking demonstration.
The large, walk-in refrigerator at Xin Yang Kuang will often stock things like sugar snap peas – a varietal I have yet to see in any market here where your choice is either a romano bean or a French green bean. Deep green leafy bunches. Turnips. Clusters of enoki mushrooms. Usually, there is someone squatting on a crate outside the fridge sorting through bok choi and bagging them or separating Jackfruit into segments.
It’s all refreshingly exotic. Even the look of disdain the butcher throws out when I ogle the strange cuts in his cabinet. You can buy a vacuum packed sachet of chicken gizzards by the checkout. Is that something you snack on in front of Netflix or a component in a prepared dish I wonder?
I bought a packet of MSG the other day, buoyed by Helen Rosner’s article for The New Yorker: A MSG Convert visits the High Church of Umami. Not that I was ever in the anti-msg camp, I just am unsure on how to use it. “Sprinkle a bit in your bolognese sauce.” my friend the Food Sherpa tells me wryly.
I’m at a point in my life where I find I know most things on the subject of food and ingredients, particularly in a homogenous eating city like Barcelona. I think the magic of a place like Xin Yang Kuang is I don’t know. I don’t know what the packets of wrinkled vegetables are for. I don’t know what one ought to do with the bag of dehydrated brown things. Don’t get me started on half the things in the walk-in fridge. It is titillating to walk around and lose myself in not knowing.
And it’s also infinitely practical to have a source for staples like black vinegar, rice wine and jars of fermented black beans. Thanks to people like Fuchsia Dunlop – there is a little I do know.
Xin Yang Kuang
Paseo de San Juan, 12
Arc de Triomf 08010
Tel. 93 246 2900
Fax. 93 265 3730