Thursday, March 26, 2009

10 Must Have Korean Foods

Its fun to look at exotic foods at the Korean market, but WHAT do you do with them? I have a few main staple items I go to Chicago Foods for. In addition to the cheap cans of coconut milk I mentioned in my last post, here's my list of top 10 items you'll often find in my shopping basket.

  1. Rice Vinegar: is my absolute favorite vinegar for its sweet tart flavor. I use it all the time in my salad dressings, as an added accent in my salsa and guacamole, or as a substitute for lemon/lime juice. I use so much of this stuff, I usually buy it in gallon bottles. When I can't find it in a gallon I have to content myself with two large bottles (above).

  2. Miso

    Miso is a salty-sweet paste made of fermented soy beans which can be used similar to a vegetarian bullion due to its naturally intense flavors. Its definitely a fridge staple because it lasts forever, makes a quick soup broth or marinade and is a great thing to have in a pinch if you need to quickly give some added body to any dish.

  3. Frozen Dumplings:

    Although I like to make things from scratch, I also like dumplings ALL THE TIME! Found in the frozen food section are bags and bags of frozen gyoza, fluffy buns and all kinds of deliciousness. I like to buy a few bags to keep on hand to be steamed and served with rice for a quick dinner.

  4. Nori:

    Sheets of dried nori can be found in a few sizes, but I like the small rectangles (~3" x 4") which is sold wrapped with multiple single serving packets to keep the seaweed from getting stale. Its a tasty addition to miso soup, or great to wrap around rice for a finger food. If you're grossed out by seaweed, you don't know what you're missing; nori is nutritious and delicious.

  5. Lemongrass:

    I like to think of Lemongrass as the Asian bay leaf as you don't actually eat the stalks but boil it in your broth for flavoring. I keep some stalks in my freezer at all times to throw into my stock or broth for my favorite Asian soups.

  6. Fresh Fish

    The Chicago Foods fish counter is stacked full of fresh fish; heads still on and cheap! Buckets of clams. Shrimp for $2.99. Come on! This stuff may smell bad, but hopefully you don't have that far to get home (although if you're taking the blue line from the Belmont stop, the people on the train won't like you so much).

  7. Mushrooms:

    Mushrooms can be expensive. Chicago Foods is a great place to find awesome prices on shitake and other exotic Asian mushrooms like oyster and beech difficult to find elsewhere. Because of their limited shelf life, its worth checking out their affordable selection of dried mushrooms to keep in the pantry as a quick substitution.

  8. Soju:

    Soju is like a Korean sake; its stronger then a wine but less potent and slightly sweeter then its Russian cousin. Its delicious, full of alcohol and ridiculously cheap. Good to drink; good to cook with.

  9. Sprouts:

    Chicago Foods is the only store I know of which has a year round sprouts station. $0.69 a lb. Do you know how many sprouts you get for in a lb? What I can't figure out, is who needs 10 lbs?

    Radish sprouts adds a hot peppery kick to any salad or stir fry.

  10. Fish Sauce:

    Ever tried to recreate an Asian dish and you're sure you've got all the ingredients in place but it still doesn't taste right. You're missing the fish sauce. This is my favorite brand and a bottle with last you for years.


regis said...

The title here is kind of misleading, since several of these aren't Korean foods at all, they're Japanese, Chinese, or Vietnamese foods that are commonly available in any Asian market, not just Korean markets.

Aaron said...

Good stuff. Couple notes:

Re: Soju--try it in a vodka martini in place of vermouth--smooths it out while keeping the taste clean.

Also, it's not Korean really, but frozen edamame is really cheap at Chicago Food and makes a great snack.

And a big +1 on the sprouts--I have come to love bean sprouts in everything, soups, salads, etc. And they have one of the highest fillingness-to-calorie ratio (there's a real word for that I'm sure) of any food, so they're good for folks who are trying to eat better.

Mike Doyle said...

You missed my two faves. This is where I get my kimchi and pork belly to make kimchi chigae (yummy yummy kimchi/pork belly stew!)

Andrea said...

Yeah the kimchi and kimchi bar are both realy awesome (and actually Korean). I had a few pics set aside to use, but I had to edit it out, because I don't keep in the house enough to be a staple.

Sorry if the title was misleading. I know few of the foods are actually Korean but "Top Ten Asian Foods I Get At The Korean Market" was too long.

Soju martini! Yes. What about a seaweed stuffed olive? No, what about dried persimon.

Vincetastic said...

Hey Andrea, This is a really great top ten list. I would add my favorite Korean Food which is Kimchee. The hotter the better in my opinion. You can post this to our site and then link back to your site. We are looking for top ten lists and our users can track back to your site. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

Elizabeth said...

This post was so helpful! Asian food is something I love, but am timid about cooking at home. The note about the fish sauce was great - I have been putting off buying it forever, but not anymore! And I've always wanted to know what lemongrass looks like! I'm also super jazzed to finally enjoy all that rice vinegar has to offer! Great inspiration...thanks!

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