If You Haven’t Been to H Mart’s Produce Section Lately, You’re Missing Out
As a kid growing up in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, I would accompany my mom around the Asian grocery store, marveling at the endless variety of greens, roots, and vegetables. “What’s this?” I would ask. “What do you use it for?” “What is this called in Korean?” Every trip was a crash course on both Korean vocabulary and Korean food, where my mother would patiently break down each vegetable and what she would plan to use it in for dinner that night.
I get it — the vegetable section at H Mart can be a plentiful, but mysterious bounty of goodies. And now that it’s springtime (yay finally!), it’s the perfect time to stock up on those reliable greens, make your last batches of kimchi, and discover some new spring veggies along the way. I’m here to help demystify the best vegetables and give you tips on how you can use them, just like my mom did for me.
1. Korean Radish, $0.69 per pound
Radish, or mu, is the workhorse vegetable of Korean food. It’s julienned as a vehicle for spreading seasoning paste on cabbage kimchi, cut into rounds and slow-braised with short ribs for galbi jjim, or sliced and quartered for deeply flavoring beef soup. The amazing thing about Korean radish is how the flavor changes depending on how you cook it. Slice it thin and crunch on it raw for a slightly sweet and spicy taste, or marry it with meat for uber-rich umami. You can also use it in any recipe that calls for daikon radish, a close cousin.
2. Mustard Green, $1.99 per pound
Mustard greens are indeed the greens that sprout from planting mustard seeds, and in American cuisine they’re often sautéed like kale or slow-cooked like collard greens. In Korean cuisine, they’re made into gat-kimchi, or mustard green kimchi, and in Chinese cooking they can also be steamed or stir-fried for a deeply flavorful bite.
3. Crown Daisy, $2.49 per bunch
Also known as chrysanthemum greens, these floral bushy herbs are amazing for flavoring hot pots. Chop and top your favorite warm soup — it pairs especially well with fish or udon!
4. Scallion (Green Onion) $0.99 per bunch
While scallions can be commonly found at most markets, I love shopping for them at H Mart because they usually have the best price. Scallions are used so prevalently in Asian cuisine that you’ll often see shoppers buying them by the armful.
5. Big Green Onion, $1.99 per bunch
You may think that these are just overgrown scallions, but they’re actually a slightly different varietal, known as daepa in Korea or calcot in Spain (they’re so beloved in Barcelona that there’s a calcot festival dedicated to them every spring). Also not to be confused with leeks, these “big green onions” are often used in soup. Slice thinly and add them by the handful to beef soups like seolleongtang or galbitang, or chop up and freeze in zip-top bags to use as broth starters.
6. Baby Napa, $0.99 per bunch
Napa cabbage, but make it baby! I find these to be a bit more accessible when cooking for a one- or two-person household, as the standard napa cabbage can be quite a lot. Use them like baby bok choy by tossing into soups or making quick kimchis.
7. Lemon Grass, $1.49 each
This lemony herb is a must-have when cooking Thai or Filipino dishes, and H Mart is a reliable place to source it. Cut off the base bulb and slice into manageable three-inch pieces, then use the base of the knife handle to whack and bruise the pieces, releasing the oils and flavors. From there, they’re ready to be used in soups and curries!
8. Yu Choy Tip, $2.99 per pound
To be honest, I’m not great at remembering to eat my veggies, so yu choy, also known as yu choy sum or Chinese greens, is one of my favorite vegetables to have on hand. They’re incredibly easy to cook and versatile. Sometimes I’ll quickly sauté them in some soy sauce and oyster sauce for a crunchy green side, or I’ll stir-fry them into a dish in lieu of spinach. They’re also fantastic for adding into udon soup for a reliable lunchtime meal.
9. Chinese Chives, $2.49 per pound
If you’ve ever had chive dumplings, or pork and chive dumplings, then you’ve had these chives! Broader and more pungent than American chives, these are essential for achieving that iconic flavor in your dumplings, and can also be used in many Chinese stir-fry or noodle dishes.
10. Dot Greens, $14.99 per pound
This spring green is known as dot-namul in Korean and is one of my mom’s favorite greens. (It is also called “stringy stonecrop” in English, so that’s a thing I just learned.) It’s one of the many beloved wild mountain vegetables that populate Korean cuisine. The mildly flavored, delicate leaves are often mixed into bibimbap or dipped into cho-gochujang, a spicy and sweet Korean sauce.
11. Snow White Mushroom, $2.99 for 150 grams
How gorgeous are these mushrooms? These incredibly aesthetic mushrooms are similar to enoki mushrooms, but are a bit heartier. Cut off the bottom earthy ends and pull apart into smaller chunks, then throw into soups and stews in the last few minutes of cooking.
12. Red Leaf Lettuce, $0.99 per bunch
This variety of lettuce is most commonly used as sang-chu, aka the lettuce used for making ssam wraps in Korean BBQ. It retains the same crunchy qualities of romaine lettuce, but the red-tipped leafy ends provide a heartier flavor that envelops barbecued meats.
13. Sesame Leaves, $3.99 for 3 bundles
Kkaenip, also known as perilla leaves or sesame leaves, are related to Japanese shiso but are larger, less minty, and more vegetal in taste. Personally, I adore the sesame leaf flavor — not only will I stock up to use as alternative wraps for Korean BBQ, but I also love to roll up a bundle and thinly slice into ribbons to add into salads and poke bowls!
14. Radish Tops, $1.29 per bunch
Admittedly, finding bundles of just radish tops with the radishes chopped off may seem strange, but there’s a reason for it! Koreans love to use all parts of a vegetable, often drying or pickling the green tops of root vegetables or the tender vine leaves to preserve for soups or as kimchi.
Don’t live near an H Mart?
Here’s where you can find many of these items.
- Korean Radish, $5.39 (originally $6.99) for 5-6 pounds
- Crown Daisy, $3.99 (originally $5.99) per pound
- Scallion (Green Onion), $0.69 per bunch
- Baby Napa, $5.59 (originally $7.59) for 2 pounds
- Lemon Grass, $2.99 per pound
- Yu Choy Tip, $3.14 per pound
- Chinese Chives, $3.32 per pound
- Red Leaf Lettuce, $1.49 per bunch
What produce are you eyeing this spring? Tell us about it in the comments below.