Korean grocery shopping

This Saturday it’s my mom’s birthday so my sister has Greyhounded her way back home to celebrate.

Friday night. We eat at Rice Paper, which is my mom’s choice because of the black seasame ice-cream that she can only find at this restaurant. It is black as charcoal, and very very good. Then my mom asks where my sister is going afterward – she first looks at my dad, then replies: I can’t say.

Can I come? I ask, having a hunch that it’s related to the birthday gift, seeing we had texted that morning about this very bugaboo.

Later, we’re in the car and it’s 10:15pm. The malls are closed, so where will my sister be shopping for my mom?

We drive on Yonge Street to Galleria, the Korean supermarket that is open until midnight. I’m so excited to come here! she exclaims as we wheel into a parking spot.

I’ve been here maybe twice in my life because T&T is my life support – a Chinese-Canadian girl’s gotta have her priorities.  But I agree with my sister that this is a pretty exciting place. Starting at the produce section, I stop to peer at the mass of damp green strands that are usefully labelled as flowering ferns to unknowing eaters like myself. I wander over to the herbs and smell the Korean chives, green blades that are long and slender. Then I see enormous fruit that remind me of Asian pears in colour and firmness, but are actually singo pear. And at a pretty penny too – $6.99 for two, or $8.99 for three!

I’m totally wandering from my sister at this point. I continue on my trail of curiousity .. to the bakery of course! By this time, the kitchen has closed, so there are only wrapped segments being sold at reduced prices: log cakeswith sweet cream icing swirled in the centre, and sticky traditional sweets in white, green and pink moulds small enough to pop into your mouth! I remember having some at a Korean wedding, and they work up a chew with its gumminess.

Then I see stacks of white discs bagged up in twisty-ties. Rice pop! I remember breaking into these light rice snacks at my friend’s house in high school. I add a bag into my cart, which already contains king oyster mushrooms, zucchini, bananas, and glass noodles called chapche. Did I mention that my sister has the good fortune of meeting many Koreans at her school, and to say that they cook together is the easiest way to describe the adventures in their kitchen.

What else, what else. Red bean syrup in a collapsible bag with a bottle cap closure (for red bean ice), massive jugs of vinegar (to prepare kimchi, I can only imagine), and okonomiyaki sauce next to the mayonnaise (for Japanese pancakes).

Really, I could take you through the entire store, but one of the things I found the most interesting was the variety of kimchi. Here I thought radish, hot chili and some garlic were the only elements to this firey sidedish. Thanks to a few great expositions by the Walrus, and Saveur, we are no longer left in the dark.

Oh, and the young couples doing their late night shopping is a pretty cute sight – not a bad way to start the weekend with your significant other ;-)

At 11:45pm, we wait in line at the cashier, and I’m excited for the Korean dish my sister will cook up this weekend!

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