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Shallots


snowangel
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I always have shallots on hand. And, as I dug in the pantry for some today, I was reminded at how astounded I am at the differences are between those I get at my mainstream supermarket and the Asian market:

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The supermarket one (on the left) is just over 2" wide, as a point of reference, and is not nearly as purple as the ones from the Asian market. Now that the farmer's markets that populate the Twin Cities are sporting lots of Asian vendors, I see lots of shallots in the summer, and they are of the small, purple variety.

What's the difference? Different variety? Different cultivation techniques? I like the taste of the little ones better, but I can't quite put my finger on it...

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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i find that the asian markets in my area have 100% better shallots for about 50% the price of my mainstream market. i attribute most of that to turnover...the mainstream markets carry them as a "luxury item", but they sit around, while the asian markets sells such volume that they are always lovely and weighty and full of juice and life.

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I also prefer the shallots from asian supermarkets; they are almost exclusively pink shallots and are cheaper and often fresher to boot.

There seem to be two common types of shallots: grey and pink. I haven't done a detailed comparsion of the two but grey seem to be the common variety in europe, whereas it is pink in asia. Supermarket shallots here tend to be grey, though I have seen some pink.

I suspect that the difference is mostly in in type and climactic growing conditions. Onions in India have less water, and are more pungent with more onion flavor. I suspect the same would hold true for shallots grown in hot asian climates. In my experience, warm climates typically favor smaller, more intensely flavored roots, herbs, and vegetables. David thompson mentions in his book Thai Food that smaller shallots are sweeter. And I think this and other reasons to prefer smaller shallots is that like a lot of plants, they probably take up mostly water after getting to a certain size, thereby diluting their more flavorful contents.

Farming practices in asian countries might also tend to be smaller scale and lend themselves to produce better tasting (rather than hardy and durable) shallots.

That said though I think growing your own shallots or getting them from a quality farmer would probably be better than asian market shallots, even if they weren't pink. I think Trillium mentioned somewhere that she finds she gets better results in her curry pastes with some excellent shallots from a local farmer.

Do you know if the shallots at the market are locally grown Snowangel? I'd love a source for expertly raised pink shallots myself; the ones I get at asian markets are pretty good but they don't look nearly as pretty as the pictures of thai shallots I have seen.

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I love shallots and use them frequently, so I decided to seek them out at my local old school Asian market, Chai's. I got a one pound bag for $1.61. Three out of the two dozen or so looked a bit battered, but this is a better ratio than many I have purchased at supermarkets. I used one of the sad looking ones in a salad this afternoon (just peeled it down to the good layers) and it was quite tasty. I buy stuff at this store all of the time (I get other vegetables like kolhrabi, bok choy, etc. - also usually fresher than supermarket produce and much less expensive), but never thought to looks for shallots. I like the fact that they are smaller, for often I just need a tablespoon or so. Thanks for the heads up! :smile:

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Do you know if the shallots at the market are locally grown Snowangel? I'd love a source for expertly raised pink shallots myself; the ones I get at asian markets are pretty good but they don't look nearly as pretty as the pictures of thai shallots I have seen.

I have no clue as to where the shallots at the local supermarket are grown, nor does the produce supervisor. But, the mesh bags I get from the local Asian market (the little pink ones) are grown in Thailand or China (depends on the day).

I'll have to do more research this summer when the farmer's markets open up, because the Hmong vendors sell the little pink ones, but the farang (Caucasion) vendors sell the larger "grey" ones.

The farangs at the farmer's market tend to go for the larger ones, but I love the little pink ones. They are just so pretty, and my love of them has helped me establish good relationships with the Hmong vendors, who will often give me bags of cilantro roots because the farangs don't want the roots.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I buy all my shallots at the Asian markets but do find them more watery and take a lot longer to cook down when I making sambals or sofrito ..it is ok though in the end they are cheaper, taste wonderful and less waste ...so it is worth the effort to spend at the stove...getting the water out of them ...besides I love the smell of them cooking so why complain?

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

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  • 7 years later...

Common shallots are (A. cepa var. aggregatum)....the rare "true" shallot.....French Gray Shallots (A.oschaninii) "Griselle"  or “Echalotte Traditionnelle”haven't even been mentioned here.

 

 

Are French gray shallots available in your area?

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

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