Thursday, February 15, 2007

Pan Asian Groceries

One of my best friends just got the referral for her Chinese daughter, so I wanted to send her some Chinese thing. I hopped in the car and headed over to Route 40 and Rolling Road to H-Mart, formerly Han Ah Reum. It's in an old SuperFresh or other major grocery store on the southwest corner. Unfortunately, their website is mostly in Korean.

When you enter the store, there's the most gorgeous bakery with sweet-looking cakes and pastries. I have the feeling that they look better than they taste. They have the most incredible fresh produce. There are a lot of the fruits and veggies that I've never seen before and am not clear what I would do with them. And they're all marked in Korean, so that's not much help. One of the things I love about some of the fruits is that they are still on their stems, and don't look like they've come from a factory. Sometimes, they even have lychees, and durian, which is either the most disgusting fruit imaginable, or the best one.

As you move through the store, you'll find a Korean hotpot deli and a sushi/sashimi bar. You have to pay for these in cash on the spot, no credit cards in that section. Next up is a small salad selection with favourites like seaweed & sesame salad, kimchee and other chilled condiments. I've found fresh quail eggs for dying at Easter. They're wonderful hard-cooked and then dipped into sea salt and sesame seeds. Oh... or with creme fraiche and caviar.
H-Mart has an enormous selection of meats, including hearts, lungs, feet, tongues and blood. This is not your sanitized Whole Foods where the meat is all laid out without any nod to the fact that it was once an animal. If you're at all squeamish, like I am, you'll want to dash through this section.
They also have an extensive selection of frozen foods including the makings for an at-home dim sum dinner. Potstickers, dumplings and other little wrapped goodies are all in that section. There are also whole aisles of rice and seaweed in myriad forms. Their spice selection is excellent and priced much cheaper than McCormick.
As you round the final turn into the back corner, you will find the seafood section. There are all sorts of live fish, crabs, lobsters and sometimes even turtles. Once, I watched an elderly Asian man select a live eel. Unfortunately, he dropped it on the floor and it slithered its way into the crowd. I didn't know whether to laugh or scream.
There is also a small "department store" in H-Mart. It's full of rice cookers, specialty kitchen utensils, blankets and the obligatory Hello Kitty offerings. There are also select cosmetics, a phone card store and video shop.
The place is usually jammed and it looks like a mini-United Nations. If you want to take a quick and inexpensive trip to an exotic land, then head out to H-Mart.


Julie said...

I haven't been there for a while but you're making me feel I need to go again.

Funny, I had the same feeling you did about the bakery. Everything looks wonderful, but I have no faith things will actually taste good.

Fairfax said...

It's always such a HUGE letdown when that happens!

Anonymous said...

Miss "Fairfax": I don't mind things in tanks (fish, lobsters, etc.), but objects that can crawl on the floor make me unnerved. Out of all the places in B'more that may be fave shopping spots, I'll stick with the others....They may be safer for the baby-to-be, too!! -- Miss "M.A."

Opal said...

I've been hearing about this store for months. It's definitely on my list of places to visit.
Heck I might even try a durian. I've heard a lot about them but haven't tried them yet.