In case you haven’t heard, H Mart opens its first San Francisco location on Wednesday April 21st. This location is conveniently located in the immediate vicinity of 280 square meters and offers not only a grocery store, but also a combined market and food hall. Originally founded in Queens, New York in 1982, the market has had an immense response from both the AAPI and cooking communities and now has more than 90 locations across the country, including 12 in California – including a couple in San Jose.
This is a big deal for fans who may have shopped at H Mart elsewhere, as well as for San Francisco residents who have long been craving a Korean-American supermarket. Take Chef Chris Oh, who grew up in the city where Pac Heights meets Japantown and now owns restaurants in San Francisco and Los Angeles. When his mother went shopping, “There weren’t any special Korean supermarkets, so we had to go to Ranch 99, you know?” Oh says. “We definitely wanted to go to Oakland.”
The first H Mart Oh I ever met was as a young chef in Los Angeles. “It was like Disneyland for Koreans … Ranch 99 was a Chinese market that was sprinkled with a little Korean product here and there. Going to a really big Korean supermarket was amazing, ”he says. Oh recommends taking it all in, “the decor, the ambience,” the colorful packaging, and the giant crabs frolicking in the fish department’s tanks. And whether you’ve shopped elsewhere or just stepping into the glow of the fluorescent lights for the first time, H Mart has some hot shopping tips. According to a San Francisco-based chef with LA grocery shopping, here’s what you should know before you step into the pasta course.
Holy whole mackerel
H Mart is known for a variety of fresh seafood, from live tanks in the back to neatly cut sushi in the front. For his weekly shop, Oh likes to grab a mackerel, either whole or fillet, which he recommends for grilling or roasting, and serves it with rice and kimchi for a weekday dinner.
Marinated meat for grilling in the garden
Okay, a chef who owns a Korean grill restaurant really doesn’t have to buy meat, but Oh says the meat section at H Mart, which has lots of nice pieces of pork belly, but also pre-marinated meat, deserves respect for all of your grilling needs . He would tell a buddy to grab the Kalbi Short Ribs for a weekend barbecue.
A full snack attack
Just the snack aisle “is stupid, it’s crazy.” Oh is part of the corn-flavored almonds, but recommends the honey-butter chips. But really, he says, with so many flavors of chips, crackers, and candy, “Just go open. Try everything. ”
The course of the noodle madness
The pasta course is also an experience. Oh says if you want to try the jjapaguri noodle dish (also known as ram-don), which went viral after it appeared in the Oscar-winning movie Parasite, you have to grab both black bean jjapaghetti and neoguri noodles and cooking together. and then (ideally medium-rare) add steak.
The Banchan fridges have all the side dishes, including a wide variety of kimchi. “Don’t just get regular cabbage,” says Oh. “Most people think kimchi is just cabbage, but you can do anything kimchi,” like different types of radishes and other root vegetables.
Kimbap for auto-snacking
In the prepared food department, too, the chef always takes a box of kimbap or Korean sushi filled with bulgogi or tuna and pickled vegetables. “Grab one while you shop, and once you’re in the car put one in your mouth while you’re driving home,” he explains. He likes to rinse it off with Pocari Sweat, the legendary Japanese sports soda.
Never forget the frozen dumplings
Finally, the freezer aisle is fully stocked with everything from Korean corn dogs to wild ice cream flavors. Oh, I’d grab a bag of Bibigo pork dumplings for last minute lunch.
Of course, this H Mart location is a combined supermarket and food hall. So when you’re done with the groceries, it’s time for lunch. The San Francisco H Mart opens with six vendors, notably Daeho, the Japantown favorite known for its bubbly beef stew, as well as Left Wing for Korean fried chicken and Paris Baguette Bakery for cakes and pastries. For the grand opening day, there will be VIP tea time at 9:30 am and a ribbon cutting ceremony before the doors open to the public at 10 am. H Mart is located at 3995 Alemany Boulevard in the Oceanview Village Shopping Center. near the SF Golf Club (read: almost Daly City).
Do you need more shopping inspection? Take a full H-Mart tour with Eater LA editor Matthew Kang or grab some special noodle recs from Eater social media strategist James Park.