A Collection of Dispatches from Koreana Plaza.

by Heather Do with input from roommates, Mary Goss and David Pon.

 
Prologue:
Koreana Plaza is a Korean grocery store and we’re grateful to call it our local food market. We give more of our business to Koreana than all of the other businesses in our neighborhood combined.

Burps of thoughts:
You know what? I’m not really one to turn down an opportunity and today is no different. I’m going to buy these hardtack black soybean crackers because, who knows, they could be great.

Mary had a really hard time deciding between the pig soap dish and the hippo soap dish. She got the pig and is now doubting her choice and wants to come back and get the hippo as well.

A box of “Cereal Tea Latte” is one of a handful of US-marketed food items at Koreana. And though I can’t say I’m not intrigued, I think we are really sending mixed messages to foreigners if they think this is an actual thing we drink.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my bananas and my corn and my chips just as much as the next gal, but in what world do banana corn chips sound tasty?

Mary bought a package of instant noodles once and it took her a good 30 minutes to make it. This is because the entire package, including the instructions, is written in Korean. Mary can’t read a lick of Korean.

I spend about 70% of my waking day snacking, so naturally, the $0.59 snack section has a tremendous pull on me. It’s no coincidence that I also spend about 70% of my time at Koreana in the snack aisle.

The $2.99 prepared kimbap sushi is my Achille’s heel. Every time I go grocery shopping after work intending to buy ingredients for dinner, I always succumb to buying a roll of kimbap because I’m hungry and it’s the easiest, quickest, and most direct way to get food into my stomach. But buying kimbap completely undermines my plan to cook dinner. Gah, Koreana! You get me every time with your delicious sushi snacks! Every time!

I haven’t seen pints of strawberries for $0.99 each since 1999.

I try to go to Koreana 2-3 times a week. Sometimes even four times if my schedule permits. I purposefully under-buy the amount of groceries I need for the week just so I have a reason to go back again and again.

Rows of exposed fresh fish on ice remind me of my childhood.

The worst buy at Koreana was probably the 6-pack of prepared steamed white buns. They were 50% off (all prepared foods are 50% off after 8:30 pm!) and David impulsively got them because he was grocery shopping hungry and deeply regretted it for the next couple of days. They were bland, dry, and old, and he has sworn never to make that same mistake again.

Koreana sells packages of vacuum-sealed, vaguely labeled frozen squid.

Blessed are we to have Koreana open until 10 pm everyday of the week.

There are bottomless tubs of bulk fish cakes in a variety of shapes at the far end of the produce aisle. David and I get them periodically, but we have no idea what they’re made out of. They hardly taste or look like fish and they have a very bouncy and squishy non-fish like texture. Can someone please tell me what they’re made out of?

The canned silk worms are sold on the shelf above the frozen dumplings. 

Pocari Sweat is a weird drink that David bought once out of curiosity and twice because he liked what he tasted. One of the ingredients is MSG. It looks like someone wrung out someone’s gym towel into a bottle. It’s like Gatorade without the coloring and berry flavoring. 

Frozen kimchi dumplings were another curiosity-compelled buy. I was hoping they’d be filled with kimchi, which was a baffling concept to me, but was disappointed to find out that they were filled with tofu-flavored kimchi instead.

Mary has a habit of buying soap dishes when she’s drunk shopping at Koreana. How many soap dishes does one person need?

It’s impossible to leave that place without buying five confusing beverages. Ummm, canned cola-coffee? What the gibberish?

GALLONS of kimchi. David is powered by kimchi. He loves that stuff and got me into it a couple of months back. Sometimes, he’ll eat it three times a day. Our household – but mostly David – has ravenously depleted 8 one-gallon tubs of kimchi in the last year.

To put our high octane kimchi kick in perspective, that’s one gallon of kimchi every 1.5 months.

The frozen melon bars are super refreshing on hot days.

Apples and MSG are dominant themes throughout the store. Beware of the latter, even in the most unsuspecting places.

There are so many different kinds of aloe juice. (Mary is in aloe juice heaven.)

They used to sell 1.5-liter bottles of sake for five dollars. We tried it and it is the worst thing.

They also sell a bunch of beauty products, but they’re all made out of snails. For example, snail cream. Mary thinks it’s disgusting. I concur.

It’s 24 bucks for a bottle of Jonnie Walker. Everywhere else is 10 bucks more.

David bought a bottle Changyu wine once because of its funny label. Changyu claims to be a highly prestigious variety of wine whose creator went to great lengths to create his winery in China. In 1989 it won an award for best wine from East Asia. David thinks it tastes like ash.

Mary’s first Koreana purchase was a set of flower cups that said they are “for leading a calm lifestyle”. And she does want to live a calm lifestyle. It was 2 cups for $3.

If I want to buy one jalapeño, I have to buy a four-pound bag of jalapeños.

The mixed grain rice is a total game changer. It makes brown rice and white rice seem so boring. I can’t imagine cooking any other rice when I have mixed grain rice available in the pantry.

Epilogue:
So what do you think of Koreana?
“Koreana is my safe place.” – Heather
“I am so happy every time I’m in Koreana.” – David
“I freaking love Koreana.” – Mary
And there you have it.

 

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