As the Korean supermarket chain H Mart colonizes Philadelphia's middle-class suburbs - with stores in Elkins Park, Levittown and Upper Darby - a world of pan-Asian foraging has opened to intrepid foodies.
It's a world where Wegmans meets Race Street, with wide aisles, alluring displays of produce, cooking demonstrations, free samples and an exotic selection of fresh and packaged ingredients for Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese recipes.
"Our customers will try something in Chinatown and want to make it at home," says Bruce Lee, assistant manager of the Upper Darby store. "We have all the ingredients." The store's of-the-moment inventory includes soft bread crumbs for coating tempura shrimp, soybean paste for making miso soup and authentic Korean barbecue sauce for home grilling.