Curious about the pungent funk of kimchi, the fermented cabbage dish that’s prevalent in Korean cooking? Learn to make the spicy condiment from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday at a kimchi workshop at the Asia Pacific Cultural Center, 4851 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma. Or, hey, you could just buy it. Check out my guide for where to find fresh kimchi, the starring member of the banchan lineup at most Korean restaurants in Lakewood.
At the Asia Pacific Cultural Center Saturday, cooking instructor Joyce Yoo will give detailed kimchi instructions and participants can take home what they make. Supplies will be for sale. There also will be a sampling of kimchi, which usually is made out of cabbage, but also can be made from radish and cucumber. Don’t know how to cook with kimchi as an ingredient? You’ll learn that, too.
Register for the class at 253-383-3900. Cost for the class is $20 for APCC members and $25 for non members. The class is sponsored by H-Mart, the new Korean grocery store in Lakewood.
If you’ve never had it, consider kimchi the spicy sister of the banchan siblings. Banchan are those little dishes of fermented and pickled dishes that start a meal at a Korean restaurant (here’s my guide to every Korean restaurant on South Tacoma Way in Lakewood).
For those who may not be all that interested in making kimchi, you have plenty of places to buy it in Lakewood, which is home to four Korean grocery stores. Here’s where to shop:
Where: 8720 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood, 253-314-5062
Fresh banchan and kimchi: More than 20 choices of kimchi and banchan, with some unusual finds, such as eggplant, seasoned sesame leaves, stewed lotus root and a half dozen others I never had seen. Find the banchan in plastic bins at the rear of the store on select days. An attendant was dishing up banchan by the pound on a recent Friday afternoon visit. However, on slower days, I’ve found the display case at the rear of the store (near the seafood tanks) full of pre-packaged kimchi and banchan.
While there, you can also dine at: A small cash-only window at the rear of HMart serves straightforward, economically priced favorites like bean paste stew ($5.99), bulgogi ($7.99) and seolleongtang beef bone soup ($6.50). Also, Olive Bakery has relocated to HMart. Look for seating to the left of the cash register. Find dozens of pastries for sale – all a few bucks or less. Do try the sweet potato filled pastry and the fried sesame buns. I also spotted cream puffs, manju and mochi. I think the selection rivals that of Boulangerie, the bakery at Paldo World.
Where: 9601 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood; 253-581-7800; open daily.
Consider Pal Do World a comprehensive Korean shopping center with a food court, a sizable grocery and produce section, and ready-made food for home. (Also, clothing, housewares and a video store.)
Fresh kimchi and banchan: Sometimes sold from bins near the front entrance, shoppers can find plenty of fermented veggies to take home. However, when the banchan bins are not set up, shoppers can find an entire wall of jarred kimchi and other banchan near the produce section.
While there, you can also dine at: A food court with two restaurants. Peking Garden serves Chinese with a few Korean dishes (try the job-chae noodle dish, $9.95). Nak Won is a real-deal Korean cafeteria serving soups, bulgogi, kalbi and dumplings. If you get anything, make it dol sot bibimbap ($8.95), a hot stone bowl with rice, vegetables and bulgogi topped with a fried egg and dried seaweed. Use chopsticks to stir it up, adding spicy paste and six kinds of banchan (Korean side dishes). Bulgogi ($8.95) is tender ribeye strips seasoned with a sweet-salty marinade. Order at the counter; they’ll bring you banchan, soup and the main dish. There also is a tofu and walnut doughnut counter near the food court. At the front of the store, you’ll find the French-Korean bakery Boulangerie, which sells Korean and other Asian pastries, as well as French bakery offerings like macarons and cream puffs.
Where: 11715 Bridgeport Way S.W., Lakewood; 253-582-1158; open daily.
This small grocery store is hidden off Bridgeport, so use the Church’s Chicken sign in front of the market as your landmark. This is one of my favorite grocery stores to find Korean and other Asian ingredients because staffers – namely Angie Cho, daughter of the owners – are knowledgeable and explain Korean ingredients in depth.
Banchan and kimchi counter: While other Korean markets have a handful of banchan to take home and eat, Asian Market has a mega banchan deli counter. Anywhere between 30-40 vegetable dishes are for sale, from a diverse selection of kimchi to sauteed greens with sesame oil, to pickled daikon, spicy anchovies and many other pickled vegetables. Sold by the pound, a small container will cost just a few dollars.
While there, you can dine at: To the right of the front entrance, Boon Shik Nara is frequently filled with soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and middle-age Korean women. The specialty is fast-style Korean food: soups, bulgogi, dumplings, noodles and bibimbap. Try the bargain-priced bulgogi combo lunches ($7.95-$8.95) that come in a compartmentalized tray (think: Bento box). We bit into spicy chicken with rice, Korean-style sushi, kimchi, shredded cabbage salad and soup. Dol sot bibimbap ($8.95) is one of the best in the area because of the delicious marinade on the meat.
Boo Han Market
Where: 9122 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood; 253-588-7300; open daily.
This small grocery store is a straightforward grocer with a wide selection of noodles, rice, sauces, seasonings, marinades, frozen fish, meats and prepared Korean food. This is the grocery for the serious home cook.
Banchan: About a dozen varieties in take-out containers at the rear of the store. You’ll find big jars of kimchi, too.