Category Archives: H Mart

Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Blog and Spam

Just a portion of the H Mart canned luncheon meat selection

Just a portion of the H Mart canned luncheon meat selection

The original plan was to taste-test Spam and various Spam “luncheon meat” knockoffs. Didn’t happen, couldn’t do it.  Even I have my limits (really!).  I’m not excited to eat any Spam, much less sample a bunch of secondary brands.  But a bunch of secondary brands exist, and I’m about to marvel at them, even if I don’t taste them.

First, a bit of context.  Spam can mean many things these days, but here we are talking about the food, or “food” — canned precooked meat product, if you prefer.  I used to think of Spam as a WWII cheap-GI-food product, and I guess it was, but it was invented pre-war in 1937 and really popularized afterward, especially in the South Pacific during U.S. occupation of various far-flung lands and islands. More at the useful Wikipedia entry for Spam, which in this case I think is probably reliable enough.

Spam tastes okay, I guess, if you like that kind of thing, and it should: a 3.5 ounce serving contains nearly half of the average human’s daily allotment of saturated fat, and nearly two-thirds of sodium.  The pasty-meat-byproduct texture is what stops me in my tracks, and also the aspic in which it is packed — reminds me of that time in 6th grade playing D&D when we were attacked by a gelatinous cube.  Also I have to force myself not to think of the provenance of the various ingredients, especially the (allegedly) chopped pork shoulder meat. But if the aspic is thoroughly wiped away and a slice of Spam is pan-fried, with a nice crisp crust forming on the outside, then maybe I could be convinced to eat it. Or maybe if someone competent made me some musubi.  Especially if they flew me to Hawaii first.  I will consume Spam in exchange for a Hawaii trip! Everybody has to draw a line in the sand sometime, and my Spam line is drawn in the hot white sands of the Hawaiian Islands.

Anyway, it continues to be popular, particularly in Asia, and a bunch of knockoffs are available, mostly choosing to call the product “luncheon meat” instead of “spiced ham” — you can still have your luncheon meat for breakfast or dinner, if you want.  Thanks to H Mart, many knockoffs are available right here in Wheaton, plus multiple flavors of actual Spam: Oven Roasted Turkey, Real Hormel Bacon, Black Pepper, Lite, 25% Less Sodium…so many choices of Spam.  Who knew?

But if one wanted to branch out, one could also try the generic luncheon meat offerings from such charming brands as Ligo, Fortune, Celebrity, Roxy, or Oriental Mascot. H Mart carries them all — seeing all the brands together on the shelf is what sparked this post.  I am having trouble understanding how the demand for off-brand canned precooked meat product could be so high that all these brands exist together.  It is possible these same cans have been sitting on the H Mart shelf for years, unpurchased, but I doubt it.  I think someone is buying them, and possibly eating them too. What else could you do with Spam?  Could you build a house out of it?  It may have good insulating properties, and probably a longer shelf life than vinyl siding.  I’m just speculating here.

For more on Spam, here is a recent post from Serious Eats.  And here is an older “post”…



It Came From H Mart: Tako Chips

Junichi the Hexapus says mmmm, Tako Chips

Jiro the Cannibal Hexapus?

There are many things to like about Octopus Flavored Tako Chips, made by our friends at Nongshim (“Taste NONGSHIM, Feel the Difference”) and available at H Mart.  Most of those things involve the adorable anthropomorphic octopus on the bag:

  • He is pink and cute;
  • He has an open-ended cylindrical nose like Q*Bert;
  • He has only six visible legs, making him a hexapus? He would not be the first;
  • He is wearing a mask and snorkel, which is supercute but raises a few questions, like (a) why does a hexapus need a snorkel, and (b) why does anyone need a snorkel underwater,* and (c) what does the hexapus think of octopus-shaped,** octopus-flavored snack foods?  Is he offended? Honored? Nonplussed? Is he a cannibal? Can’t tell from the bag, the snorkel and mask hide his expression and true intentions.

* bubbles are emerging from the snorkel, around the corner of the bag not pictured here, so we know we are down in the depths, rolling in the deep, with our friendly (?) pink hexapus

** the chips look more like Clyde, the orange ghost from Pac-Man, if he were wearing a girdle, slouching, and his mom accidentally bleached his sheet

not your mother's goldfish crackers

not your mother’s goldfish crackers

Tako chips do not appear to be made from actual octopus (or from tacos)*; they are wheat-based.  “Octopus flavor” is a listed ingredient, just behind whey powder and before paprika; I don’t know you get octopus flavor without extruding some octopus, but we get no details.  Yellow corvina, a fish, is also an ingredient.  I don’t think corvina tastes like octopus though.  So many questions.

* “tako” is the Japanese word for octopus and has nothing to do with the Mexican taco, although I bet somewhere around here someone is making delicious grilled octopus tacos, or should I say tako tacos.  Just to add to the confusion, there is an also-unrelated Peruvian dish called tacu tacu involving steak, rice, beans, plantain, and a fried egg, some fine examples of which can be obtained at multiple Wheaton Peruvian restaurants but none of which to my knowledge involve either tako or tacos.

What about the chips themselves?  It is my scientific duty to taste this stuff. There is a hint of octopus, or at least the sea (or the H Mart fish counter), in the nose, although if I weren’t already thinking about it I probably wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint it.  Mostly they just taste like bland, slightly salty wheat puffs. After an initial pleasing crunch they dissolve into nothing, like Pac-Man when he runs into Clyde. The tako chips might be a tolerable bar snack, paired with a crisp lager or pale ale.  I won’t be craving them.  But if I find out that Nongshim is giving away free plush pink snorkeling hexapi if you send them a dozen proofs-of-purchase, in that case, I would probably buy more bags.

Chicken Paws

Chicken Feet
Fried + Sauced = Nom Nom?   (image: avlxyz/flickr)

Last weekend’s Washington Post article on the developing chicken “paw” trade war between the U.S. and China caught my attention. I have never eaten chicken feet but am getting intrigued; I know many Chinese restaurants sell them (for sure Hollywood East and probably others in Wheaton too), and I believe H Mart* and other local Asian food purveyors carry them in case one wants to cook ’em up at home.  Which apparently is fairly easy to do. It is nice to know that U.S. chicken feet are most coveted in China due to their relative meatiness. I eagerly await the stateside marketing campaign in 2012… More on the freakonomics of chicken feet here.

* Odd and amusing: if you search the H Mart website for “feet” you get a list of mostly hair curlers.  A search for “chicken” gets a list of mostly not-chicken-related items, led by Aveeno Baby Soothing Bath Treatment.

Greater Boston Groceries

A recent long weekend in the Boston area revealed that the grass is sometimes indeed greener on the other side of the fens.* Specifically, the fruit and vegetable paradise known as Russo’s transcends anything I know of in greater DC.

* sorry.

Russo’s isn’t really all that big, but it seems huge, thanks in part to the rows of lovely fresh flowers, pumpkins (October!), and rows of apples and squash and potatoes in the outdoor courtyard.  Also, in part, due to the interior arrangement, where the dry goods are on shelves underneath the bins of produce, so you can see clear across the entire store.  And then there’s the quality: uniformly high.  Prices are generally low, though that can vary: five limes for a dollar is good (and especially at Russo’s high quality, I wonder who is their lime source?), these days, but green onions were crazy expensive, I think over a dollar a bunch.  Just for example. Overall, great selection and value.  They also have a bakery and limited deli, but no butcher or fishmonger.

After Russo’s, we visited the H Mart in Burlington, Mass., a bit north of Boston; I don’t think it is the H Mart mothership but it was huge, twice the size of the Wheaton H Mart, with similar stuff but even more of it.  And some stuff was different; I was particularly envious of all the sashimi-grade seafood on offer, like a dozen different kinds from salmon to tuna to scallops, etc.,  none of which is carried here.  Limes 4/$1 just like here, but marginally better quality — not like Russo’s, though.

The H Mart up there also has a glorious food court, with little shops selling dishes from Vietnam, Korea, Japan (one for sushi, one for ramen and other items), a couple of others; apparently the Indian counter closed recently.  We went for Korean (when in a Korean-owned store, eat as the Koreans eat?) at Woo Jeon (I had thought it was all H Mart-owned but maybe the storefronts are outside franchises like in a mall food court? Anyway, they all have names) and it was fantastic; I scorched my palate on a steaming bowl of spicy shrimp-and-tofu stew; my lunching companion enjoyed some great-looking bibimbap.  Big portions, served in nice stone bowls, and a decent value at around $10 per entree.  Not everyone thinks a big bowl of soup/stew/stuff is a good value at $10 or so, judging from some folks’ reaction to all the attention Ren’s has been getting for their $12 bowls of (awesome) ramen.  But I thought it was worth the price.

I wonder if the once and future Wheaton Safeway will carry sashimi-grade tuna? HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Springtime for H Mart

I guess it’s summer now but whatever, H Mart seems all springy, happy, bunnies and leprechauns and fresh air.  Perhaps it is because the limes are back to consistently high quality, and most recently were six for $1?  I wonder who is in charge of lime procurement and price-setting?  I assume the Lime Manager has to sample the merchandise, for quality control.  How much is the pay? I might like that job.

The Lime Index

The Wheaton H-Mart has a big banner up advertising their sponsorship of the “Kimchi Chronicles,” apparently a Korean food show coming to national PBS television in July, featuring (incongruously) Jean-Georges Vongerichten — turns out his wife is half Korean and she will host, he will sidekick.  Looks like celebrities like Hugh Jackman and Heather Graham will also narrate or make cameos.  Star-studded!  Not to mention someone billed as “The Julia Child of [a town in Korea I didn’t quite catch].” The photography looks brilliant based on the preview.

That’s high-brow. This is low-brow:

pepero nude

Live Nude Pepero!!!

Pepero Nude!  Lotte makes a whole lotte good stuff.  They also have Pepero Almond, but not Pepero Fully-clothed. The subtitle for Pepero Nude is “Chocolate filled bicuit sticks” which seems more truth-in-advertising but less fun. Is it fair to say H Mart is a clothing-optional shopping environment?  Maybe only if you are filled with chocolate?

It Came from H Mart: Potato Flavored Snack

When potato chips are just too much potato, when you want that potato flavor without so much potato content…our Korean friends at Nong Shim rescue us with their Potato Flavored Snack, “fresh” from the snack food aisle at H Mart.

what could possibly go wrong?

Potato Flavored Snack

So many things I love about this product. No trans fat. Potato is the second ingredient, after wheat flour and just before wheat starch.  Given that, the disclaimer “Contains wheat, milk and soy” is unsurprising (milk due to whey powder and soy due to “non-fat soybean” I guess).  I also like the second disclaimer, “manufactured in a facility that processes egg and shrimp.” Also, ingredients are listed in Korean, English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese — but disclaimers are in English only.  Sucks to be egg-intolerant in Brazil or Western Europe!

Especially love the slightly anthropomorphic potato flavored snack guys on the package. Cuteness that must be eaten, and soon, since the expiry date is March 14, 2011 — seems an awfully short shelf life for this kind of product.  And they don’t make it easy: package is impossible to open without using a sharp object; there is a helpful “open here” arrow at the top right but you still need scissors or a knife to open there.

Thank goodness Mrs. Me allows me to have sharp objects. Once you get past the packaging, the Potato Flavored Snacks are like tiny, airy, corrugated french fries and after an intitial crunch practically melt on the tongue.  Not much flavor, potato or otherwise, though I can taste a little onion or garlic.  Maybe they should try transposing the potato and wheat flour percentages. Or maybe I should try normal potato chips. But what fun would that be?

Snowblind and Housebound and Anchovies

Blizzard continues. We begin to worry about cabin fever setting in. Who is more likely to go all Jack Nicholson, me or Mrs. Me?  Or will it be more like Space Madness?

Trying to focus. Some Wheaton eatin’ in today’s mainstream media:

  • Wheaton Gazette notes DeJaBel’s passing. I really like owner Eddie Velazquez’s attitude and I hope he succeeds in future beverage endeavors. That block in Wheaton has no currently-occupied office space, little parking, no foot traffic, and (I’m guessing) unreasonably high rent.  Tough spot for coffee.  Maybe someday…
  • Shout-out to New Kam Fong (2400 University) and their homemade rice noodles in today’s Post food section noodle article.

The Post also has a brief salute to the anchovy, one of my favorite underrated ingredients. I think a lot of people who react with a mixture of amusement and disgust at the thought of eating an anchovy have not tasted anchovies at their best. I don’t eat them by the fistful — though maybe that’s worth trying too — but I like to add them as an ingredient in certain dishes, especially pasta sauce, where they add saltiness and that difficult-to-define umami “fifth taste.” Even Mrs. Me has been won over to an extent. I like them on pizza sometimes, but I realize I will always be in the minority there. H Mart sells cartons of dried anchovies, pickled anchovies, salted/sauteed anchovies, and I haven’t tried any of those yet but plan to.

I can barely see out the iced-over window, but it appears to still be snowing sideways. Time to go kick the Netflix.