Denver Love Letter #13
Disclaimer! H-Mart is not exclusive to Denver (in fact, there is even one in Northern Virginia!). I would imagine there are even better Asian markets around town that I haven’t visited, but H-Mart was my first and is plenty good to mention.
H-Mart is an Asian market. It has lots of things for sale that I would be queasy about eating and even more queasy about cooking. I’m not proud of my queasiness, but it is a fact. I steer clear of the meat section because, while I’m sure it’s tasty, it just looks too freaking gross to put much thought into. I look at the fish, but probably wouldn’t cook it for myself. Anything in the produce section, though, is fair game.
Ahhhhhhh, the produce section. Remember what lettuce meant to you growing up? Basically a head of iceberg? Maybe it’s just me, but our broccoli was always frozen, our tomatoes always beefsteak (which, we didn’t call them that — they were just tomatoes) (also, did Roma tomatoes exist, or did I just not know of them?). And my family was somewhat adventurous. There was, for example, eggplant and asparagus, artichoke and sprouts… squash… And I think that’s how many of us grew up (or maybe it’s just how small town kids grow up).
When I came to college (was it a city thing? a class thing? a liberal thing?), I was introduced to grape-leaf-wrapped dolmas, hummus, brie (which, yes, isn’t a vegetable, but still it was a fantastic discovery), endives, radicchio, olives that didn’t come in a can, capers, leaf lettuce… The world of vegetables at my fingertips — or at least as close as the nearest Wild Oats!
…Or so I thought. Dining out, I began to be aware of new vegetables. Well, of one, anyway: the long, skinny eggplant. And this fall I found my source for them: H-Mart. Which is also the source for a lot of vegetables and fruits I haven’t tried yet, but am slowly getting used to the idea of. It also has pretty much the most amazing thing ever: roasted seaweed coated in oil and salt. You eat them like chips and they are freaking delicious. Tonight I had all of these intentions of cooking up something tasty, but the seaweed chips totally derailed me.
I should mention that H-Mart (and the seaweed snack) is one of those wonderful things gleaned from a failed attempt at a relationship. I also have failed relationships (or interactions that didn’t even enter “relationship” level) to thank for some of the roots of my taste in literature and music and maybe even interior design, for my appreciation of rare prime rib, figs, green tea, cumin, tofu, and smoked fish. So thanks, ex-boyfriends and ex-lovers and ex-“people-I-hung-out-with”-and-don’t-dare-call-it-a-relationship. I still think at least half of you are complete jerk-faces, so don’t get too excited.