Korean supermarkets (like H Mart) are true emporiums that carry everything from gochujang to small appliances to skin-care products. My favorite category? All the practical (and affordable) kitchen and home goods that you’ll see in most Korean households. If you know what to look for at a Korean supermarket, you can, say, find everything you’d need to engineer a makeshift Korean-barbecue restaurant at home, or stock a Korean-mom-approved kitchen, or delight a host or hostess with an unexpected (but useful) housewarming gift. And if you can’t make it to an actual store, don’t worry. Many of the best things found at Korean supermarkets — from tabletop grills to ramen pots to exfoliating towels — are also available online.
For city dwellers with limited access to outdoor space, this nonstick, electric tabletop grill by (Japanese brand) Zojirushi is the next best thing to an open charcoal flame. It gets really hot and cooks a mean short rib, pork belly, and, heck, even hot dogs — complete with grill marks. And a removable drip pan makes cleanup a breeze.
You’ll find this faux-wood (actually plastic) table in many Korean households, where the older generation prefers to sit cross-legged on the floor for their meals. Or maybe you’ve seen it in Hong Sang-soo movies; characters are often featured gathered around one as they get hammered on soju like there’s no tomorrow. While preferred by elders, the table’s shorter height also makes it great for kids. This one even has foldable legs, making it that much easier to store.
These can be found at homes and restaurants alike, usually in a little utensil box with chopsticks that lives on the table. Korean spoons have shallow, wide mouths and long stems, the better to eat a steaming bowl of tofu stew or oxtail-bone soup with. You’ll never go fishing for a lost spoon ever again.
For those, like this writer (Lauren Ro), who find wood an easier material to get a grip on than metal, this set of twisty bamboo chopsticks might be a better option.
And for the budding Asian-food enthusiast, a plastic set of “training” chopsticks that will help younger eaters learn how to hold and use them. This set comes with an added bonus: It will introduce kids to the world of Pororo, Korea’s most popular little penguin, whose friend Petty sits atop the chopsticks.
When it comes to rice makers, Cuckoo is the brand of choice in Korean households. You can usually find a few different models at your local Korean supermarket; this one can make up to six cups at a time and has ten different settings. Once the rice is ready, a more authentic way to fluff it is with a Japanese rice paddle.
A less expensive way to prepare rice would be on the stove in one of these stoneware bowls, which can go directly from the burner to your dining table. And they’re not just for rice — you can use the bowls to make stews and soups, which will continue to bubble inside them even once they’re taken off a flame.
For serving rice, these lidded stainless-steel bowls are a staple in Korean restaurants. Each is the perfect serving size and will keep contents nice and warm.
Some households have dedicated pots for whipping up instant ramen (or ramyun, as it’s called in Korean). They’re usually made out of lightweight aluminum, like this one. Wisdom dictates that the more banged up a pot, the better-tasting your noodles are. (You can of course use aluminum pots like this to cook other things as well, but they’re not very insulating.)