Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Korean Pilgrimage : The Stores + Me!

When I was younger I would resist the trip. Why exactly, I couldn't tell you.
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The experience is unique and I realize now as a grown woman that I am lucky.
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My luck, as I understand now, is because not everyone has had the privilege to experience a pilgrimage to the Korean Store.

As children, my sister and I would sit in the back of the car for what seemed like eternity, but really only an hour and a half. The trip was as important as a vacation...each month my family of four would load up in our Toyota Previa and hit to road for some shopping.
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This shopping was not for clothes, not for general house items, but rather for my mom's opportunity to go to Korea...or at least as close as she can get from VT.
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I took for granted soooo much when I was younger, in fact I feel rather guilty now about the resistance and annoyance I put upon my parents. Today is different...and I can't get enough!
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I am proud of who I was, who I am and what I have been able to experience. For the first time in my life I now understand how lucky I am...how incredibly fortunate I am to be half Korean!
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The food I grew up with was taken for granted...I could eat an All-American meal of steak and salad one night and then the next have Bulgogi without my mother batting an eye lash.
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This is just how I grew up.
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I can't thank my mom or dad enough for imposing and integrating our Korean heritage on us as kids...how did they know that some day I would realize, that one day I would be able to see, the bigger picture?!?!
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These days, with food at the forefront of my passion in life, I have an urge to cook. Not just dinner, but as a career. I want to own a restaurant, or a food processing company, or even a seasonal Korean BBQ stand. While I would take any of the above and can't pinpoint what exact opportunity I want....all I do know is that I have this urging need for one or the other to truly be fulfilled!
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For me it is about sharing with my somewhat sheltered community the true notion of a family dinner...I want to capture the love and care that goes into the preparation of every element...I want more than anything to quit the BD dungeon I am stuck in now and gamble it all away for one chance...just one opportunity to be me!
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As a young woman at 27, I know this is the time. I have the energy, the passion and soon enough the talent to make this happen...what holds me back? The insecurity of not knowing and the $$ I'd have to ask my hard working husband to sacrifice.

As I ponder this each day, my thoughts go back and forth, back and forth...I am sure we'll return to this topic in no time. However right now I'd like to take you shopping...at the Korean Store!
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As soon as we walk in we are greeted with Anya ha-sayo (hello in Korean)! My mother then begins her chatter with Agashi (Mister of sorts), so on and so forth. Never having taken to learning the language (actually to be honest I resisted as a bratty child and kick myself now for it)...the rest is completely foreign to me, literally! So I roam the isles, checking out the familiar and never seen before items in front of me. I am astonished as to how many items I do recognize, for can say with certainty that I have experienced them.

The canned mackerel above is near and dear to my heart. As a baby I am told I was fed this with rice...as a child, teen and occasionally now I indulge in the spicy version. So salty, so fishy (in a good way)...it's me!
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It's me and it's Korean...it's a common go-to household fix with cheap ingredients and much craft and care. Still to this day when I sit to share a pot of hot mackerel with my mother, she'll still pick the flesh of the small bones and drop it into my rice bowl. Her maternal nature/instinct is inspiring and who I hope to be one day!

The next isle is filled with all sorts. Mostly calling my attention are the thai items, which I have learned to use from my super-fab half thai sister-in-law! Coconut cream, some red and green thai curry...check!

When we first walk in is the isle of soy sauces, vinegars, marinades, etc. Here is the prized double concentrate vinegar. I have been out of the stuff for a month or so now. As a chemist by schooling, I understand the general idea...but there is just something about this stuff! No matter what you purchase from a traditional grocery store...it never is the same (and I've got a cupboard of vinegars to prove it!).


Now this is the curry I grew up with! A meaty stew type brown curry that tastes of my childhood. I have seen this occasionally in the Asian isle of my grocery store...but at the prices here, I can't resist and have to add some of the hot stuff to my cart.

Ah, yes one of the key staples to Korean goodness...hot pepper powder! There are so many different brands, textures, etc the store has an entire isle dedicated to this fiery being.

The meats here are different. I don't quite understand where they come from or how they end up at this little Korean store in MA...but their authentic. You have to purchase them frozen (and of course I brought a cooler). Today, we are luck cause it's only $3.99/lb!


Rice for Koreans is more important than anything I can pinpoint in a traditional American repertoire! My mother without her rice becomes sick...literally ill. This trip she kindly insists upon purchasing a large bag for the hubs and me.


We're not getting the usual stuff either...nope, this time she's treating us to the new harvest! Based on her explanation, rice is usually harvested, mixed and stored. The type we are getting this trip is the freshest! It was harvested in Korea just this fall!

Before leaving the store my dad reminds me of one of the odder things I've heard of Koreans (and thus my mother) loving to eat.

That's right Chrysalis! I've never dared to try these myself, but I am told they are to Koreans what peanuts and bar mix are to us. You can walk into a karaoke bar to find bowls of these creatures waiting for you...this one will take a little time as they remain in the bizarre category to me!

At this point we are now into Korean Store #2. Here are the fresh produce. The napa is amazing, the diakon fabulous, the long green peppers so unique, etc...never do you find this stuff in your typical grocery store!

The isles here are just as packed with Korean goodness!

Other than the typical shitake, I have never attempted the dried mushrooms. Next trip I do think this is in the cards though :O)
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I hope you have enjoyed your sneak peak at a truly unique experience. I am sure I'll be bringing you all back to these roots many a times as this blog progresses.
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Love you Mom, Dad & Lil' Sis!!

3 comments:

  1. I'm willing to become an investor for your cart on Church St. or your own restaurant. I just need a little taste of the goodness first. I think I just invited myself over to your house for dinner. Yea, I think that's what I just did. :)

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  2. he shall feed his flockFebruary 1, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    thanx for the trip, and keep the dream alive for sure...

    your 'korean shopping resistence' story reminds me of me and my cousins. we were all born to musical parents who'd like to whip out serious music around the piano at family get togethers. at grammma's each christmas, scores of Handel's Messiah would appear.... and all us kids would scatter to the outer reaches of the 200yr old 3-story farmhouse. but one by one, each of us at our own time started joining in. now it is my very favorite part of christmas (every other year due to people's travel plans). we manage to get thru most of Act 1 - skipping a few of the decadent arias...but most of us have our assigned solo parts. ironically (per this blog) mine is the previously mentioned feeding one....

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  3. Thanks for the support all! One day...we keep our fingers crossed!!

    Hussy, we will have to treat you to a real Korean Feast for sure!

    he shall feed his flock...thanks for sharing the lovely story of past and present. It is so amazing the insight our families had while we were young...means so much now! Keep on the tradition!!!

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