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Oct 23, 2010 06:46 AM

Seafood at Hmart? Fresh?

Prices on fish at Hmart scare me because it's so cheap. How is the quality and freshness of these fish? Probably not the same quality as Whole Foods right?

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  1. H-Mart has a tremendous variety and low prices. One way to get prices down is to buy in quantity. It's only my theory, but it wouldn't surprise me if they bulk-ordered their fish (along with other H-Mart locations) from large distributors. As supporting evidence, their mackerel comes from Norway instead of being locally-caught. So I have no doubt that the fish at WF is generally fresher. On the other hand, that does not mean that the fish at H-Mart isn't any good. Their target market is composed of middle-class, educated people who probably know more about and demand better seafood than the general American population. If given the choice between H-Mart and Shaws or Stop and Shop (both of which probably also do the bulk purchase thing), I would choose H-Mart any day.

    My own personal experience with H-Mart fish is you have to look at the fish and decide. Usually they have some fish that looks very fresh and others that clearly have been out of the water for more than a day or two. When I have bought what looks good I have never been disappointed, even when it clearly is not local (as with the Norwegian mackerel).

    3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803

    1. they often have live fish in the tanks at the Super 88/HMart on Brighton Ave (tilapia and bass for example). can't get fresher than that. I have also bought fish from Mings and the fish market has been very good. I don't consider it as good as New Deal (I haven't found anyplace I like as well as New Deal) but I do consider it better than all other super market fish and as good as whole foods. The only thing I occasionally worry about (and then I won;'t buy) is identifying the source/country of the fish.

      6 Replies
      1. re: teezeetoo

        Just to clarify, H-Mart is a Korean-centric supermarket in Burlington; teezeetoo refers to the Hong Kong Market/former Super88 in Allston. They are two very different markets.

        3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803

        1. re: PinchOfSalt

          thank you for the clarification. i thought they were just branches of the same market. haven't been to the burlington one so i can't speak to its freshness.

        2. re: teezeetoo

          I've seen live fish in the tank in Chinatown, and supposedly that's what they use for my dinner, but somehow it doesn't neccesarily taste "fresh" or the best. Why is that? Like you said, I thought fish out of the tank can't get any fresher..

          1. re: Torolover

            some of those fish have been living in nasty/dirty aquariums and eating pellet food/or no food for ?? many days/weeks/months/years??? I prefer a dead fish taken out of the ocean that morning or in the last few days.. then something in an aquarium. Same reason lobsters fresh off the boat in maine taste better than ones i get from the supermarket that have been living in the markets/distributors tanks for who knows how long...

            1. re: Torolover

              hargau is right, the tank is actually what is giving them that off flavor. A poorly managed tank essentially results in your fish steeping in a fish-poop marinade for several days....enjoy that thought for a moment. Water pollution of any kind can really impact the flavor of the fish and over crowded, poorly managed tanks can turn an ocean caught beauty into a rather-eat-frozen disaster in a few's one of the reasons farmed fish has a bad rep, as the waters are often over crowded, resulting in that poop-marinade flavor. Major Asian grocers like Super 88 or HMart are usually good about tank management, but if you go to a restaurant in Chinatown and see a ton of fish over crowded into a cloudy algae lined tank, order the chicken.

              1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                The tank is only part of the answer. Hargau above is on the right track.

                Most of the tank fish, at least the striped bass, tilapia, catfish, and trout (trout not in Asian markets, but pretty much any menu that offers it in a resto) are farm raised from the day they are born. Even if the tanks are maintained pristinely with super-clean water, they eat pellets for their whole lives. So they end up tasting like... wait for it... pellets.

                Some of the pellets have a bit of fish meal in them, but they are mostly soy and who knows what else, bone meal, ground up nasty bits from slaughterhouses, I don't even want to think.

                Though wild fish is increasingly depleted, and it is possible to raise tasty, environmentally responsible tank-raised fish, most of the farm raised fish just ain't that flavorful.

                In Asian restaurants there are exceptions, I think the Cod is wild and just tank held. I am sure it is true for some others like sea robbins, etc.

          2. My experience in buying their seafood is mixed. Sometimes you will find good quality and good deals, and then sometimes I wouldn't take the fish if it were offered to me for free. So maybe not exceptionally helpful, but if you're nearby or at the market anyway, it's worth checking out the fish. You can find good bargains, but just not all the time.

            My experience (or really my family's experience) is in buying from the seafood/fish monger section, not the pre-sliced sushi fish section. The only items I've bought from that area was fresh uni that was quite good. I don't know how their sushi-quality fish compares with anything else.

            1 Reply
            1. re: kobuta

              I've only bought the presliced sushi, or, actually, the little bits they pack up for hue dup bap or chirashi...fabulously fresh

            2. I've been shopping at H mart for years for their fish and so far, I have been very lucky. Get the fishes on sale...usually they are the freshest. I doubt Whole Food's red snappers are fresher and better than red snappers at H mart. I love grilling porgies (great prices too) and usually they taste better than red snapper.

              1. I'm exhausted! I haven't slept since all of you educated me about farm raised, pellet eating fish in a "poop marinade"!