Huy Fong brand Sriracha sauce, easily found in Shelbyville. (Image from Mo Hotta Mo Betta, http://mohotta.com )
I had intended to do this as a story, but it's been a busy week, so I think I'll do it as a quick note here.
Some of the recipes presented by Chef Steve Petusevsky at Tuesday night's Times-Gazette / Relish Cooking Show & Expo on Tuesday featured exotic ingredients. I could just hear a couple of people I know saying, "but you can't get that in Shelbyville!"
Well, in some cases, you can; you've just never noticed the ingredient because you haven't looked for it.
For example, sriracha sauce. I've bought this myself several times, and really like it. It's a red pepper sauce, with a ketchup-like consistency, and you can find it where the Asian foods are located. I saw it last night at Kroger. The sauce is red, and it comes in a clear plastic squeeze bottle. The next time you make Buffalo wings, try substituting sriracha sauce for half of the hot sauce you normally use in your recipe. It's great.
Also in the Asian foods aisle was rice wine vinegar.
I have not checked to see if rice wine, mirin, is available from any of our local liquor stores. But if they don't have it, I suspect they could get it for you.
I've bought fresh ginger at Kroger in the past, and after seeing Chef Steve work with it the other night I bought some there yesterday and made candied ginger. This is a really easy thing to do, and you wind up with both the candied ginger (you can eat it like candy or use it as an ingredient) and with a ginger-flavored simple syrup.
Mail order is also an option. If you read my story on cooking web sites in the cooking show tabloid we published, you know about Penzey's Spices ( http://www.penzeys.com ), an online retailer where you can get great herbs and spices. I haven't looked for star anise locally, but if it turns out you can't find it locally you could certainly order it from Penzey's.
When we were doing our "Relish recipes" for the section, David Melson had trouble finding a particular type of cheese. I had to tell him that several local supermarkets have some of their more exotic cheeses, not in the dairy case, but in the deli section. You may end up having to look in both places.
There are certainly ingredients that don't get stocked in small-town supermarkets, and there are ingredients that sit on the shelf past their expiration date in a small-town supermarket. But I think there's more of a variety available in Shelbyville than some people give credit for.