Yes, I am one of those people who frequently checked the Chowhound posts to find out when H-Mart in Burlington, the enormous Korean grocery store, would open. I am also one of those people who has been disappointed by the slow demise of Super 88 in Allston into a skeletal store with limited options. While Super 88 has started to improve again, it was hard to ignore the positive reviews of people who had visited other H-Marts in the country.
I have to say, after one visit, I am definitely a fan. Like the Super 88, H-Mart has two separate parts: the grocery store and the food court. When you first walk in, you enter at Tous Les Jours, a Korean-French bakery.
In addition to rich tarts, you can get baked goods filled with sweet creams, red bean paste or coconut amongst other yummy choices. There is also a sushi stand, a noodle stand and one offering Indian food.
However, I am glad that I found my way to Young Chow Loo. Opened by Hyung Tae Park and his wife Eun Sun Lee, they just moved to the United States from Korea two months ago to open this little restaurant! In the back, I was told they have a "famous chef" who makes everything, from noodles to soups, by hand. I tried the homemade King dumplings that were prepared by the owners themselves.
I enjoyed watching them fold the dough around the pork and vegetable filling. And the dumplings were wonderful. They were similar to Chinese steam buns-soft, doughy and perfect when dipped in soy sauce. They alone were worth the trip. Next time I will try the Jin Pang or dumplings filled with sweet bean. I also ordered the Kkan pung gi.
It is listed as "chopped roast chicken" but it is actually pan fried chunks of chicken coated in a hot-sweet Korean sauce and served with a rainbow of vegetables and chili peppers. Eat it immediately while it is still crisp.
The store itself offers more than just Korean foods. There was a large assortment of Indian spices and curries, as well as Chinese, Japanese and Thai foods. In the back you can buy everything from fabulous chopsticks for toddlers (my son loves his!) to rice cookers.
However, the Korean selection is fantastic. There are tofus of every style, buckets of homemade pickled vegetables and kimchi, house made Korean bbq beef and pork, and multicolored prepared vegetables including many that I had never heard of.
You can try fresh, frozen or packaged desserts. There is an entire aisle of noodles and ramen! Or you can wander among the enormous produce section that included everything from "banana flower" to Asian pears to fresh dates.
The prices are reasonable and, unlike the Super 88, everything is labeled in English which is perfect if you are not fluent in Korean!
I made sure to buy my share of one particular discovery: Hi Chew mango. The blog world introduced me to this candy that is reminiscent of Starburst but tastes like the freshest of mangoes. It comes in other flavors, but this is my favorite...so much that I bought 10 packs!
Until my family and I can afford to head to Korea, we will be happy to explore H-Mart.
H-Mart, 3 Old Concord Road, Burlington MA, 781-272-0320