H-Mart (wikipedia, website, map, 200 – 550 Robson Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada) is a Korean-American grocery store chain with many locations throughout North America. In Vancouver they are on the second floor at the corner of Robson and Seymour – a prime spot in the downtown shopping district.
From a recent press release by H-Mart Online:
As you enter the store, your eyes are greeted with a foyer full of small electrics, including rice steamers and griddles. From there, you enter a world of household necessities including ‘Joy Gloves.’ Which brings up a point. Some product names just don’t come through translation to have the same impact in English as they did in their native country’s language.
[...] The prepared foods are tasty as well. The kim-chee from the refrigerator case is top notch, as are the fried beef and sesame chicken. In the freezers are everything from squid and octopus to red bean ice cream. Try some of the gyoza or steamed dumplings for a treat. There are also frozen ducks in the case labeled ‘duck, parts missing.’ It’s best to not think too hard about which parts are absent.
I really like their gyoza and kim-chee, as well as their prepackaged sushi which becomes discounted near the end of the day.
But a little-known feature of this grocery store is the food court that is at the north side facing Robson street. Here you can get a variety of popular Korean dishes such as the spicy tofu soup, spicy beef broth, seafood pancake, and many more (menu shown below).
I tried the Item #5 which is described as “Mixed Vegetables and Rice in a Stone Hot Pot” ($8.50, pictured below) – it is called Bibimbap in Korean.
The ingredients are arranged artfully on rice in a super-hot stone bowl, and it’s up to you to mix them up and wait a couple minutes for everything to cook.
In the photos below I’ve shown what the dish looks like before and after mixing the ingredients. It tasted fabulous – the combination of rice, egg, vegetables, and meat was quite filling and satisfying but also was non-greasy and seemed healthy.
The stone bowl remains piping hot for a long time; after resting my chopsticks on it for a minute the wood became almost too hot to touch. The dish is served with some kim-chee (spicy Korean pickled cabbage) and a warm soup broth with green onions.
After enjoying Item #5 for a second time, I’ve decided to make the H-Mart Korean Supermarket one of my regular dining spots. Visiting the food fair is like taking a mini vacation to Korea – most of the other patrons seem to be talking in Korean, and many of the signs are in both Korean and English.
Beyond Robson has a review of the H-Mart food court from 2007.