Friday, July 18, 2008

Cool Finds at First Korean Market

I sometimes find I miss the old Woo Chee Chong market near Jasmine in Kearny Mesa. I was so disheartened years ago when the owners gave it up and a Korean market moved in that I rarely went inside. But recently I was out having lunch with a friend next door at Dumpling Inn and we decided to poke around inside. I've since been back a few times and have found a few marvelous items I think are worth the trip.

Garlic Scapes: These are now out of season, but I bought a bunch when I saw them. They are the essence of garlic and perfect for pestos and dips and anything else you need garlic flavor for. However, my experience was that when I cooked them, for instance, in a stir fry, they lost most of their powerful punch. Look forward to spring when they return.


Extra soft tofu in a squeeze tube: Yes, it sounds strange but this is great for smoothies. Kind of a yogurt substitute.


Chum-Churum: My friend Kim tells me this is a hugely popular drink. It's distilled potato with corn syrup. I found it kind of strange but... There's also Saan Soju, which I bought. This is a little different; it's distilled sweet potato with green tea extract. Straight from Seoul, South Korea with love. Too potent for me at 21 percent alcohol, but I'm sure someone out there will love it!


Choco Boy mushroom cookies: Oh, this is so much more my style than potato spirits. These are darling little mushroom cookies. No worries; they aren't actually made of mushrooms, it's only the shape. They are petite English-biscuit style cookies with chocolate on the "cap." They are favorites of little kids and adults would be amused to see them included as part of dessert (unless they're in your pantry and you lay waste to them before they see company).


Ice Bars: There are some interesting flavors here, including red bean, melon and honey. I loved the red bean and the melon. The flavors are unusual but really refreshing and delicious. The red bean bar has little tiny pieces of bean in a slightly sweet milky body. The melon tastes just like you'd imagine melon as ice cream would. It's creamy and not overly sweet. Just something fun to have on hand for a hot day.


Samanco Red Bean Ice Sandwich: I saved the best for last. I love this! It looked so bizarre in the package that I had to try it. I unwrapped it and here was this cute little ice fish sandwich. The ice cream inside is vanilla but topped with a thin layer of red bean paste that looks more like raspberry jam. It's enclosed in a crunchy cookie, similar in texture to a cake cone, in the shape of a fish, scales, fins, big lips and all. It would be a hoot to serve even if it didn't taste good, but I've gone back to buy more.


First Korean Market is certainly not limited to these wonderfully odd products. They have a full meat department, a petite but interesting produce department, lots of kimchi, fish (fresh and frozen) and all the typical Asian products you'd expect to find. Parking can be kind of challenging mid-day when everyone's trying to find a place for dim sum at Jasmine or lunch at Dumpling Inn, but they do have specially marked parking stalls so take advantage of them.

First Korean Market is located at 6425 Convoy St. in Kearny Mesa.



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