What should I buy from a korean supermarket?
January 4, 2015 11:34 AM   Subscribe

I now live two minutes away from a huge korean supermarket that has an amazing and cheap produce and seafood section. I have no idea what a lot of this stuff is, but I love Asian cooking, so what are some things I should buy, now that I have an opportunity? I'm particularly interested in any recipes that are easy, inexpensive, and depend on 'ethnic' ingredients that you can't find in most grocery stores, or fresh seafood or unusual cuts of meat (pork belly, chicken feet, etc)
posted by empath to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sure there are many uses for Korean chili flakes, but I keep them around for one reason: dubu buchim, or pan-fried tofu with chili sauce. If you have the slightest affection for tofu and spice, try this out.

There's also sukju namul, or seasoned bean sprout salad. At the Korean store I like, you can buy bags of bean sprouts the size of a baby for next to nothing. They spoil quickly, though.

At this time of year, the store I like has the best mandarin oranges for half the price I've seen them elsewhere.
posted by shirobara at 11:49 AM on January 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

You can get awesome multigrain mixes to throw in with your regular rice. I usually go 1:3 grain:rice.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:53 AM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a korean supermarket just up the street from me too. I love their selection of frozen dumplings - you can pan fry them, put them in soup, or brush them with oil and put them in the oven for about 20 minutes until they get crispy. Sauces are another favourite, especially tom yum paste, which you can use to make soup or fried rice
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:55 AM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Things we regularly get from our huge Korean market:
Kikkoman miso soup mix and nori to add to it.
HMart has pre marinated meat and we loooove their bulgogi, so we get some of that plus lettuce and ssamjang paste (fermented chili and soy beans) and make rice (which we also get from there-our fave is Kokuho Rose).
Frozen meat buns to steam at home: sio pao or bao depending on origin.
A variety of wrapper options for dumplings, egg rolls, spring rolls.
We get tons of other stuff but I'll have to think more on it.
posted by brilliantine at 11:56 AM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: To me, the biggest benefit of a place like H Mart are the amazing prepared foods in the deli section. Kimchi and various seasoned and picked vegetables are a good value, considering how well they're done and how much effort they normally take to make.

Pre-marinated bulgogi and kalbi are also a good deal when they're on sale, and maybe or maybe not depending on how good you are at cooking otherwise.

Prepared foods I recommend trying:

- Oi muchim: seasoned cucumber

- Myulchi: sweet seasoned anchovies

- Moomalim (not sure about Romanization): seasoned dried radishes with a kinda chewy pickle texture

- Kennip (not sure about any Romanizations, actually): Perilla leaves in soy sauce and, like, other herbs

- Seconding sukju namul

- Kim: just packs of sheets of oiled and salted dried seaweed. Good with rice or alone.


- Jangjorim: Beef stewed (?) in soy sauce (originally for the purpose of preservation)

- Ojingo: Squid jerky. Very chewy, just a touch sweet. Kickass for snacking overall.

- Mackerel, kalchi (beltfish): I think you can find these a normal grocery store, but it's usually very cheap at a Korean one. Big places like H Mart will clean them for you on the spot. A very fishy and flavorful fish that you can just fry in a pan with salt.

- Gong chi/kong chi: They look kinda like giant sardines or torpedoes or something, and are the best possible thing to grill.

- Shabu shabu: A pretty expensive thin cut of ribeye (I think), but so good that you can gently cook a little up in a pan, then just eat it by dipping in sesame oil and salt, and you'll still clutch your fist with satisfaction at the end of the meal.
posted by ignignokt at 12:03 PM on January 4, 2015 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Gochujang (Korean pepper paste) is delicious. And watching Maangchi's videos has convinced me that gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes) are magical.
posted by neushoorn at 12:07 PM on January 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

When I lived in Chicago, I found the big Korean supermarket was great for huge bags of super-cheap dried shiitake mushrooms.
posted by zorseshoes at 12:31 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like getting the packages of pre-marinated chicken in the Korean BBQ section. Pan-sear, while tearing apart with the spatula.
posted by aimedwander at 12:33 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Basically everything people mention above!

Things I also like to get:
-garlic chives/nira
-large variety of mushrooms (fresh or dried)
-thinly sliced ribeye from the frozen section for your at home bulgogi needs
-fresh noodles in the refrigerated section
-roasted seaweed snacks are usually cheaper here (and come in more flavors)
-tofu that is soft like custard
-instant soup stock with anchovies that you can sprinkle in things when you want a little fishy umami
-makkoli (unfiltered fermented rice drink with abv of beer)

I like looking up ingredients on Maangchi and going from there when trying new recipes.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:47 PM on January 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay, Maangchi is amazing.
posted by empath at 12:59 PM on January 4, 2015

Dried Persimmons
Pomegrante powder
Honey powder
Young pressed barley
Grain mix
They have a huge selection of different types of salt

Yuzu--- a sweet lemon. Many stores will have home made Yuzu and Quince paste.
posted by effluvia at 1:03 PM on January 4, 2015

H-Mart! One of my favorite places.

1. The beef is Select, not Choice like you'd find in a typical American supermarket. It's more affordable for that reason, but if you're buying rib eye or tenderloin, you're going to be disappointed. (unless it's the rib eye sliced for bulgogi.)

2. The fish. A. Maze. Ing. Fresh, and cut to order. I like the Snapper.

3. Fresh herbs. Cheap, buy in bulk, chop and freeze.

4. The tub of garlic. It'll last for a few months. Double bag it or else your fridge will REEK!

5. Only buy as much produce as you can eat in a couple of days, it tends to lose it's freshness very quickly.

6. Nong Shim. Like Ramen, better flavor.

7. Sign up for their loyalty program to get the coupon book at home.

8. Teas, Genmai Cha has a tasty roasted flavor

9. Barley for barley water.

10. Tamarind paste so that you can make authentic Pad Thai.

11. Bao and Dumplings

12. Malaysian curry paste and frozen roti bread so you can make Roti at home.

13. Lumpia skins

And weirdly enough, at mine we have an Eastern European section and a fantastic choice of Mexican foods.

Also, I very much enjoy shopping for specialty foods in a bright clean store with '80's new wave music playing overhead.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:23 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Melona creamy popsicles are amazing. The honeydew flavour are the best ones.

Tteok (also called Dduk or Dyuk)- soft chewy rice cakes, sometimes with something inside. I like the little puckered ones filled with sesame syrup, and the powdery smooth ones filled with red bean paste.

Iced coffee in little cans

Interesting drinks ($2 gamble each time, try something new, it's like playing the lottery)

Pocky pretzel candy

Korean dry ramen noodles are yummy

Seasoned seaweed sheets (sometimes called laver or nori)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:30 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

The pre-marinated meats at Super H Mart are to DIE FOR. They are the noms. The fresh fish is also awesome. The produce is astonishingly cheap, as is the sake. More chili powder than you can ever eat, all in one bag. And there's roughly a zillion varieties of kimchi to choose from.

I have a Super H Mart down the street from me, and dammit, now it's calling me.
posted by culfinglin at 4:39 PM on January 4, 2015

Buy their fresh vegetables. Don't overlook them just because they look "normal" and boring! In Asian supermarkets, the prices of veggies like red and yellow peppers and basil are easily half that in regular supermarkets. The basil is Thai basil but it will work fine in pesto.

Produce is usually more ripe and should be used immediately. You may need to pick it over a little more depending on the supermarket.

Asian veggies are good too. Green leafy vegetables that resemble mustard or beet greens can be cooked the same way.

Fruits in season, such as mangoes, are glorious and also very cheap compared to mainstream American supermarkets.
posted by bad grammar at 5:32 PM on January 4, 2015

Ssamjang is sweet + spicy soybean paste and it's phenomenal with fried eggs, and probably with other things too.
posted by nicwolff at 6:29 PM on January 4, 2015

For recipe ideas, my favorites include Soondubu Jjigae (the special tubes of extra soft tofu required are one of my favorite esoteric East Asian mart staples along with ddok which has already been mentioned upthread...this seems like a lot of work but it's more amassing a little bit of a lot of ingredients than anything labor-intensive), these (fusion/inauthentic but delicious and easy) Gochujang Meatballs, Japchae, and Juk (doesn't have to be leftover thanksgiving turkey-based obviously, but the guidelines are pretty right, then just add Korean seasonings or produce of your choice). And it's not simple in that it takes all day, but it's relatively hands off in the same way barbecue or pibil is--a Momofuku-crazed Bo Ssam with all the fresh fixins is one of the most delicious things ever.

There's also stuff like savory crepe-like Korean Pancakes with pork belly and kim chi, which call for rice flour and Korean red chili flakes.
posted by ifjuly at 6:55 PM on January 4, 2015

And they may or may not have it, it's in the Japanese section of my international food emporium so ymmv, but bottled Ume Plum Vinegar and Ginger Carrot Dressing are both really delicious for dressing salads, and I don't normally like bottled dressing ingredients. Also more generally Asian than Korean mart, but the tins of roasted sesame oil are a major staple in our household along with roasted sesame seeds for garnishing fresh vegetable salads and sides.
posted by ifjuly at 7:00 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I feel contractually obligated by my user name to show up in this post...

I think people have covered a lot of what I would say, but if you have a supermarket that makes to-go containers of broths (galbi-tang etc) or stews (kimchi jigae), try some out. I love grilled mackerel, and Korean supermarkets will carry lots of fantastic non Seafood Watch-prohibited fish, like all the oilier ones that are so amazing just broiled.

I think I posted in AskMe a while back on the recipes I make as a somewhat kitchen-phobic person. Ddeok-guk (rice cake soup) with frozen dumplings thrown in is super easy and you can keep both the rice cakes and the dumplings in the freezer for a lazy late minute dinner. So is using the seasoning packs for soondubu jigae (soft tofu stew) -- just keep some enoki mushrooms, zucchini, and a tube of soft tofu (which lasts surprisingly long).

Korean teas are also great -- solomon's seal is my favorite, but the ever popular barley tea and corn silk teas are good to do iced. You can also get jars of citron tea concentrate -- it's basically like jam and is a great winter day / sore throat tea.

If you need a translation or the Korean term, feel free to MeMail me.

Oh. Last thought! There are some pretty good housewares that are available at big Korean supermarkets. If you like getting served jigae at a Korean restaurant in a ceramic pot, you can get one. Also Koreans really like kitchen shears and rice paddles, so there may be better options available.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:24 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Find a recipe book or website listing the contents of a Korean pantry in English, and grab that stuff. It's always such a privilege to add another cuisine's pantry to one's own. You will find yourself happily equipped to try out most recipes that way.
posted by knowgood at 11:53 AM on July 2, 2015

« Older Polish Cabbage   |   Help me buy a new printer Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.