Friday, February 8, 2013

Grocery Shopping

A quiet afternoon at Home Plus (or if you were Korean you would say Hom-uh Plus-oo): where one can grab their daily groceries and a puppy or two; or an entertainment center; or furnishings for an entire apartment complex - you get the idea. It's six stories of goods to provide for your basic needs, and any superfluous need you can imagine. Natalie and I stick to food, as navigating our way around the swerving patrons (swerving i.e.: 2am last call at the local tavern in a small town) is not particularly enjoyable.

The most startling difference I have found shopping here than anywhere else outside of Korea (not counting the shoppers themselves) is the number of customer services representatives in their stores. Take the arbitrary picture below for example. Want an orange? Or better yet do you want to know something about these particular oranges? If so you are in luck. If the rep loitering to the right doesn't have the answer to your question, or can't understand what you are saying, his 2 orange-rep friends to left will surely be there remedy the situation. 

In all honesty, the plethora of representatives turns out to be extremely helpful, as often times there is a serious lack of communication, and a few heads trying to communicate is better than two.

Below we have a very kind "sushi" rep (though "sushi" in Korea is not what you might typically think, but seems to be sashimi [minus the rice] from local fish - many of which I have not heard of but are none the less delicious). She saw me from a ways away and waved me over. I wonder if I stick out?

Next to the sushi section was the fish section. We had never bought fish here until this occasion. Considering everything was in Korean, choosing a fish (none of which I recognized) was sort of like picking numbers for the lotto. I chose, she cleaned the fish right in front of me, chopped it up, and put into bags for me.  


Adjacent to the fish we have all the variations of Kimchi, and further in the background a showcase of side dishes. When you eat here, you generally have 1 main dish, and - no kidding - at least 4 or 5 small plates of various things, such as radish and....well that's the only one that I know. The rest are veggies (I think) of some sort. It's generally quite good and I feel like I'm getting a lot more than I pay for. Anyway, just looking at the counter in the background, which continues out of sight to the right, gives  you a good idea of the variety of side dishes.

Though you can't see it here there are representatives just out of sight of the picture to help with Kimchi and the VERY large meat section. There are stalls of different fresh meat that include what appears to be an "auctioneer" to each stall. I call it that because that's what it sounds like: a man/woman yelling quickly and very loudly in Korean to the various customers about the special. They even yell at us - the "whities" who clearly speak about as much Korean as the average household pet. It's certainly very entertaining and American shopping has a lot to learn on this note.

Next is the bakery, which is accordingly small compared to the other sections. Normally there is one woman to the bakery who tries to "auction" off the bread. She's not in the picture however. 

A 50 yard isle of rainbow colored plastic wrap and salt.

A second but downsized section of what one normally thinks of as sushi (rolls).

This is the kind of picture which requires a lot of video or a chapter in a long novel. The store has these sample stands (e.g. Costco). But the old Korean ladies called Ajumas who, if you visit Korea you will inevitably their elbows in your sides or their shoulders in your back - they don't waste time saying excuse me, race after these stands like it's the finish line of Supermarket Sweepstakes: literally running to get there. It's quite fantastic. No lines. No stopping. No prisoners.

We found out that 1+1 means buy one get one free. It's the only type of discount I have seen at Home Plus. Talk about a great deal.

There are baggers in Korea: the people buying the groceries. It's like philanthropy for yourself.

Below is a video summarizing the trip: 

Our bag of goods. The chicken breast are delicious, and as you might expect their mushroom selection is fabulous, fresh, and very inexpensive. We can get a surprising number of the amenities that we can back home.

Included in my bag of fish. I'm still not sure what I was supposed to do with it. The fish tasted good. But suffice it to say that between our apartment's smelling like a dirty harbor the next day and my stomach's feeling that night like something you might find under one of the piers, I won't be buying that fish again. Trial and error. Never a dull moment in Korea.


  1. What an experience, Tyler:) Looks like that fish is pollac. Koreans usually use that for soup. You are supposed to put head to make better broth for the soup:) I am not sure how you cooked...