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Kimchi in SF

This is probably a long shot, but does anyone know of a place to buy kimchi in the city, if at all possible in the Mission or the Civic Center area? I know there's First Korean Market in the Inner Richmond, and I've shopped for Korean groceries at Kukje in Daly City, but I'm going to be carless and busy today and find myself having a serious kimchi craving. And by craving I mean I'd ideally like a jar of it (not some side plate of it at a restaurant), so that I can eat a heaping pile of pieces of kimchi all by itself, without any silly distractions like rice or soup or, you know, other food getting in the way. Yum.

Actually, while I'm on this question, does anyone know of a place in the Bay Area in general where you can get jars of the kind of kimchi that has a few oysters in it? (I haven't seen it, but I've only shopped so far at Kukje.) Love that stuff. Double yum.

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  1. Not in the Mission or Civic Center, but Woo Ri Food Market on Fillmore and Geary has great kimchee. They also have great kimbap. It's a small market, but they make their own kimchee. Delicious

    Woo Ri Food Market
    1528 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA

    1. Previous thread. RL and several others like First Korean Market.
      First Korean Market
      4625 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA


      1. Ooh, there's the slightest chance I might be able to make it to Woo Ri today. Thanks, srr. And thanks, wolfe. I'd seen that thread but somehow had missed the (geographical) mention of Woo Ri.

        Starting to have visions of burying my own kimchi, so I can have more of it around for times like this.

        2 Replies
        1. re: carbonara

          If you are into fresh kimchis with oysters, you may want to check out Kunjip Restaurant down at Santa Clara - they've got some killer fresh kimchi w/ oysters. I've heard many raves about it from Koreans of all ages. Personally I'm not that into kimchi + oyster combo so I don't fiend on it but I can tell it's good.

          This may be off topic but -

          Have you tried "Poong San" brand, imported from Korea? Not sure if the Korean markets in SF are even carries them, they are seldom available in the South Bay or usually in LA K-Town area. It's about $18/jar up here and around $16 or so in the So Cal. I do bring them over in car trunk whenever I visit the area - and yes, they worth the 5-Hour Stink

          It doesn't have much of that oyster filling you like but taste rather tangy fresh and have some kicks to it. It's more like "Seoul-styled" kimchee, where they don't pour much of the fish sauce as they do in other regions. So far this is my favorite and like you said, I can eat it with no rice or other side dishes to spoil the flavor.

          I sound like an PR guy for the brand - it's that good.

          1. re: min417

            I haven't been to Kunjip, so thanks for the tip! I don't know Poong San, though, since I grew up in LA with Korean parents, there's a good chance I've tried it without knowing it. I'll ask my parents to bring me some Poong San the next time they drive up, along with some of the kimchi my grandmother makes. Just thinking of the varieties of kimchi available in my parents' refrigerator kind of makes me want to cry right now, from desire.

        2. Most SF supermarkets carry King brand in mild or spicy. The company address is in SF, too.

          10 Replies
          1. re: TenderNob

            Really? Which ones? I generally only frequent Trader Joe's and Rainbow (and, very occasionally, Costco and Whole Foods), and I haven't noticed kimchi in the aisles; that said, I haven't been looking when in those stores.

            (On second thought, I've seen kimchi in Costco of I don't know what brand, though, from having lifted the giant jar and stared at it, it looked unappetizingly un-spicy. The thread wolfe linked to had someone saying Costco kimchi was tasty, but that he/she added srichi (not sure what that is--maybe sriracha?) to make it spicier. I'm not usually a purist about cuisines, but the thought of adding sriracha to kimchi turns my stomach a little.)

            1. re: carbonara

              Rainbow has several brands of kimchi - I haven't noticed the brand names. They are in the long refrigerated aisle across from the yogurt.

              1. re: farmersdaughter

                I think Rainbow has only hippie kimchi since they don't carry non-vegetarian food. Unless maybe they've started carrying Bowl'd kimch.

              2. re: carbonara

                Remind me not to invite you and Eugene Park to a chowdown together.
                " These aren't little measly egg rolls measuring a few inches long; these are close to double the length of the typical Chinese egg rolls you get at Chinese-American places. They're served with a good sweet & sour sauce, which I punch up with Sriracha. Heaven" ;-)

                1. re: wolfe

                  Oh, no, that sounds delicious. This morning, while in the grip of my kimchi craving, I had eggs and Sriracha for breakfast. I often find Sriracha tasty, but there's something about the thought of adding Sriracha to kimchi that sounds off to me--Sriracha is so sweet, and kimchi's generally not, and I feel as though the sticky sweetness of Sriracha would interfere too much with the clean taste of kimchi.

                  Okay, just ran an experiment and added a touch of Sriracha to a piece of kimchi. Yep, not for me. De gustibus, etc.

                2. re: carbonara

                  Yes, most SF Safeways have a jar of kim chee. I'd be very surprised if it weren't at Whole Foods in Noe or the Safeway at Church and Market.

                  Duc Loi would be my first stop though. Casa Thai on 16th near Mission probably has some too.

                  Duc Loi Supermarket
                  2200 Mission St, San Francisco, CA

                  1. re: carbonara

                    Last I bought was from the now gone Cala, but I think I remember seeing it at Safeway, probably Northpoint.

                    1. re: TenderNob

                      Just back from 16th & Bryant Safeway. King's kimchi is in the cold cases of the produce area.

                    2. re: carbonara

                      Check back at Trader Joe's refrigerated section. Resealable bags of imported from Korea Kimchi, not too hot, reasonably crisp 10oz for $1.99.

                  2. Rhea's Deli in the Mission sells homemade kimchi in jars that you can return for a discount on your next jar. The guy's mom makes it.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      That's a great tip. What other surprises -- in addition to the good sandwiches -- are on offer at Rhea's?

                      1. re: david kaplan

                        that's about it, i think.... but that's enough, isn't it?

                    2. There is (or at least was as of a October) a kimchi vendor at the Civic Center farmer's market. She is very nice and makes an excellent kimchi in the North Korean style, which I think she mentioned doesn't use oysters. Not sure whether she is at the Wednesday or Sunday market.

                      Edit: looks like both - http://www.sintogourmet.com/?page_id=58

                      1. Thanks, everyone. I ended up taking maricarmen's recommendation and getting kimchi from Rhea's Deli. I felt a bit of sticker shock ($6-something for a very small jar) but, hey, since it's homemade kimchi within walking distance of my apartment, I figured I might as well try it once. And I found it really, really delicious, with an assertively garlicky and vinegary taste that I often love in kimchi. (Mr. carbonara liked it less, but he tends to prefer stronger chili flavors and less garlic in kimchi.) In fact, I almost finished the entire jar. Now I feel ever so slightly queasy, from kimchi overindulgence. Queasy, but happy. I would pay $6-something (less, I guess, if I return the jar?) again for that. I might even pay for another jar tomorrow.

                        It's good to know about these other options, too, for the next time I get this craving. Thank you!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: carbonara

                          Yeah, they're pricey. i can't remember how much they give you off the next one when you return the jar. (i hope they're still doing that!)

                          If you're ever in the East Bay, in El Cerrito, Ba Le on San Pablo also does homemade, and I believe there's is $3.00 per jar. I'm there a lot so i stock up. they have 2 kinds, a sweeter and a spicier, so both you and Mr. Carbonara can be happy!

                          1. re: mariacarmen

                            Ba Le is Vietnamese. They have kimchi? That's interesting.

                            Have you tried Bowl'd's? They sell it at Berkeley Bowl. I think the radish and cucumber are both under $3 a pint and the nappa is about twice that.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              One of the men behind the counter is Korean, I'm not sure if he's the husband or what.

                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                just to show how much i DON'T know.

                                1) there are no Koreans there, only Vietnamese;
                                2) there is one kimchi, the other thing they make (what i called above the sweeter one) is a pickled daikon mixture. not kimchi. but they do have kimchi. they were out of it today.

                        2. When my boys were going to the Korean Immersion Program at Claire Lillienthal, the vote was about 2/3 for First Korean Market (which has several varieties) and 1/3 for Woori. Both are within a stone's throw of the 38 Geary so probably as fast as walking to a place in the Mission or Civic Center. Kukje was popular for Korean ingredients in general but i don't recall anybody driving down there just for kimchi.

                          It's worth the effort to get a big jar of real house-made kimchi instead of a small jar in a supermarket!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: otis

                            I think First Korean's worth the drive from Berkeley, but on public transportation it's at least 90 minutes round trip from the Mission.

                          2. If you are ever in the E. Bay, go to Koreana Plaza in Oakland on Telegraph at 24th. They have homemade fresh kimchi, fermented cabbage kimchi, radish kimchi, cucumber kimchi etc. Also kalbi and bul gogi and spicy sliced pork all marinated and ready to take home to cook (bbq or in wok or pan), homemade chopchae, prepared shiso leaves and sesame leaves and a whole host of other Korean goodies including, if you go during the day, fresh made Korean sushi (with meat, not fish, or vegetarian) and Korean fried chicken wings.

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: rccola

                              Koreana's ready-to-cook stuff and prepared foods are great but I'm not thrilled with their kimchi. The kimchi they pack themselves in the same aisle with the meat is better than the branded kimchi against the back wall.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Why are you not thrilled with their kimchi? If I could by kimchi packed by a store/family, I'd never buy commercial factory prepared kimchi.

                                The very fresh kimchi they have will ferment in your refrigerator over days and last for a very long time.

                                1. re: rccola

                                  Are you sure they make it themselves? It's good but I prefer First Korean's or Bowl'd's.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    I've seen the ladies behind the counter making stuff. I've waited for the chopchae and the sushi and the pork-ginger dumplings to be done. Making kimchi is easy so I assume they do that.

                                    I love the young ladies at Bowl'd but their kimchi is somewhat more geared for non-Koreans and Korean-Americans. Mostly Koreans shop at Koreana.

                                    1. re: rccola

                                      Yeah, all Koreana's prepared food is made there. I'm just dubious that they have the space to make as much kimchi as they sell.

                                      First Korean is my favorite. Bowl'd's kimchi, I miss the salted shrimp, but the vegetables are higher quality.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Koreana's prep area is spacious compared to most traditional Korean kitchens. Let their fresh kimchi sit in your refrigerator for 3-5 days and then eat. When it's too far gone, saute in fried rice. Waste nothing.

                                        Best kimchi I ever had was in the house of the first minister of finance of the Republic of Korea. It had been buried over the winter in an earthenware crock and dug up in our honor. They removed the lid and the fumes knocked me over. But I grabbed my chopsticks and recovered and it was delicious.

                                        I never recovered from eating sea slugs in stew. Or, for that matter, from eating bad sea cucumber in Hong Kong.

                                        1. re: rccola

                                          The prep area is larges but kimchi needs to ferment for a few days.

                                          I'll take sea slug over sea squirt.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            I meant sea squirts. Don't know why I keyed "slugs." Sea squirts are like grapes filled with bilge.

                              2. re: rccola

                                Yesterday, I stopped at Koreana after a (great) first trip to Ohgane, and now have a gigantic jar of kimchi in my refrigerator, as well as some pickled jalapenos and spicy squid. Thanks for the suggestion! Deliciousness.

                                1. re: carbonara

                                  Just in case you want more - can confirm that Woo Ri's kimchee sold in the small plastic takeout containers does have oysters in it. I love the brininess they add to the kimchee, but despite being a big oyster fan, I gag a little when I chew on an oyster that's gotten tangled up in the cabbage, especially since we tend to keep our kimchee for extended periods.

                                  I'm not sure the same holds for the kimchee they sell in jars; I've found those too mild to my taste even after long ripening periods, and so I haven't purchased one of these from woo ri in quite a while.

                                  1. re: drinkmoretang

                                    They do put the ingredients on the label at Koreana so if you wish to avoid oysters, you can.

                                  2. re: carbonara

                                    I've never been so fond of Ohgane. In general, after taking home to make Korean bbq or going with friends unused to Korean and so happier with bbq rather than bowl of unknown substances flavored with kimchi, I shy away from bbq and usually get stew (like at Bowl'd, which is near my house and can satisfy those who aren't fond of/ready for the full-bore Korean experience of garlic and spice). My favorite is the Casserole House on Telegraph but other good choices are:
                                    Jong ga
                                    PyeongChang Tofu (for tofu)
                                    Seoul Gomtang (for bone soup--will need to salt to taste)
                                    Sahn Maru

                                    Unfortunately for me, recent concerns with salt have lead to great decrease in Korean meals. Thank god I never used soy sauce on my sushi or Japanese would have had to go, too.

                                    When in the E. Bay you must also try China Village for spicy fish soup or my favorite, mapo tofu with crab. The tofu in the mapo is wonderful. MESSY warning. You will stain your clothes. Again salt and lots of oil.