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Jul 27, 2013 05:50 PM

Help me! Amazing Korean grocery store in my 'hood. I don't know what to buy!

I've travelled extensively and always pop into the local grocery stores. Now I've moved into a neighborhood with a great Korean grocery store and I have no idea what to buy? I thought it would be like walking into a Chinese or Japanese grocery store, but no.....

It's selection of meats, fish, kimchi, vegetables, and noodles... and I have NO idea what to buy. My knowledge of Korean cuisine is limited to bi bim bap, and bulgogi.

Help me learn about Korean cuisine! Please and thank you!

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  1. This affordable guide helps me
    shop at the H-Mart that opened the next town over. I still find it difficult, though. There's very little labeling in English, and the small number of employees on the floor speak little or no English. It helps to be bold and ask other shoppers if they speak English. I got a great plaintain tutorial from a fellow shopper who was from Sierra Leone.

    I once e-mailed H-Mart headquarters to suggest they have a monthly guided tour for English-only shoppers, which I think would lead to us buying more items there. Never got a reply.

    1 Reply
    1. re: greygarious

      In fact, I am lucky. I live in Toronto - very multi-cultural city. the grocery store isn't situated in a [particularly Korean enclave and the store has everything laid out in English and Korean. Staff members are bilingual. I just don't know anything about Korean food, what to make, etc.... The selection is literally mind boggling! :)

    2. Buy bulgolgi marinade sauce in the jar- its awesome for any protein you use it on. Rice cakes are super easy to make and a great chewy texture, often they have fresh noodles similar to an udon that are great for a soup or stirfry after cooked with veggies. If you like spicy foods try a few of the kimchee and hot sauce condiments. The frozen section will have interesting dumplings and buns for quick meals.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Ttrockwood

        I had rice cakes once at Momofuku, but I have no idea how to cook them - pan fry so they are crispy? Do they have to be steamed first?

        1. re: Apple

          Just stir-fry. Frozen ones will take longer than fresh. They won't get crispy so much as tender.

      2. Here's a multi-step idea:

        Start here:
        [it's an archived page, so the layout is old/bad. just scroll down].

        Find an English description that looks interesting, then use Google Images to search using the Korean name.

        Screen shot the pic of what you'd like to buy /make.
        Then show the pic to someone at your new Korean Grocery store. They won't have to worry about language [and neither will you!] but they can point out the ingredients you'd need.

        It's "shoot and point" shopping : )

        1. My favorites: fresh or frozen pork belly (great for quick-browning and covering with sticky lemon-honey sauce, grilling, or braising); radishes with the greens still attached (greens are delicious cooked quickly in fat or in a soy sauce-based braise with the radishes); pollack roe (nice on its own over rice or mixed into simple risotto); unsweetened bottles of tea; quail eggs (nice in soy sauce braises but a pain to prepare); crab meat (nice in korean seafood "pancakes" or in risotto); almost any (ideally local or in-store) packaged panchan (pickle) that looks good, from cabbage to greens to squid; spicy squid preparations in general; locally-prepared soups if available (often in tall plastic containers like tofu pudding comes in); maklee (low-alcohol rice drink, make sure it's Korean-made as all the American-made ones I've had are pretty rough); mushrooms, ginger, almost any produce that looks good; when in doubt, if it looks interesting, buy it and try it over rice! Enjoy!

          2 Replies
          1. re: Sarah Perry

            I'd for sure start with gojuchang.

            It's a delicious and versatile condiment.

            1. re: Sarah Perry

              Oh Sarah Perry - that sounds so marvelous! You've given me some good ideas. thank you!

            2. My top two items from Korean grocery stores: gochujang ( and doenjang (, which formed the basis for many Korean dips, stews and soups.