[food] H Mart

An H Mart opened up in Burlington, MA in the end of September. The Boston Globe has a good article about it. The most interesting facts:

- this H Mart is the 30th store for the New Jersey-based chain owned by Korean businessmen (although in the video, it sounds like the President of H Mart says this is the 31st store), and the first one in New England
- H stands for hanahreum, literally “armful’’; the company says it means “love and care for the customers.’
- the store's footprint is the size of a football field

My sister and I took trip down this past Saturday. I had gotten some advice from other people who had gone ("It's crowded as [bleep]. Everyone in New England is there on weekends." I heard that parking was the biggest problem. So... I got my ass out of bed at 6:30 am on a freaking Saturday, put the coolers into the car, filled up the gas tank and picked up my sister a 7 am. We got to H Mart at 9 am and the lot was already 80% full. But we made it!


The store was already filling up fast. We grabbed a cart and went through produce first:


There were some great mushrooms here- some I had never seen before: White Beech Mushrooms, Brown Beech Mushrooms, Maitake Mushrooms and King Trumpet Mushrooms (all four of the exact kind sold at H Mart can been seen here). I got a package of the maitake, brown beech and enoki.

A whole section of refrigerated wall for bean sprouts and tofu:


Then around the corner to the Kimchi section... A whole department of kimchi and banchan!!!!


I got a tub of cabbage kimchi, young radish kimchi, sliced radish kimchi and small anchovy and shrimp banchan.

The onto meat and seafood:



The meat section was busy but the seafood section was completely backed up with more than a dozen people waiting.

The back corner of the store had housewares, with lots of comforters, pillows, dishes, cooking tools and rice cookers. I wanted a new rice cooker but instead got a very pretty spoon and chopstick silverware set. I had a long Korean spoon that died in a cooking accident and have been wanting to replace it for a while now. The set came in a nice burgundy velvet box.

After that, we went up and down all the grocery aisles. In the cookie aisle, we liked the description of these cookies:


"Original sweets covering good taste cookies. Enjoy nice time by sweets tastes." MMm, who doesn't want to enjoy nice time with good taste cookies? And it's a little hard to read, but the slogan above the Lily brand logo says "Taste, Cool Life, Health". I'm sure the cookies can deliver on taste and possibly health... but Cool Life?

We got snacks and tea and ice cream and frozen dumplings. We checked out and pushed the full cart through the parking lot to my car. The plan was to unload the frozen/cold stuff to the coolers we had brought, then go back inside to the food court for lunch. Of course, as we're walking, I can feel a car following us. The parking lot is totally FULL and many cars are prowling through the lot like big metal sharks.

At my car, we swing open the trunk door and start shoving things into coolers. A car approaches, stops, turns on their blinker. I snicker. I step back and attempt to wave them away. The driver opens their window and asks, "Are you guys not leaving?" We shake our heads. That car drives away and another one pulls up. I wave them away. This happened three for four more times. I was simply filled with evil glee about it. It's my reward for getting up on a Saturday while it's still dark out and being on the interstate by 7am. I'm sure I had the snotty, "Well, I guess you should have gotten here earlier. Maybe then you would be able to have a parking spot." look written all over my face.

Anyway, we went back inside for eats. I did stop by the Tout les Jours bakery to buy pastries and rolls for Dollar. I got a box and got some phyllo sticks, dinner rolls, a custard roll, honey buns (Dollar's a bread/carb junkie) and wondered, "Am I grabbing too much? Am I being greedy?" I look around and everyone is grabbing more stuff than me. I'm telling you, it's like Supermarket Sweep all day everyday at this place. People are getting food like they're feeding a family of 12 and they're not coming back for more food for months. I think everyone was trying to shut down the bakery by noon.

There were different counters to order food from and tables to sit at. There was a Japanese, Chinese and Indian counter. We went to the Korean one:


And ordered two kimchi chigaes. Since Dollar enacted a kimchi stew ban on the house, it's the only thing I order when given the chance.


Come on. How good does that look. I like that it's served in the dish that it's cooked in, so it's still furiously boiling when it's brought out. This one tasted very good. It had kimchi, tofu, pork belly and rice cakes in it. I totally ate it all and then had to waddle out to the car for the drive home.

As we were leaving, the parking situation was so bad that police were directing traffic in and out of the lot. Which I think is just the norm for a Saturday at H Mart. I was also noticeably more aggressive driving away from H Mart than I was going there. I was cutting in on lines of cars, my sister was shouting at people that honked at us, I was weaving in and around traffic. I'm just saying, when you leave H Mart, you feel like you've gone through hours of intensive combat training and you're kind of itching for a fight.

All in all, I highly recommend going. It's so awesome in so many different ways. All I can say is: GO EARLY OR YOU WILL NOT GET A PARKING SPACE. Also, by the time the parking lot is full, all those people have to be somewhere, right? They're all inside hovering around you as you're looking at the meat; or standing in front of the meat and not moving to let you see the meat; or abandoning their carts diagonally in the middle of an aisle so they can get a free sample of food. You can't let these things drive you crazy here- it's just how this place operates.

Last night, I was finally able to have some rice and kimchi and radish and sauteed maitake mushrooms. As I sat there, I thought, "It was totally worth it."

H Mart: Burlington, MA
3 Old Concord Rd.
Burlington, MA 01803
(for GPS, use 43 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, MA 01803)


Sara said...

Darn, I wish we had one here!

gayle said...

That's a really long drive for me, but oooooooh! I'm so tempted!
Is it less busy during the week, do you think?