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The biggest kick I've always got from food has been the surprising discovery of new flavors.  Be it the sweet meat of a water beetle with the flavor of lotus blossoms, the briny fresh body of a giant barnacle that you'd swear is what salt would taste like if salt had flavor, or the ├╝ber fresh wiggling tentacles of a live baby octopus splashed with a fiery gochujang sauce (although in all honesty I think I'd enjoy eating a plate of cotton balls if I had enough gochujang sauce to go on them). Every new taste has packed not only great surprise and delight while eating it, but also a flavor idea to be socked away for reference and future use.

While the flavor 'discoveries' I just listed have all been made while traveling abroad, I've long known that new flavors also abound in our own 'backyards'.  Although I used the term "Unconventional Ingredients" in the title of this blog, the foods and ingredients I plan on covering here are most assuredly not "Unconventional" to all but simply unknown to many.

For example, celtuse (aka, stem lettuce) is an ingredient many Westerners are most likely unfamiliar with and therefore ripe pickings for a potential blog post.  Your Vietnamese neighbor, however, might have celtuse overflowing his refrigerator the way those giant packs of Artisan lettuce from the local greengrocer overflow mine.  In addition to introducing readers to readily available ingredients they may not be familiar with, my aim is to also show a use of these ingredients in unconventional ways.  Your neighbors' fridge may very well be packed to the gills with stem lettuce, but the thought of pairing it with braised pork belly and a kvass reduction may never have occurred to them.

My hope is not to simply to introduce readers to a slew of 'new' ingredients. A simple trip to your nearest ethnic market does that job just fine. The goal of this blog is give readers a tool to help identify, understand, and inspire the pairing of flavors using ingredients that may seem exotic to some but in reality are readily available, albeit poorly understood....except by your Vietnamese neighbors. They know everything.

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