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Seattle Area - H Mart (Korean)


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After going to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, PCC, QFC, Fred Meyer, and Costco, I've found the promised land for Whole30 groceries at an amazing value: the Korean supermarket H Mart.  

Years ago, I worked in DC where everyone was doing paleo and eating really boring meals.  Except one colleague who made Moroccan spiced carrots, ginger lime stir-fry dishes, grilled meats with exotic spice rubs. That dude was eating WELL.  So when I decided to do Whole30, I wanted to be more like that guy and less like the folks who brought salads with boiled chicken breast and lemon wedges.  

When I lived in LA, my parents often drove to K-Town for groceries, even though they live by tons of large Chinese supermarkets because the Korean market's quality in produce and meats are really high. When I moved to Seattle years ago, I started going to H Mart in Lynnwood because they're large, the produce is cheap, and their meats are very high quality without being crazy expensive.  I'm Chinese, but I've never liked the Chinese markets in Seattle (cheap, but generally low quality meats and produce) and I have no patience for the chaos of Vietnamese markets in the international district, although they have super fresh produce at great prices (still not so sure about the meats though). 

After stocking up my first Whole30 week grocery shopping at all the typical super markets, going to H Mart was a huge game changer for value when I am having to buy as much fresh produce and meat as I do now.  Plus, the wide and interesting variety of produce and meat blows a typical supermarket out of the water - I am craving variety when I'm on Whole30.  Subbing out Yukon potatoes for purple yams and adding never-loses-its-crunch lotus root in my breakfast hash.  Making Korean galibi tang (spare rib soup) with daikon instead of normal bone broth, so I am eating foods with flavors I'm more familiar with. 

Fresh cheap produce: cilantro, onions, shallots, apples, lotus root, green veggies, green onion, pre-peeled taro, citrus, daikon, napa cabbage, Chinese hollow-vegetable, Korean cucumber (so cute!), whole peeled garlic cloves, purple potato, white sweet potato, Asian pear, all types of hot peppers, huge array of garnishes, etc.  The cost of produce is around 50-75% less and for doubling your recipes and stuff you're going to cook right away, this is the place to be to get anything non-organic.  Asian potato and sweet potato varieties are usually more dense so they spiralize extremely well, and have a naturally more sweet, nutty flavor than a Yukon or sweet potato.  

You'll have to dig around the produce because the quality is less consistent, and their cheap fruit is imperfect, but otherwise tastes great (and mad cheap). 

Most of all, Koreans don't play around with their meats - the meat section has an insane array of different cuts of all animals. Hello thinly sliced pork belly for bacon lovers, bones galore for bone broth, sliced and chunks of meat perfect for stir fry and soups, and Wagyu style beef that look like art.  

Coconut milk and coconut cream (read the labels) are cheap and good quality.  I've never understood why coconut milk is so expensive at typical markets. 

Their home good section has some cheap and very useful tools like a super fine mesh strainer for $5 for my bone broths, colanders with bowls attached for all the veggie washing, lots of air tight snap containers usually for making kimchi, and all sorts of gadgets.  

Things I don't/can't get:

  • Organic - stick to your typical supermarket for organic produce without skins and meat, if that's your vibe.
  • Jicama, whole taro, and garlic - just doesn't look that great to me
  • Any leafy veggie that has a lot of dirt - I'm too lazy to wash it off.  This is mostly their spinach but I don't like their broccoli, either.
  • Jar kimchi - only one type without sugar and it is enormous 
  • None of the market-made korean side dishes (ingredients aren't marked)
  • Coconut aminos - so much coconut everything, except aminos

There are still a lot of things I must get from Trader Joe's, QFC, and Whole Foods, like butternut squash, bananas, bulk bin stuff, nuts, dried fruit, etc.  

So be that dude with the tasty af meal by just subbing out a few of your basics with Asian varieties.  

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53 minutes ago, GnawGnaw said:

Jicama, whole taro, and garlic - just doesn't look that great to me

Oh man, give jicama a try!! It's like a apple with a hint of potato -- I know that sounds weird, but it works, believe :) 

Peel and slice and it's good to eat as-is.  A lot of people julienne it or fine dice it for salads.

Got kind of a moist "crispety" texture.

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