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I’m Mari.
On Marivelous Me! you’ll find recipes, food gifts, food I’ve traveled for and food solutions. Poke around, maybe you’ll find inspiration for something you’re working on. Enjoy! 

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Tuesday
Oct232012

h mart - a trip to korea by way of a supermarket

One of the things I love doing when I travel, is going to supermarkets. Not that I don't have interest in seeing the Mona Lisa or Bilbao, but I'm more interested in what people actually eat - at home. Once, on a trip to France for a friend's wedding, we stumbled upon a French version of Costco. There was an entire freezer aisle devoted to just pastries, a good 16-feet devoted to foie gras, and the mustard took up as much space as an American supermarket's tomato sauce section. Interesting, n'est pas?

Since I'm probably not going to Korea any time soon, my recent trip to an H Mart in Hartsdale, NY will have to do. With over 40 locations in the United States, it's primarily a Korean supermarket but they sell other Far Eastern and American foods as well. Prior to delving into the mesmerizing (for me, not Mr. Mari) walk through every aisle, we fueled up on some Korean food. There was a small food court with separate Chinese, Japanese and Korean food stall options. I was in the mood for something spicy so I opted for kimchi jjigae (top image); Mr. Mari went with a familiar and safe dish: pork bulgogi. Each came with a bowl of rice, kimchi and spicy pickled cucumbers. Woot - my kimchi jjigae was spicy! Water!!!

Walking the aisles, you start to get a sense of what people eat based on the variety of offerings. If it's not a very popular item, chances are there will only be two brands or varieties. If it's popular, it'll come in a variety of sizes and brands.

(Images from top to bottom: various-flavored frozen fish balls, salted shrimp, frozen fruit pops)

I know in Japan, they love love love French pastries. In H Mart, the fresh baked goods are made by a separate company: Tous les Jours. They make French style, Asian flavor profile approved items like fruit cocktail and whipped cream filled cakes; red bean, sweet corn cream or hot dog-filled pastries. In America, we put things in bins - to show freshness as well as probably to encourage you to purchase more than one. In most Asian cultures, baked goods are usually prepackaged, individually. I don't know why but people like it that way. Maybe for hygiene's sake? Since each one is the same, it doesn't matter which one you pick up? To keep different flavors from commingling? Not sure.

(Image from top to bottom: a blueberry whipped cream frosted, fruit cocktail-filled cake; edge-trimmed finger sandwiches; individually packed pastries)

I also love Asia's fondness for hygiene. Look at the awesome face shield this woman who's sampling cookies is wearing. 

So next time you happen to be in a foreign land or stumble upon an ethnic supermarket in your town, walk in and breathe deeply. It may be foreign but you can make it familiar. 

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