Admission: I have lived in Worcester since 1995, and I’m still getting used to the place. For example, I hate the traffic, I’m not always 100% sure where I’m going, and I still sometimes am startled by how I ended up where I got to. I’m not always sure that I’m speaking the same language as the person I’m talking to, even if (especially if) we’re both speaking english. I haven’t, even now, after Man Cub has been in public school here for nine and half years, ever not been caught unawares two days before February Vacation. This practical little town is constantly surprising me with something (hello, construction) – and it’s not always something that I know how to interpret, right? But I deal – I live here.

I’m not always in love with Worcester, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to be living anywhere else anytime soon. Our Man Cub goes into high school next year, and he’ll either be staying in the arts magnet (which has been osm thus far, btw) or heading to Worcester Tech, and as a family we love those choices. Will Dearest is starting to poke his nose into the idea of owning property here, too. By the time Man Cub is out of high school, I will have lived in Worcester for two decades – I figure now is kind of a great time for me to, if not fall in love with Worcester, to at least find a way to love it.

So I’m beginning a project: I’m going to find 100 Delightful Things in Worcester, MA. I’ve started a list,* and I’m going to work through it in the order that my natural self goes about the business of being me. I’ll blog about the places I visit, and once a week or so, present them to you, dear reader, in just the order that I happen to visit them. You might notice a leaning toward small businesses, because I’m on a bit of a mission to spend my meager dollars as locally as I can, and so I’ve been poking around in places of commerce lately.

As just yesterday I came home from vacation** to a house with pretty bare cupboards, restocking is on my mind. While making up the grocery list for the week, I came upon this great looking recipe for a roast chicken,***  which totally calls for lemongrass, and there’s only one place I know of in town to get it at a good price.

Which means that today’s trip brought Man Cub and myself across Kelly Square,† down Green Street to Binh An Market (64 Green Street, open M-Sat 9am-8pm, Sun 9am-7pm).

I have loved this place ever since I found out about it. I’ll admit, I hadn’t been in a while – my regular travels almost never take me through there anymore†† – and so I was just a little nervous, as we were driving up, that it might not be there anymore (there’s been a ton of change on Green Street in the last five years). So when we pulled up and it was, I was thrilled.

Binh An is one of those little markets where you can find asian groceries that you just can’t find anywhere else. Brass tacks, let’s talk produce: we picked up a big bag of thai basil (a BIG bag) for $2.48. And a bunch of cilantro for seventy-five cents. We got a pound of strawberries that are so ripe I could smell them through the container for $1.49. And four stalks of lemongrass for a dollar. Three limes for a dollar. A big-ass bag of scallions? A dollar. Two inch chunk of ginger? Twenty-four cents, my friend. There were mounds of fresh greens available, bitter melons, and tiny asian eggplants, longbeans, fiddleheads, cucumbers, mangoes, lemons, tomatoes, small red chilies, and tons of herbs I don’t even know what to do with.

Then there’s the fish counter – we saw salmon, flounder, snapper, squid, razor clams, periwinkles, snails, mussels, and a tank of crabs, among other things, and it was all super fresh, the counter attended to by two fish merchants. There’s fresh pork and duck in the refrigerators at the back of the store, alongside chicken feet and a variety of sausages. There are fresh baked breads and sweets by the counter. And of course,  there are rows and rows of condiments and cans, packaged teas, candies, and noodles. The prices are all reasonable or better than reasonable (especially the produce and the fish), and if you want to know if what you’re holding are lime leaves or not (they weren’t), staff there is happy to help you identify just what it actually is, and then help you find the lime leaves.

This is to say, for $13.71, Man Cub and I walked out of Binh An carrying two big bags of produce, in a super good mood, and with plans for a roast chicken dinner on Monday \o/ It is also to say, friends, I can vouch for Binh An on my list of 100 Delightful Things In Worcester.

***

*Of course I started a list – I’m a list maker, yo. I cannot live without my lists. I’m listy! And when I drink, I also list.
**Hooray for retreat!
***Thank you, SuziBB, for the link up from Laundry Line Divine.
†Let us be clear: Kelly Square may be indicative of Worcester driving, but it does NOT fall into my Delightful list. In fact, I’ll drive all the way around it instead of through it, just about any time I can. Just sayin’.
††I used to be on Green Street all the freaking time. Once upon a time in Worcester, there was a coffeehouse called Cool Beans, right across the street, next to the Lucky Dog Music Hall. Michele Floria, who owned the place, is a spitfire and magic-spinner, who made that cafe one of my favorite places in the whole world to hang out and just write. And to have after-hours band practices. But that’s another story for another time.

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