Not Your Average Whole Foods

by Leija Rothenberg

When I think of some of my favorite ways to spend time with friends at home, surprisingly, going to the supermarket comes to mind. However, we don’t frequent just any supermarket– we hit up the Asian supermarket. Specifically, we love H-Mart. Not every town or city has an H-Mart, but many towns have local, smaller Asian grocery stores. If you’ve never been to one and don’t speak any Asian languages, these stores can initially seem intimidating to peruse, but they offer some items and experiences that will make the whole trip worthwhile.

First, there is so much produce not found in American stores. You can get delicious grapes, dragonfruit, bok choy and much more. There might be an extensive kimchi section if the store is Korean and in that case, definitely get some kimchi. (Only if you are tolerant of spice!)

The snack aisle is one of my favorite places in the world; there are such interesting flavors of chips, such as the ones in the image. There are also shrimp chips, a fan favorite, and wide varieties of Oreos and Kit-Kats. As for candy, definitely try some new flavors of Hi-Chew and maybe some fruit jellies, like lychee. White Rabbits are a creamy, chewy, vanilla candy wrapped in rice paper–grab some!

There are also some miscellaneous items worth your time. I have recently started using Japanese mayonnaise instead of regular on my sandwiches, and it’s quite the upgrade. The frozen foods are pretty accessible. Grab some frozen gyoza, shumai, pork buns, bao or custard buns. These foods are such a good way to incorporate an international diet into your college life.

Finally, if there is a food court, try having lunch there! A spicy ramen or simple bibimbap (if the food court provides a variety of Asian countries’ cuisines) are usually my go-to’s. Chicken curry katsu and Singapore noodles are some other crowd-pleasers. If there is a place to buy bubble tea, absolutely go for it and sip it between bites of your lunch. I’m a sucker for the original black milk tea, but taro is also delicious, as is a fruit flavored one like passionfruit!

While a supermarket is not always thought of as an exciting destination, Asian supermarkets, small or large, can be quite the adventure for the uninitiated or even the seasoned shopper. My friends and I can spend hours there and discover foods we have never encountered before. Try a new food and expand your culinary horizons. It’s an indispensable experience.

A version of this post originally appeared in
The Teller May 2019 Issue 6

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