My Hmart Outing: Jellyfish, Jackfruit, and Wax Gourd Drink

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Every now and then, I get a hankering to visit my local Hmart. Have you ever been? If you don’t have an Hmart in your area, chances are you do have an Asian market somewhere close by.

Here’s what I love looking for at Hmart:

  • Hard-to-find ingredients. Ever have a recipe that calls for an ingredient you don’t recall seeing at your local grocery store? There’s a chance it’s sitting on a shelf at the Asian market! In the post I’m about to share with you today, I found a couple such ingredients.
  • Deals. In my experience, there are definitely some categories of items that you can save money on by purchasing at Hmart or an Asian foods market.
  • New-to-me foods. Part of the joy of shopping at a store like Hmart is to try all kinds of foods that other grocery stores don’t carry.

Now for some of my shopping finds today!

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Local large Fuji Apples – $0.48/lb. This is a killer deal! Granted, you can tell from the photo that you will have to do a bit of sorting, but at this price I was willing to do that.

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Lemon Grass – $1.29/ea. Here’s an example of an ingredient that sometimes pops up in Asian recipes and curries that you might have trouble locating elsewhere. (Incidentally, I’m kind of curious what that vegetable is it’s next to – my photo just cut it off at “sinkwa.” Anyone know what it is?)

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Tofu – $0.98/ea. If you like tofu, Hmart is a good place to pick it up!

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Fried Tofu – $1.89/ea. These are sooo good! Just heat them up and toss them with a little peanut sauce or throw in your stir fry.

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Chestnuts – $0.99/lb. This seems like a good price to me, but I’ve only ever bought chestnuts twice – once to try to roast them (major fail!) and once for a chestnut stuffing.

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One of my favorite sections of the whole entire store is the canned fruit section. They have all kinds of fruits and foods canned that you’ve probably never heard of! I nearly purchased this coconut gel in syrup. I think I’ll get it next time.

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Coconut Milk – $1.29. I’ve seen it for as low as $0.99 per can at Hmart before. $1.29 isn’t bad; but I’d definitely stock up if it drops to $0.99 again.

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Canned Rambutan in syrup. I’ve had this before and it’s good, but there’s nothing like eating fresh rambutan out of hand. Yum!

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Tapioca Pearl in syrup – $2.29.¬†Although I’m not sure this is the exact ingredient I’d use, I wondered about making my own bubble tea when I happened upon this.

And then I saw this kit…

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While I doubt I’d buy this bubble tea kit, I’m currently doing a little research on how I might make my own. Have you ever done this? Do you like bubble tea? Want to see a post?

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This seemed like a decent deal to me – a bag of cinnamon sticks or star anise for $1.29.

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If you like cooking with rice noodles, Hmart has a huge selection and for cheap, cheap, cheap!
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I noticed Hmart had a bag of Tapioca flour for $0.79 and rice flour for $0.99. This might be worth considering if you are Gluten Free!

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I like buying sesame oil at Hmart. They were selling several brands for under $3 today, some as low as $2.29!
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You can usually find more fun produce in the frozen food section! I found a bag of frozen mangosteen for $6.99 and palm nuts for $3.49. Any idea what to do with palm nuts?
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If you’re a seafood lover, you really do need to keep Hmart on your radar!

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I thought this was pretty – it’s all the fixings you need to make cod soup. It was $9.99, so probably not the cheapest route, but definitely good-for-you “fast food” and less expensive than going out.

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The seafood department is actually one of the largest sections in the store. They have… all kinds of fish.

Observe:

fish

I found octopus, fresh water eel, squid, and jellyfish. Maybe this is kind of ignorant on my part, but I didn’t think you could eat jellyfish. (See, shopping at Hmart is a bit of an education, no?) If you are an adventurous seafood eater and/or like to make your own sushi? Check out Hmart.

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Remember at the start of the post I said Hmart can be a great source of hard-to-find ingredients? Here’s an example. I’ve encountered recipes in the past that called for rose water and had not a clue where to find it. Now I know!

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Another aisle not to miss at Hmart is the refrigerated beverage aisle. You’ll find all kinds of flavored sodas, milks, and teas… some with chewy things floating in them like coconut or tapioca or chia. I always have to pick up a new flavor to try. Today I was brave and chose Wax Gourd. Like jellyfish, gourds are one of those things I assumed one should not eat. I guess I was wrong!

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This is my kids’ favorite part of the store: the candy and cookie aisle! My daughter loves the Hello Panda cookies in the pink boxes at the bottom of the picture, and my son loves Pocky. They have all kinds of flavors and a really terrific selection.

Ready to see what I got during my trip?
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These are those pads you put on the bottom of your feet to remove the toxins. At least, I *think* that’s what they are – I don’t read Japanese. I’ve always wanted to try them and see if they work.

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The kind employee at the sample table today pretty much convinced me to buy this banana flavored milk drink. She was handing out samples along with a red bean filled pastry (which was also delicious). At $4.98 for 6, these were definitely a splurge…. but man oh man, they are delicious!

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I bought this out of plain curiosity. It says it’s a honey citron tea, but it looks like a thick thick jelly inside. I think I will make myself a cup as soon as I’m done with this post.

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This would be a jackfruit. I’ve never tried it fresh before (I’ve had canned jackfruit), and was super interested. If you’ve been following me awhile you know I have a penchant for trying unusual produce (I’ve tried durian, Indian bitter melon, and banana blossom among others).
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I have to say: I am digging jackfruit! It’s got a great tropical taste. The texture isn’t what I expected though – it’s not juicy or slimy like a mango – more like a quince perhaps. Later today I’ll need to chop it all up and figure out what to do with it before it goes bad. (If you see a sudden uptick in jackfruit recipes here at the blog, you’ll know why.)DSCN4641 (638x800)

I bet you’re wondering how the Wax Gourd drink tasted. Well, I’ll tell you. It was not what I expected. At all. I was thinking it would be some sort of pungent, bitter flavor, but it actually tasted like caramel. It made me wonder if that was the natural flavor, or if they just masked the natural flavor with caramel. I drank about half of it, and will let my husband enjoy the other half later tonight.

If you liked this post, I want to encourage you to head back to two previous series of posts – the first was the Adventures in Produce series I wrote three years ago now. Every day for a month, I tried a new-to-me fruit or vegetable. Some of these were tame, while others were quite exotic. If you find yourself buying the same ol’ produce over and over, check it out. Second, I want you to check out Adventures in International Food Markets. This series was put together by a guest writer and loyal reader who scoured all kinds of ethic food marts for fun ingredients and recipe ideas. She visits Asian markets as well as European, Latin American, and African markets. Do check it out for some culinary inspiration!

What do you like to buy at the Asian food market?

4 thoughts on “My Hmart Outing: Jellyfish, Jackfruit, and Wax Gourd Drink”

  1. The vegetable next to the lemon grass is what I grew up calling patola. It’s a type of gourd, great in stir frys. They actually had this as one of the ingredients on chopped once.

  2. The vegetable in question next to the lemongrass, Filipinos call it kabatiti and there are many different names for them in different languages. I’ve seen it cooked in soup dishes across different cuisines; it tastes similar to cooked zucchini but doesn’t get mushy as fast and you would peel off the outer layer before cooking it.

    The raw chestnut… taste way better and different than the canned version and I love them. Peel the outer layer, which is no one’s favorite task, and eat them. I like to refrigerate them to make them cold before consuming. The raw chestnuts taste like a cross between an apple and Asian pear…sooo good and so much more flavorful when in season and undamaged (bruising). Growing up, they were my favorite treat from our visit to the International district in Seattle.

    Bubble tea…not a huge fan ever since there has been overseas speculations of the tapioca pearls (black chewy spheres) being made of a plastic derivative (the ones that say product of China, especially). None of my families who live outside the United States dare eat that stuff. However, essentially, its ice, milk, sweetener like sugar or fructose, and the powder flavoring, and tapioca pearls. I prefer the natural goodness from real fruit smoothies but if you really just want to try the bubble tea, try the artificial taro flavor….taste nothing like the actual taro root vegetable but its interesting.

    In my experience with Asian markets, some of the translated names for certain items are wrong; for instance, I purchased some that was labeled nutmeg but was indeed not nutmeg at all so being inhibited will do you well. Also, don’t put too much trust in what products label in their ingredients.

  3. H Mart regular here! I’ll provide a few more details on what you picked up–
    Bubble Tea:
    Tea powders cost around $8 for a 1lb bag, and pearls are about $10 for a 5 pound (dried) bag. That’s pretty cheap per serving, but you’ll get tired of bubble tea pretty fast.. Sago, which is a softer and smaller type of pearl than tapioca can be used in other desserts; grass jelly and that coconut gel are also tasty alternatives for bubble tea.

    Mangosteen/Superfoods:
    Lots of superfoods (Mangosteen, Cactus Pear, Kiwano, Cherimoya, etc) can be found in ethnic supermarkets, fresh! Its usually a lot cheaper, and much more potent. The same applies with spices, fresh herbs, and condiments.

    Honey Citron Tea:
    Traditional medicines are popular in Asian and Indian cultures, and Honey Citron Tea is no exception. Just a spoonful in warm water makes a sweet alternative to ginger tea for colds; lots of other traditional remedies can also be found in these stores, from tasty and weak to potent and disgusting.

    Sinkwa:
    Also known as Chinese Okra, or loofa (yes, the bath sponge) when its dried. There are lots of exotic gourds and melons– including the bitter melon, which like its name implies, is really bitter. Its best to do a little research before you toss any of these into a curry.

    Jackfruit:
    A ripe jackfruit should be really yellow– almost golden in color. A lighter color means its probably not yet ripe, and is probably on the chewier side. Try a canned version to get a sense of what a more sweeter one would taste like. (Also, jackfruits are some of the largest fruits in the world.. a little Googling will amaze you!)

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