The Belmont Dairy building, former home to Zupans, future home to H Mart
While in the midst of a late night internet rabbit hole session, I came across the good news that H Mart will open up shop in SE Portland in 2018. This is relatively old news in internet time, but I’m still elated about it—it means a good Korean grocery will be a short bus ride away. They’re opening up in the space that formerly held Zupans, at 3301 SE Belmont Street.
My previous experience with H Mart was in NYC; you’ll find H Marts throughout the city and in eastern New Jersey. I used to visit the original store in Woodside, Queens, still called Han Ah Reum, which in Korean means “one arm full of groceries; it’s relatively small but packed with products. Actually, a lot of H Marts can feel cramped, but there are some large megastores in New Jersey. The SE Belmont space is over 20,000 square feet, which is about half the size of the average American supermarket, but for a standard H Mart it might feel spacious. I have not been to the other H Marts in the suburbs to compare.
A Korean friend of mine used to make fairly scandalous jokes about who owned the company, but I can’t repeat that in mixed company. I remember after having lunch together in Manhattan Korea Town one day, we strolled over to the H Mart nearby and he showed me where I could buy rice cakes, one of my favorite Korean food ingredients; I love them in kimchi stew and, of course, in spicy tteokbokki (bring on the cheese), one of the great accompaniments to alcohol (make mine beer).
The H Marts I’ve been to have all sorts of things for sale—housewares, skincare and cosmetics, as well as prepared, fresh, and frozen food. Here’s what I wrote regarding the foodstuffs you could buy at the 141-40 Northern Blvd H Mart in my book, Food Lovers’ Guide to Queens:
“When you enter, two things strike you—all the housewares for sale on the right and on the left the plethora of plastic containers containing a huge variety of side dishes, all packed up for you to grab and go. It’s really impressive. Here, you’ll find things like seasoned sesame leaves, pickled garlic in vinegar, seasoned squid, salted calamari, fried anchovy and bean, salted cod roe, stir-fried peanuts, sweet-and-sour tofu, fried croaker (a kind of fish), Korean omelet—you get the picture. Meats like marinated black pork belly, pork butt, and marinated chicken thigh are also stocked in this area. In the store is a nice little fish department. Here you can buy whole fish or fillets and steaks, fish roe, and nice packages of fish heads and other extra parts of the fish, perfect for making fish stock. The produce is fresh, there’s plenty of kimchi, gochujang, and red pepper. You’ll find all sorts of Korean staples, like oils, sauces, rice, noodles, tofu, tea, frozen dumplings, seaweed, pickled vegetables, miso, rice cakes, snacks, and more.”
An H Mart in Irvine, CA. Photo credit: Nandaro
Familiar things I look forward to finding at the new H Mart: rice cakes, gochujang (chili paste), doenjang (soybean paste), thin sliced beef for bulgogi, fresh fish, gimbap (Korean sushi), frozen dumplings/mandu, mung beans for sprouting, fish balls, fresh noodles, sushi, and sheet masks (I hope they sell K-Beauty products at this location). I also am excited to discover new-to-me products. And if they sell a selection of Japanese KitKats that would be amazing. I expect I’ll be at Dawdler Level 11 at this place; I love wandering around Asian grocery stores.
Here’s hoping they’ll also have a little eatery inside where you can order Korean dishes, or even mini Korean food court.
I look forward to shopping there next year, the sounds of K-Pop music in my ears and an array of Korean products at my fingertips.