Local Bounty: Best Picks at the Mira Mesa Farmers Market
Can't-miss items that are unique to this neighborhood (and market!)
Just when you think most of our regional farmers market are the same-old, same-old with familiar vendors and products, you revisit a market like the Mira Mesa farmers market and remember that in many neighborhoods, the market reflects their unique personalities. Like Mira Mesa, which has large Vietnamese and Filipino populations, the market has a wonderful selection of foods that cater to those cultures. You can find it in the parking lot of Mira Mesa High School on Mira Mesa Blvd. Tuesday afternoons from 3 to 7 p.m. Here are some of my picks:
Fresh Macadamia Nuts
Farmer Gilbert Quintos raises some beautiful produce. I picked up some stunning kale that I turned into a chopped salad. He has huge heads of various lettuces, guavas, persimmons, and a host of other products. But what gobsmacked me were his baskets of fresh macadamia nuts from his trees in San Marcos and Fallbrook. He planted the trees in 1987 and feeds them with duck manure from a fellow vendor at the market. Toast them once you’ve removed the hard shell, but you can enjoy them raw; they taste like a combination of coconut and almond. And, you can keep them for months at a time—just don’t refrigerate them. They’re $2 a basket. You can also find Quintos at the Oceanside, La Mesa, Poway, La Jolla, and Solana Beach farmers markets.
The largest produce stall is owned by a Fresno farmer named Xiong Vang. He asked that I not mention the name of the farm because he also sells his produce to a number of markets along Mira Mesa Blvd. and doesn’t want an issue with competition. But, you can’t miss it. It’s where people are gathered en masse to buy all sorts of unusual Asian produce—like the bitter gourd leaves Filipinos enjoy stir fried with mung beans. The two most crowded spots under the tents are around his farm-fresh peanuts and jujubes—sometimes called Chinese dates. I’ve seen them dried and candied, but they’re wonderful fresh and raw, like itty bitty apples. The season is about over so pick them up now or make a mental note to start looking for them next September. They’re $1.99 a pound.
This traditional Osaka street food is not easy to find in San Diego. I’ve seen a version of them in the prepared foods section at Mitsuwa market in Kearny Mesa. But Yutaka Ishii, originally from Yokohama, is making this savory round delicacy at the Mira Mesa farmers market under the name Okada-Ya. Traditionally, takoyaki consists of pieces of octopus, scallion, pickled ginger, and tenkasu (crunchy tempura batter pieces) in a pancake-like batter of flour and kelp broth. The mixture is poured into hot oiled pans that look similar to an ebelskiver pan, with its multiple round indentations. Ishii and his assistant let them cook and then use a tiny pick to push the excess batter into the holes and then turn them to brown and get their ball shape. When done, they’re topped with a choice of sauces and condiments. The results is a bite with a crispy exterior and molten interior that a little salty, chewy, and aromatic. For those wary of octopus, Ishii also has a cheese version, using cheese from Spring Hill Farm. The vegetables he uses are organic and from Suzie’s Farm. The takoyaki are sold six to an order for $5.50.