I'm sorry, what was that again, Korean Grocery Store? Yes, and a big one at that. Having taken over a Haggens Grocery Store, H-Mart is a Korean Grocery Store and a very impressive one. After having the incredible Koi Fushion Korean BBQ tacos we wanted to take a stab at making our own version at home. We were also craving kimchee and needed to replace the Korean chili paste we snagged from our flight from Seoul.
As we walked into the store the first thing we came upon was the "hot food" area. You know the area with the long glass deli case and steamer trays. Except this deli case had a mindblowing assortment of kimchee items. Just to name a few from memory - traditional cabbage kimchee, green onion, tofu, zucchini, garlic, carrots, daikon, asparagus, cucumbers and the list goes on. Oh did we mention on the weekend these kimchees are set out for sampling?
We selected a few small containers of traditional cabbage, green onions, tofu and cucumber kimchees. Surprisingly each vegetable kimchee tasted completely different, with the green onion being really pungent, the tofu mild and somewhat sweet, the traditional cabbage was spicy, somewhat bitter and the cucumber refreshing, tart with a nice spicy kick.
As we made our way pass all the samples and kimchee we came upon the fresh produce. Yes, Asians do love their greens and fresh vegetables, but this was impressive. This is just the fresh greens aisle.
There wasn't anything too exotic or extraordinary in the produce. The impressive aspect came from the sheer variety. From large bok choy for pickling to baby bok choy to use in soups and stir fry, large leafy greens to baby varieties, including this impressive regular green onions verses jumbo green onions.
Since kimchees seems to be the national dish of Korea, there was a great selection of cabbages. We never knew there were so many varieties.
And if spicy pickled kimchee vegetables aren't your thing, there was a huge selection of traditional and pressed pickled items available also. Mmmmm - terrific with curry.
After we got our kimchee and fresh vegetables we headed straight towards the fish/seafood area. We were here for maybe a whole fish, some seafood and whatever was in season and reasonably priced. Did we mention Koreans eat a lot of fish? Well it was evident in the seafood area of the store.
There was an area for fresh and frozen fish, an area for fresh and frozen seafood and they even sold dried fish, beautifully displayed.
We admired the interesting looking dried fish varieties and then made our way to the whole fish counter. Average prices, but a great variety is what we found. We settled on a well priced tilapia, which was iced and bagged for us. Later we discovered it was already gilled, gutted and scaled. We were actually looking forward to dissecting our little tilapia, you can always tell how fresh a fish is by the color if its gills, but the messy part was done so we practiced our filleting skills instead.
The impressive seafood had it all - fresh crabs, the most beautiful looking oysters, squid, shrimp, scallops, mussels, etc.
We thoroughly walked down each aisles, including a whole aisle dedicated to chili powders and pastes, but we found most were heavily sugared, with corn syrup being the first or second ingredient. We left without buying any. We came away from H-Mart with a great mass of groceries, some we were unfamiliar with, but we were ready to get home and experiment!
H-Mart Korean Grocery Store