HK (Han Kook) Market – Bahn-chan Bar Crawl

hk (han kook) market, rowland heights, los angeles, ca

HK Market

18317 Colima Road (@Fullerton)
Rowland Heights, CA 91748

It has been confessed multiple times before here on The Delicious Life that I am lazy, mostly in the sense that I don’t like to drive. Anywhere. However, I realize now that the term “lazy” isn’t entirely accurate. “Lazy” fails to fully capture what it is about me that I am trying to describe, since my aversion to driving also encompasses issues like road rage and gas prices. I think it’s more like I am a “fat, fucking lazy, short, hot, short-, hot-tempered, cheap ass mofo.”

Or maybe it’s just that I am a “princess-in-my-head,” wherein I believe that I should have a chauffeured limo, never have to do dishes, and never have to pay for anything, whether food or fashion. What about “fat?!?!” Hmph. Princesses can be fat, too. (Has not anyone seen Sarah Ferguson? Oh, right. She’s a duchess.)

So it’s no surprise that when I have to get myself out to that part of Los Angeles that is east of the 405 freeway, all I need to do is ring for my butler and ask him to radio “the car” up to the house so I can be chauffeured out past the edge of civilization. Obviously, I’d have to txt one of my many sugar Daddies from “the car” to meet me so I wouldn’t have to pay for it, even though I am so fabulously wealthy that I could buy every square mile of this glorious testament to urban sprawl. Maybe I’d even ask the driver to pick up the Delicious-Life-sponsoring flavor-of-the-evening on the way. (By the way, if you’d like to become a Delicious-Life-sponsoring Flavor-of-the-Evening, email me. With a photo. And your 2005 tax return. Thanks. *wink*)

But my butler is gay and ran off to South Beach with the chauffeur last November.

Hmph. I am stuck in my castle without any means of luxury transport.

HK market, rowland heights, los angeles, ca - organic adzuki beans
how do you say organic in korean?

Thankfully, I never have to travel far because there is nothing east of the 405 that I can’t get here on the Westside, including…Korean food. I am not at a loss without Korean restaurants because I can cook most of the foods at home. Most of the Korean food I make at home doesn’t require wildly exotic ingredients that would require a trip to a Korean market, either. Short-grain rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, and even the specific cross-cut of short ribs for galbee, can all be found at my local non-Asian grocery store. If I get desperate for something slightly more unusual like, oh, I don’t know – sweet red beans – I can also go as far as Sawtelle and find things at the Japanese markets.

Except. *sigh* Except.

The one thing for which I do have to go the Korean market is bahn chan – these are all the small side dishes that you might be familiar with when you go to a Korean restaurant. Kimchee is one of them, but there are so many more that, to be quite honest, unless you are cooking for a bazillion Korean meals in your home every week, are much easier to buy at teh Korean market than to make.

HK market, rowland heights, los angeles, ca - food bar
whole foods has nothing on HK

However, I never have to make that solo flight from West LA to K-town just for bahn chan because invariably, a visit with my family inevitably results in a stockpile of bahnchan. Because most of them are pickled, brined, fermented, or otherwise preserved in something that could be used as emblaming fluid, bahn chan lasts a long time in the refrigerator. Either Mom will pack for me whatever she already has in her refrigerator in at least a half dozen Tupperware container and ziploc bags from which she expertly siphons out every last molecule of air, or my entire family makes a trip to the Korean grocery store. I have no idea why we do this, we just do – make a big family outing of a trip to the Korean grocery store. After lunch at Mi Song, we mobilized en masse and walked through the plaza, past a store dedicated to Korean blankets and bean-filled pillows, past the store that peddles elixirs and finely ground animal parts as “medicine,” past the fake St. John boutique, past the Islamic Chinese restaurant, to HK Market.

Though not as small as the Mom & Pop shops in outlying areas with sparser Asian populations, HK Market is smaller in comparison to the big, fancy, spacioous mega modern Asian supermarkets. It is tucked away in the corner of the plaza, cramped in size, even more so because products are virtually spilling over into the aisles, and it always crowded with fussy, cranky, busy people angrily squeezing past each other with carts that are inevitably squeaky, rusty, and badly in need of new wheels.

HK market, rowland heights, los angeles, ca - clam jerky
for your next camping trip

As a Korean person on the outside, I love the Korean market for obvious reasons – I can get all the Korean bahn chan and other prepared foods I need. But the real reason I like it is that it appeals to my “I’m not Korean” on the inside. Everything is so…weird. I am not unfamiliar with many of the rather unusual and new food products and ingredients to be found in Asian markets, but still, I always seem to find something that makes me think “Ohmigod, do Koreans really eat that?!?!” as if I had eaten nothing but peanut butter and Wonder white bread in rural Nebraska for 30 years. Yes, yes Koreans certainly do ea
t clam jerky.

HK market, rowland heights, los angeles, ca - ready rice
uncle ben’s, but instant-er
HK market, rowland heights, los angeles, ca - sahm gyae tahng
just add water

What happened to American food culture in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s – breeding “packaged” foods for convenience – is happenening to Korean foods. It’s not as easy to do, since Korean foods are inerently labor-intensive and time consuming, but still, the Korean food comapnies are giving it their best effort, and we’re not talking about instant ramen. Busy Korean moms don’t have to waste time rinsing rice five times, letting it soak for an hour, then steaming it. Now we have ready-rice that is already cooked, packaged, sealed, and ready to eat after two minutes in the microwave oven. It even comes conveniently in its own bowl that you throw away. Don’t have time to rush around the market looking for the ingredients for a pot of sahm gyae tahng (chicken soup)? Heck, you might not even know how to make it, but it’s no problem when the whole thing is sold together in a simple package. Empty the contents into a pot, add water, and like the great Ron Popeil used to say, “set it, and forget it!”

HK market, rowland heights, los angeles, ca - cactus honey
a little too granola for me
HK market, rowland heights, los angeles, ca - dae-choo (red dates)
i don’t date koreans

Usually, I don’t buy too many of these “other” things at the Korean market. I just go, snicker a little at things like the clam jerky, ooh and aah like a little girl over all the pretty pink tiny adorably sweets and candies, and then run off with two bags full of stinky, fermenting vegetables hugged to my chest.

I think it’s about time to go visit my parents again.

** a year ago today, i couldn’t wait around forever for the love of my culinary life, so i settled for green tea risotto **

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  • Dwight

    Did you move home?
    Sarah, you are my ume cactus, honey.
    Deke Babamoto

  • sarah

    dwight: ume – bitter, salty, tiny wrinkled plum.

    yup, that’s me. ;)

    and no, didn’t move back home. i think my parents would rather dry up their own savings paying for me to have my own place than to allow me to move back home!

  • peachiee

    Why do you keep calling yourself fat, Sarah? I have seen you and you’re anything but!! You west coast people have a seriously warped perception of svelteness!

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