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All About H Mart and Asian Groceries in the U.S.


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Ligaya takes a deep dive...

 

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Here are radishes in hot pink and winter white, gnarled ginseng grown in Wisconsin, broad perilla leaves with notched edges, and almost every kind of Asian green: yu choy, bok choy, ong choy, hon choy, aa choy, wawa choy, gai lan, sook got.

 

The theme is abundance — chiles from fat little thumbs to witchy fingers, bulk bins of fish balls, live lobsters brooding in blue tanks, a library of tofu. Cuckoo rice cookers gleam from the shelves like a showroom of Aston Martins. Customers fill baskets with wands of lemongrass, dried silvery anchovies, shrimp chips and Wagyu beef sliced into delicate petals.

 

For decades in America, this kind of shopping was a pilgrimage. Asian-Americans couldn’t just pop into the local Kroger or Piggly Wiggly for a bottle of fish sauce. To make the foods of their heritage, they often had to seek out the lone Asian grocery in town, which was salvation — even if cramped and dingy, with scuffed linoleum underfoot and bags of rice slumped in a corner.

 

 

The Lure of H Mart

 

This was the first H Mart, in Woodside, Queens

 

image.thumb.png.3875c29d4fc3008e6d755fa45e483bd1.png

 

And remembering the first time I shopped at Mitsuwa, in San Jose, in the early 90s...it was astounding.  And fantastic. And great. And samples galore!!

 

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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It is wonderful living someplace that not only has Asian ingredients, but multiple competing sources.  Here in greater Philly we have 2 H-Marts, and a competitive Korean-owned pan-asian supermarket called Assi, as well as an expanding selection of Indian markets, and at least one Japanese grocery.  All of them are between a half hour and an hour from me, so not as regular a stop as the Aldis and Lidls and local supermarkets, but they're all reachable when needed.   And life is the better for it.  

 

What really shocked me was about a month ago when I was driving the 60 miles of back roads deep in PA Dutch country between my house and Lebanon (where I got an appointment for the vax), that in the middle of some little town whose name I didn't even notice there was an "Indian Bazaar" on main street.  

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Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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I usually see tons of fish on ice in these markets...  I have yet to pull the tab.

 

I mean u can get mackerel, Butterfish ,Pompano, carp and a whole lot of other whole fish varieties ..that I have know idea.

Curious on thoughts of sea food from these markets.  

Its good to have Morels

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We have a large market nearby. Not part of a chain.  I'm disgusted by the sanitation in the fish and meat depts and cannot imagine how it passes inspection.

 

I'll only buy stuff sealed in jars in that place.

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My locals Asian focused  are 99Ranch for Chinese+, HMart, SMart, Mitsuwa, Nijia. 99Ranch did a great job pivoting to please a wide range of customers - so pan-Asian now. Attracts South Asian and Hispanic as well, When I started going in with my blond baby he got lots of sweet attention as unique. Now all colors, shapes, and sizes happily mingle selecting excellent product. Also several good sized Vietnamese markets.  

 

@Paul Bacino The high turnover on meat and fish trends to a decent product. Sustainability and provenance - who knows, 

 

All of them in my experience have a good handle on quality and sanitation.

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1 hour ago, Paul Bacino said:

I usually see tons of fish on ice in these markets...  I have yet to pull the tab.

 

I mean u can get mackerel, Butterfish ,Pompano, carp and a whole lot of other whole fish varieties ..that I have know idea.

Curious on thoughts of sea food from these markets.  

 

Why not give it a try? Lots of fish-eating cultures in Asia (e.g., Japan & Korea). I'm guessing the prices are reasonable as well.

 

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2 hours ago, Paul Bacino said:

Curious on thoughts of sea food from these markets.  

Caveat emptor. 

But whole body fish, wild, never frozen, should be okay if you know what you're looking for in a fish.

 

 

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, gfweb said:

We have a large market nearby. Not part of a chain.  I'm disgusted by the sanitation in the fish and meat depts and cannot imagine how it passes inspection.

 

I'll only buy stuff sealed in jars in that place.

 

My guess is it's not an H-Mart.  We have stores like that in Chinatown that are totally gross. 

 

H-Marts and Mitsuwa (the two chain stores I have experience with) are in my experience quite well maintained.  I mean, you could eat off the floor in Mitsuwa. 

Edited by weinoo (log)
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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I used to go to the HMart on 32nd St. once a week - it was where I did my primary shopping - well, that and Fresh Direct.  But I get all my veggies at Hmart, and I used to get salmon fillets there once a week too.  I like it better than the supermarkets because it is prepackaged in that store, so I can go through all of them (there's lots) and find the perfect size I need.  A lot of times, at the counter, they ahve to cut 3 or 4 pieces to finally get me what I asked for.

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1 hour ago, weinoo said:

Caveat emptor. 

But whole body fish, wild, never frozen, should be okay if you know what you're looking for in a fish.

 

 

It’s worth learning about this kind of shopping.    Do some online work on fish characteristics and identification.   Be willing to “eat” a few disappointments, but you will eventually show and eat well.

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Paul Bacino said:

I mean u can get mackerel, Butterfish ,Pompano, carp and a whole lot of other whole fish varieties ..that I have know idea.


Any live fish? Freshwater fish is almost always sold live here (and is in Chinatown, London, too). Carp, for example, is always sold live.

Sea fish is much less often sold live, especially away from the coast. Luckily I am only a couple of hours away by road from the Gulf of Tonkin (on the China / Vietnam border) so we get a lot of fresh sea fish and seafood.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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The Asian markets (chains) here in Los Angeles do not do live seafood except abalone, lobster, crabs.  Those I do not buy due to my perception of overcrowding. Go to pier for that. 

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2 hours ago, liuzhou said:


Any live fish? Freshwater fish is almost always sold live here (and is in Chinatown, London, too). Carp, for example is always sold live.

Sea fish is much less often sold live, especially away from the coast. Luckily I am only a couple of hours away by road from the Gulf of Tonkin (on the China / Vietnam border) so we get a lot of fresh sea fish and seafood.

 

Some stores in Chinatown here have live freshwater fish, but they're mostly on ice or like at my small Hmart, on plastic trays in the refrigerated case.

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No experience with fish from Asian markets, however I've been impressed with the freshness of fish in Chinese seafood restaurants where you select your dinner from the aquaria.  There is/was such a place in Philadelphia that served till 4:00am.  (I tend to eat late.)

 

Don't quote me, but I believe the name of the establishment was North China Seafood Restaurant.  After a nearby Dylan concert at the late lamented Troc, I espied a dish not on the menu that was served to a neighboring table.  Turned out to be black beans and clams.  One of the finest dishes I have eaten.  The concert wasn't half bad either.

 

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27 minutes ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

Turned out to be black beans and clams.

 

Do you mean Chinese-style fermented, salted black soy beans? Or something else?

Clams with fermented beans is something I cook regularly.

 

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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18 minutes ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

Yes.

 

 

Interesting. I don't recall ever seeing it on a restaurant menu here, but it is a common dish for home cooks. It is probably my favourite way to do clams.

 

47985597_ClamswithDouchi.thumb.jpg.cea5c6eb309e94edcb4d0c1003511819.jpg

 

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35 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

Interesting. I don't recall ever seeing it on a restaurant menu here, but it is a common dish for home cooks. It is probably my favourite way to do clams.

 

47985597_ClamswithDouchi.thumb.jpg.cea5c6eb309e94edcb4d0c1003511819.jpg

 

 

As I said, it wasn't on the restaurant's menu.  I had to ask what the other table was having.

 

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27 minutes ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

As I said, it wasn't on the restaurant's menu.  I had to ask what the other table was having.

 

 

Yeah, but the restaurant supplied it!

I sometimes ask for things which are not listed on the menu. Sometimes I get it; sometimes I get a polite apology.

 

Smaller and less formal Chinese restaurants are usually quite open to that.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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7 hours ago, KennethT said:

Some stores in Chinatown here have live freshwater fish, but they're mostly on ice or like at my small Hmart, on plastic trays in the refrigerated case.

 

Yes - the larger groceries (Hong Kong Supermarket, NY Mart, et al.) have tanks, as do the seafood specialty stores such as Aqua Best.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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  • 3 weeks later...

I stopped in a fairly new Asian food market that is near my office - just happened to see it on Google maps. It is called Hung Vuong Food Market, although the register receipt at the top says Heng Fa Supermarket.

No, I did not brave the durian (which they had fresh and frozen, and I think I saw some cut up and wrapped as well). There was an amazing assortment of fresh produce, I did buy some fresh lychees ($2.99/lb) and a Gaia melon which I had misread the price for at $1.99, that was the per pound price, so this $6 melon better be really good. Lots of good stuff, including some individual serving packets of some banchan type items, I did grab one shredded kelp.

 

durian.jpg

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On 5/11/2021 at 8:32 PM, liuzhou said:

 

Do you mean Chinese-style fermented, salted black soy beans? Or something else?

Clams with fermented beans is something I cook regularly.

 

Black bean sauce clams seemed very common when I grew up in NY and also frequently on menus in SF. Maybe I'm delusional, but I see them less often these days, at least in the Bay Area. It's also true that I go our far less often than I used to, and don't find the Chinese restaurants here in the East Bay very compelling. But black bean sauce clams along with hot and sour soup and sizzling rice soup were our standard orders on Sunday nights out on the upper west side, along with egg rolls and ever- present duck sauce and hot mustard packets.

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23 minutes ago, BeeZee said:

I stopped in a fairly new Asian food market that is near my office - just happened to see it on Google maps. It is called Hung Vuong Food Market, although the register receipt at the top says Heng Fa Supermarket.

No, I did not brave the durian (which they had fresh and frozen, and I think I saw some cut up and wrapped as well). There was an amazing assortment of fresh produce, I did buy some fresh lychees ($2.99/lb) and a Gaia melon which I had misread the price for at $1.99, that was the per pound price, so this $6 melon better be really good. Lots of good stuff, including some individual serving packets of some banchan type items, I did grab one shredded kelp.

 

durian.jpg

Don't think they would have them cut. Maybe jackfruit? Nice shop find.

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