When we used to travel frequently, one of my favorite things to do was to explore new international markets. Even if space was limited in the RV, I loved checking out the specialty ingredients and maybe sneaking one or two into our little home.
So when we planned to pass through Denver on a recent trip, I made getting into an international market my top priority. This trip we popped into an H-Mart.
What is H-Mart?
H-Mart is a popular Asian supermarket chain with locations all across the country. I was already familiar with the store from shopping at one in the Atlanta area. Here, you'll find all sorts of vegan-friendly foods, from fresh produce to mock meats to delicious snacks. In this blog post, I'll show you what I got on my recent trip to H-Mart including what you can make with some of these ingredients.
My H-Mart Vegan Grocery Haul
Unfortunately, we had a long drive after visiting H-Mart or I would have loaded up on more perishable items. With only a small cooler bag available, I stuck to just a couple of frozen items.
But if you do get into an H-Mart, definitely spend some time in the produce department. You'll find great prices on mushrooms and some items you won't see anywhere else.
Here's what I picked up this trip, including prices.
Whole Food Plant Based Products at H-Mart
Aside from the expansive produce department, there are a few whole food plant based products you can look for throughout the store. That wasn't my focus this trip, but I did get a couple of things.
Red & Brown Jasmine Rice Blend
Now, I hadn't planned on buying rice this trip because I can get a few varieties in Durango. But when I saw this Red & Brown Jasmine Rice Blend, I had to have it!
As you can see, I've already been into the bag and tried it. It's so good! Unlike brown jasmine rice I've had in the past, this one still retains that jasmine scent that is more pronounced when you get white jasmine rice.
I cooked this rice in the Instant Pot: 2 cups of rinsed rice and 3 cups of water at high pressure for 23 minutes. I let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes and then manually released the rest.
The five pound bag was $10.99.
Whole Black Garlic
Black garlic is fermented with heat and moisture. It contains no preservatives - just 100% garlic. The process turns the cloves very dark, almost black. And the taste is like very sweet, concentrated roasted garlic but the texture is soft, but firm, like a roasted beet.
To use, just peel off the outer papery husk. I like to chop these up and add them to any Asian dish for a little punch.
This 1.1 pound container of black garlic was $16.99. You can also find it at Costco sometimes.
Brown Rice Vermicelli
I see brown rice noodles here in Durango from time to time but not like these. These noodles are almost red in color. Since the only ingredient was brown rice, I went ahead and picked them up.
These brown rice noodles were $2.79 for a one pound bag.
Green Jackfruit in Brine
I'm an old enough vegan that I remember when you HAD to go to an international market to get jackfruit. Now, you can get it at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, co-ops, and sometimes mainstream grocery stores. But you'll still get the best price at an Asian market.
If you want to make a savory dish like a vegan pulled pork with jackfruit, make sure that the one you pick is packed in brine or water. An Asian market will also have ripe canned jackfruit which is sweet and not what you want. I prefer the jackfruit packed in water but I rarely find it.
The 20 ounce can of jackfruit in brine was $2.79.
Other Vegan Products at H-Mart
There are so many items that I didn't buy. You'll find big bags of vegetable dumplings, steamed buns, and various mock meats in the freezer section. You can get canned mock meats made of wheat gluten like duck. It's a great place to stock up on sauces.
Enough about what I didn't get - here's what I did buy.
You might be thinking about crunchy, tasteless discs when I say rice cakes. But these rice cakes are totally different. You use these in soups, stews or stir fries. The texture is like very thick rice noodles. They're soft and a little chewy. And the rice cakes tend to throw off starch in a soup or stew and thicken it up nicely.
You'll find rice cakes in the freezer or refrigerator section. And these were my main reason for going to H-Mart. You can buy them online but because they are sold frozen or refrigerated, they're very expensive to ship.
I picked up two kinds of rice cakes: sliced and tubular. Both are made of just rice, wheat starch, and salt. I have found gluten-free rice cakes in the past. The tubes were $4.99 for 2.2 pounds and the sliced rice cakes were $2.99 for 1.1 pound.
Gochujang & Ssamjang
Gochujang is a sweet, fermented Korean chili paste that is the base for many of the cuisine's sauces. We just love it. If you enjoy chipotle, you'll probably like gochujang.
Gochujang comes in different heat levels. I got mild because I have gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes) if I want to make a dish hotter. I can buy it locally, but not in this quantity.
Also, the gochujang I choose came bundled with a small package of ssamjang, a seasoned soybean paste that I've been wanting to try. It's a condiment that you might use with lettuce wraps.
The 2.2 pound container of gochujang with the 6 oz. package of ssamjang was $7.99.
Bean Thread Noodles
Bean thread noodles, made of potato starch and mung beans, are perfect for quick weeknight meals. All you have to do is add hot water and let them sit for a few minutes and they're ready. And you can just grab a bundle per serving. So convenient!
These noodles are very thin and have a similar texture to rice noodles. I like to use them often in warm weather months. They work well and room temperature or even cold.
This 10.5 oz. package of 8 bundles was $2.79.
Sweet Potato Noodles
I promise this is the last noodle. But I had a hard time limiting myself. There are so many different shapes, sizes, and types of delicious noodles!
Sweet potato noodles, made of sweet potato starch, are another favorite that I can't get locally. Like the bean thread noodles, these are great for room temperature and cold noodle dishes. Beware though - the noodles are very looooooong. You may want to snip them shorter with scissors after cooking.
Sweet potato noodles are chewy and slippery and lend themselves well to slurping.
This 12 oz. bag of sweet potato noodles was $2.99.
Non Food Items
International grocery stores usually carry more than food. You can find all kinds of specialty cooking tools, appliances, and table ware for different cuisines.
Since our current RV is stationary, I wanted some pretty ceramic bowls for ramen and other soups and stews. There were so many options but I eventually settled on a pair of these pretty oblong bowls. And I got a couple of matching spoons.
These bowls were $9.99 each, the spoons $1.29 each, and a pack of 5 pairs of pretty chopsticks, not pictured, $3.99.
Asian Grocery Haul Vegan Recipes
Okay, great. So I've got all this stuff - now how am I going to use it?
Korean Style Stew
This Korean Style Stew is the first thing I made with my vegan H-Mart haul ingredients. I haven't had rice cakes for ages and really missed them!
This recipe seems like a bunch of steps but it really isn't that bad. And it's all made in one pot. Once you've got the stock and sauce taken care of the actual soup part is really flexible. For instance, in this one I added some red bell pepper I needed to use up and used Butler Soy Curls as the protein. I had a pack of udon noodles already opened so I used those here.
Korean Noodle Bowl
Remember how I said some of those noodles are great cold or at room temperature? Well, any of them will work nicely in this Korean Noodle Bowl.
Again, you can just pop whatever veggies you have into this dish. The sauce is where it's at. The rest is easily customizable.
Spicy Korean Inspired Noodles
Now this Spicy Korean Inspired Noodles dish is a recipe I spotted on Instagram and saved to try. The sauce is very similar to the one above but with the addition of peanut butter. Oh, well that sounds delicious! I'll fiddle around with it to remove the oil and substitute the brown sugar with agave or maple syrup.
Other than these recipes, I don't have any specific plans for these ingredients. I'll be sure to share anything fun I make with them.
How to Find Vegan Products at an Asian Supermarket
If you've never been to an Asian grocery store, you might feel a little intimidated by it. The different sights and smells can be a little overwhelming. So I have a few tips for finding vegan items in an Asian market like H-Mart.
First, approach it as an adventure. Don't be rushed on your first visit and allow yourself plenty of time to browse. Once you're familiar with the store, you can breeze through on subsequent trips grabbing exactly what you need.
You're going to need to read labels. Thankfully, most products will have an ingredient label in English. Occasionally you will run across one that doesn't. Here's where the Google Translate app comes in handy.
In Google Translate app, set it to detect the language. Then set it to translate to English, if that's what you want. Choose the camera and aim your phone at the label. It will translate the text on the fly. We used this often when we were in Southeast Asia. It's not perfect but it works pretty well!
Look for green packaging. Sometimes, but not always, the vegan and vegetarian items are in green packages. This seems to especially be true in the frozen section when looking for mock meats.
So, if you're looking for some vegan Asian grocery store finds, H-Mart is a great place to start. They have an amazing selection of both familiar and unique vegan products. I can't wait to experiment more in the kitchen with all of the goodies I picked up! Have you been to an Asian supermarket before? What are your favorite vegan products there? Let me know in the comments below.
[…] so I'm familiar with it. If you're curious about what I got and what I'll do with it, check out my vegan H-Mart haul […]