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Teen Food Connoisseur Perry Chen’s Culinary Adventure in a Persian Market

Published on: 2nd September, 2015


Teen Food Connoisseur Perry Chen’s Culinary Adventure in a Persian Market

September 2, 2015

By Zhu Shen

4.5 starfish TM

 

Perry Chen with Manager Laythe Yaqoob (L) & coworker at sample table (photo by Zhu Shen)

Perry Chen with Manager Laythe Yaqoob (L) & coworker at sample table (photo by Zhu Shen)

 

( 4.5 out of 5 starfish)

Though Perry Chen is better known for his animation, art, and movie reviews, this teen artist has a deep love for food that extends to hunting for gourmet ingredients, developing his own recipe, creating dishes that are unlike anything made by mom and dad but uniquely tasty, and discovering new, exciting places to eat!

Perry Chen at Harvest International Market storefront (photo by Zhu Shen)

Perry Chen at Harvest International Market storefront (photo by Zhu Shen)

Two weeks ago, I accidentally discovered a new Persian grocery store, “Harvest International Market,” on 4220 Balboa Ave, after dropping off Perry at the San Diego Art Institute for his “Teen Summer Intensive” program. A long-time fan of Persian treats like nougats, baklava, sweets with rose water, gyros, basmati rice with saffron, I was delighted! I found fresh figs and frozen filo dough that Perry has been trying to locate.  He was eager to experiment with making chicken B’stila, an aromatic pastry that Perry and I loved whenever we visited Kous Kous Moroccan Bistro in Hillcrest or the Marrakesh restaurant in La Jolla that unfortunately closed down a few years ago. I was thrilled to take Perry on a culinary adventure and knew he would love it!

 

On August 29, 2015, Perry and I visited Harvest International Market together, bringing our Canon 70D camera to capture the experience. Perry is taking “Digital Photograph” class this semester, and was happy to practice photography in an unusual setting.

Zhu Shen surrounded by bulk rice at Harvest International Market (photo by Perry Chen)

Zhu Shen surrounded by bulk rice at Harvest International Market (photo by Perry Chen)

 

The store has opened only three months ago. It is as big as a regular Von’s or Trader Joe’s store. The weekly ad comes out every Wednesday. The selection of bulk food is excellent, with a wide variety of nuts and grains, including many kinds of basmati rice.

Baker Shahram Massah in action (photo by Zhu Shen)

Baker Shahram Massah in action (photo by Zhu Shen)

 

Hot off the oven (photo by Zhu Shen)

Hot off the oven (photo by Zhu Shen)

 

 

Two bakers were hustling around, making bread in the open-air oven, and adding a festive flair to the market. The deli section is at the front of the market. Two meat stations feature traditional gyro meat being roasted in a rotisserie.

Roasted meat for Gyros (photo by Perry Chen)

Roasted meat for Gyros (photo by Perry Chen)

 

Perry ordered a “Gyros Plate” and shared with me. The meat portion for the $6.99 entry was gigantic, about four times as much meat as that at some other Persian eatery for about half the price! The gyro meat was moist and tasty, and went well with the refreshing salad and basmati rice. We couldn’t finish the meat on the plate and took the leftover home.   Perry gave the food 5 starfish!

Gyros Plate for $6.99 (photo by Perry Chen)

Gyros Plate for $6.99 (photo by Perry Chen)

 

Perry Chen devouring the Gyros Plate (photo by Zhu Shen)

Perry Chen devouring the Gyros Plate (photo by Zhu Shen)

 

Harvest International Market has free food samples every Saturday starting 11 am, showcasing their roasted meats, dips, bakery and sweets. This would be a good time to try out some Persian food if you are not familiar with it. They were delicious and attracted many shoppers.

Zhu Shen tasting samples at Harvest International Market (photo by Perry Chen)

Zhu Shen tasting samples at Harvest International Market (photo by Perry Chen)

 

The produce section had a wonderful selection of herbs, some not easily found in regular grocery stores.   In the spice area, you could find a great variety of ingredients, including such rare ones like saffron, and rose water, which is often used in Persian desserts.

Zhu with herbs

 

 

Spices at Harvest International Market (photo by Zhu Shen)

Spices at Harvest International Market (photo by Zhu Shen)

Perry was thrilled to find Saffron Ice Cream made by Laleh, and declared it to be the best ice cream he has ever tasted! It has pure cream chips in a creamy blend with yellow saffron and rose water, so addictive that Perry and I finished a whole quart in two days!

Saffron ice cream by Laleh

The meat segment featured many different cuts of beef, lamb (from Australia), and chicken, including liver, tongue, heart, kidney, tripe, and even lamb head! One of the butchers explained to me how to prepare the lamb head.   Another one cleaned the display case just for me to take better photos.

Lamb head

Lamb head

 

We talked to the store manager Layth Yaqoob, the sample lady, and the bread baker Shahram Massah, who was the most enthusiastic model for the photo shoot. The staff spoke to one another in their native language and seemed to have a big family feel for each other. They were all so friendly to customers and took pride in their work, which ultimately made our visit such a delightful, memorable experience! We will be sure to come back again and again for delectable treats from the exotic land…

Harvest International Market manager Layth Yaqoob (L2) with coworkers (photo by Zhu SHen)

Harvest International Market manager Layth Yaqoob (second from L) with coworkers (photo by Zhu Shen)

 

Friendly staff serving food at the deli ( photo by Zhu Shen)

Friendly staff serving food at the deli ( photo by Zhu Shen)

For our two visits, we bought Saffron Ice Cream by Laleh, a 10 lb bag of basmati rice, a bottle of saffron rose water, nougats and other Turkish Delight sweets, chocolate hazelnut wafers, lamb shoulder chop, beef short ribs, whole chicken, blanched almonds, fresh figs, dried mulberries, a bread with dates in it, Cardamon spice.  Everything was tasty and of high quality and at a competitive price.

Savory bakery (photo by Perry Chen)

Savory bakery (photo by Perry Chen)

 

seasoned meats

 

Sweet treats (photo by Perry Chen)

Sweet treats (photo by Perry Chen)

 

 

Artful Apples (Photo by Perry Chen)

Artful Apples (Photo by Perry Chen)

 

We noticed that customers visiting the market are primarily Middle Eastern, with some American ones.   I think for those who enjoy culinary adventures, Harvest International Market is a must-see, where you can find rare treats that satisfy all your senses. You will be rewarded for stepping outside of your comfort zone…

I give the market 4.5 out of 5 starfish, it’s “Perrific!” The only thing I would recommend is to put price labels on a few of the items missing them.

Harvest International Market has two stores. We visited the one on Balboa Ave , which is the newer one:

4220 Balboa Ave.

San Diego, CA 92117

 

733 E. Main St.

El Cajon, CA 92020

http://harvestinternationalmarket.com/

———–

About Perry Chen:

Perry S. Chen is a 15-year-old award-winning child critic, artist, animator, TEDx speaker, and entertainment personality, currently in 9th grade from San Diego.  He started reviewing movies at age 8 in 3rd grade using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, and has been featured in CBS, NPR, NBC, CNN, CCTV (China Central Television), Variety, Animation Magazine, The Young Icons, The Guardian, The China Press, etc.  He was a presenter at the 2010 Annie Awards for Animation, and has written movie reviews for Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews blog, as well as restaurant reviews for DiningOut San Diego Magazine and San Diego Entertainer. He won the San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2010, 2011, and 2013 for his movie and restaurant reviews.

Perry is currently writing, animating, and directing his most personal film to date, “Changyou’s Journey,” produced by his mom Dr. Zhu Shen, about his beloved father Dr. Changyou Chen, a cancer researcher who passed away in July 2012 from terminal cancer after a long, brave battle, please watch trailer and donate to support Perry’s animation film:

www.perryspreviews.com

Perry won an “Excellence in Journalism Award” from San Diego Press Club in 2010 and 2011 for his movie and restaurant reviews, an “Excellence Writer Award” from “We Chinese in America” Magazine in 2010 for his movie review column. Perry is widely recognized as an authoritative spokesperson about movies for his generation, and appears frequently at red carpet movie premieres, awards, and film festivals, interviewing prominent directors from such films as Toy Story 3, Up, How to Train Your Dragon.  He was a presenter at the 2010 Annie Awards for Animation in Hollywood.  Perry and his mom Dr. Zhu Shen are featured in a new book about parenting and youth entrepreneurship, “The Parent’s Guide to Raising CEO Kids,” published in Aug 2011.

Perry’s first animation short “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest,” in collaboration with animation legend Bill Plympton, won multiple film festival awards and has been screened at over 30 international film festivals, now available on iTunes. More info: http://ingridpitt.co.uk

Watch “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest” on iTunes:

http://itunes.apple.com/gb/movie/ingrid-pitt-beyond-the-forest/id554607718

Watch Perry on “Live Life & Win” national TV show:

http://vimeo.com/51042736

Become a fan on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/ingridpittanimation (Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest official FB page)

http://www.facebook.com/perryspreviewsfan (Perry’s Previews fan page)

Subscribe to Perry’s YouTube channel and watch his filmmaker interviews:

http://www.youtube.com/perryspreviews

Follow his tweets: http://twitter.com/perryspreviews

For inquiries about Perry Chen, his animation films, movie reviews, contact Dr. Zhu Shen, cc0218 at gmail dot com

 

 

 

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