I Went to a Korean Grocery Store to Get a Vegan Snack Haul — Here’s What I Picked Up

published Mar 18, 2022
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snack capsule snacks and dishes arranged on a table
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Randi Brookman Harris
Credit: Courtesy of Joanne Lee Molinaro

We are Big Snackers here at Kitchn. We love snacking, talking about snacking, and writing about snacking.

Of course, snacking looks different for everyone. So we asked four of our favorite food people to build their ultimate Kitchn Snack Capsule, featuring one recipe and some store-bought snacks. Up first: Joanne Lee Molinaro from The Korean Vegan.

When I was growing up, my absolute favorite aisle of the Korean grocery store was the gwajah (cookie/snack) aisle. Packed with an assortment of colorful bags and boxes of both sweet and savory goodness, this section of the market offered a comfortable little diversion for me and my brother as my mom attended to the serious job of grocery shopping. Always, my mother permitted at least a couple of items into the cart — shrimp chips, maybe a box of choco-pie, and, of course, a small box of Pocky Sticks.

Since going vegan, the snack aisle has become a bit more of a challenge for me. The other day, though, I was waiting for a friend to meet me at my local Korean grocery store and decided to spend the time tracking down vegan options in the still-glittering snack aisle. While shrimp chips and Pocky Sticks are no longer in the cards for me, I found several bags of other Korean-style chips that looked tantalizing enough to make it into my own cart. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Randi Brookman Harris

And then, I wandered over to the bakery section, where I drooled over the morning’s delivery of fresh, Korean-style rice cakes and mochi, which, to my delight, were not only totally vegan but also gluten free. Into my cart they went. And then finally, on my way out, I couldn’t stop myself from snagging some vegan soon-ramyun, which never fails to remind me of my father, how he slurps his noodles to such mouthwatering perfection every Sunday morning.

Just as I was getting ready to place my haul on the conveyor belt, I spied a small mountain of Korean sweet potatoes in the corner of the produce section, their gorgeous burgundy skin practically hollering at me. I grabbed a few of those. (I love sticking them in the air fryer for 30 minutes; they come out absolutely perfectly golden.) Finally, my cart quite a bit heavier, I greeted the friendly clerk at the cash register.

Credit: Joanne Lee Molinaro

Ultimately, I ended up with a lot of snack options. I thought of my grandmother, who was a stickler for moderation. We were allowed one small snack after school and before dinner. And while there’s something beautifully irreverent about eating right out of the bag, to this day I prefer plating my snacks or serving them (to myself) in a small bowl — just like my grandmother used to.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Randi Brookman Harris

Later that day, I decided to start my snacking session with a few pieces of mochi, because they are tender and sweet, just like my grandmother could be (when she wasn’t berating me for not brushing my teeth). And I realize that however much I “gave up” when I went vegan, there’s more than enough — always — to bring me back home in that snack aisle. For further proof, I even made my own vegan version of Pocky Sticks.

What would go in your own Snack Capsule? Tell us in the comments below.