I started visiting H Mart stores years ago when they were called Han Ah Reum. Back then they were exotic, smelly, and such a riot. I’d take seasoned grocery execs (men) and watch them squeal like little girls at their bizarre finds.
These days they’re called H Marts or Super H Marts and are clean, well stocked, and contain such a splendorous assortment that any chef or home cook should make them a regular stop. Recently I changed jobs and before I started the new one, I went on a road trip with my dog – home to see my family in GA and FL. I was thrilled to hear my sister had discovered H Mart on her own.
If you go, and if it isn’t a new H Mart, be prepared for a bit of odor upon arrival. They are much cleaner and more pleasant than they were in years past, but an older location may still be a bit ripe to the uninitiated! You’ll certainly see things you normally buy but many more items will be new to you…..There are fresh seafood tanks bubbling away with all sorts of species – some you may not recognize in your regular grocery store: geoduck, frogs still croaking, shrimp, abalone, carp, narway, mackerel, belt fish, pommfret, king fish, fluke, konchi, and many more.
Similarly the other areas of the store have enormous selection – ever seen black chicken or black goat? Ever tried durian? Ever seen a 20 foot wall of soy sauce varieties? 30 feet of kimchee? In short, complete fun! Having taken several cooking classes in SE Asia, these stores are the only places I can find the ingredients I need. www.hmart.com
If you’re feeling adventurous or want to step outside the box of your regular baked chicken and broccoli recipes, you should check out your local Asian or Indian market. They might smell and you might feel uncomfortable, but there is so much to learn!
If you do decide to venture out and try something new, here’s a recipe I got from the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School for one of my favorite Northern Thailand dishes: Khao Soi Gai
|500||g||fresh egg noodles|
|enough oil to deep-fry|
|4||c||thick coconut milk (might find this as coconut cream)|
|4||c||thin coconut milk|
|1||c||chicken stock (or water)|
|1||t||yellow curry powder|
|15||big, red, dried chillies (seeds removed and soaked in water for 10 minutes and then finely chopped)|
|1||T||ginza (skin removed, chopped)|
|6||T||lemongrass (lower 1/3 only, chopped)|
|2||T||coriander root (chopped)|
|2||lime (cut into wedges)|
|2||T||sweet soy sauce|
Put all the ingredients for the paste into a blender and blend until smooth.
Put 250mls (1 cup, 8 fl oz) of thick coconut milk into a wok and fry for 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously, until the coconut oil begins to separate out. Add the paste and fry for 1-2 minutes until it is cooked and then add the chicken legs, chicken stock, remaining thick coconut milk and half the thin coconut milk.
Bring to the boil and then add the palm sugar along the side of the wok until it melts followed by the sugar, soy sauce and fish sauce and simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Add the remaining thin coconut milk as needed, while simmering. If it get too dry you can also add some more chicken stock.
Meanwhile put the oil for frying the egg noodles into a wok and when it is hot add 100g (1 cup, 3ฝ oz) of egg noodles and fry until they are crispy (30 seconds). Drain and set aside.
For the accompaniments, put the oil into a wok and when it is hot add the chilli powder. Stir together and remove from the heat. Leave to cool. When you are ready to eat put the egg noodles into some boiling water for 2 minutes and drain and put into a serving dish. Add the chicken legs and curry sauce and serve garnished with the crispy egg noodles, coriander leaves and spring onions. Serve along with the 5 accompaniments which are added to taste.
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