Shop Here: Super H Mart

Browsing the Super H Mart involves a trek to Niles, Illinois.  You must first deal with epic traffic jams to reach the suburban Asian superstore, then face the anxiety-attack inducing parking lot, dodge shopping cart wielding maniacs and avoid the sad, longing gaze of many an unattended child.  Totally worth it and not that unlike a weekend trip to Costco.  Scott, my fellow KC native super-foodie Kendall grad friend, brought me to the jaw-dropping market on a weekday afternoon, but I think I'd avoid this place on the weekends.  It is overwhelmingly big - 19,000 square feet - yet still manages to get crowded.

It seems like every tiny family-owned grocer I've been to on Argyle or in Chinatown could fit into this mega-building.  We went for a lunch of way too much udon, to pick up a set of dishware, and to grab some groceries.  It is simultaneously a food court, housewares store, grocer, and mall with kiosks offering remote control toilets, underwear with matching handbags, and ginseng products from Wellbeing Town.  Wherever that is, I'd like to move there.

There's an entire aisle devoted to hot sauce.  Ditto for rice, noodles, and vinegar.  There are not just several won-ton wrapper brands, they fill an entire deli case.  Imagine you're in the refrigerated dairy section of your regular grocer: yogurt, butter, cheese, sour cream, milk.  Now picture an area that size filled with nothing but kimchi.  I'm not kidding.  The prepared food section is large and free samples are plentiful.

The produce department is insane - not full of pristine goods like a Whole Foods, but dazzling in its variety.  Giant pears, a dozen mushroom varieties, fresh turmeric root and water chestnuts, durian fruit, fresh chiles, a whole wall of green veg.  Not everything looked fresh, but even a choosy shopper could find something to take home and there were lots of organic options.  There were also several meat options that would usually require an extra trip to the butcher.  I got pork belly for less than $2 per pound.  Scott picked up some good looking short ribs which were cut "flanken" style across the bone for a great price too.

The whole fish and seafood is inexpensive.  Some of it, a little too inexpensive.  Be picky, use common sense and look for signs of freshness.  Their dried squid or frozen fish are probably safer choices than fresh shrimp from a giant metal bin with very little ice and a plastic scoop for patrons to serve themselves.  I saw a huge tuna unattended on a cutting table for several minutes and would have tried to steal the damn thing if I could have lifted it. 

Take a field trip and check it out for yourself:

Super H Mart
801 Civic Center Dr
Niles, IL 60714
Hours: 8 am - 11 pm 

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