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It is hard to find a good source for Asian ingredients around the city of Trenton. For years, I’d been driving up to the Asian Food Market in Plainsboro, which is a traffic-filled ride along Route 1. It’s a market with an impressive selection, but poor service and a not-so-clean environment. So when I stumbled upon H Mart in Levittown, PA, I was delighted. It’s closer, cleaner, and features a surprisingly decent Korean food court style restaurant inside of it. A true find.
H Mart is a chain that started in the 1980’s in NY. They stock ingredients from the full range of Asian cuisines (Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, etc). Apparently each branch is slightly different, and the Levittown one is smaller than some of the other branches. Still, it’s more than likely you will find everything on even the most esoteric ingredient list, and often with 10-20 different options to choose from (which to some might feel easier to navigate than the 50-100 brands you’d see at Asian Food Market).
Their vegetables seem reasonably fresh and well-priced. You can easily find some of the more unique Asian vegetables here, which are well worth your purchase so you can learn how to make something new. They have a seafood and meat section, as well as an extensive kimchi selection, tofu options, and refrigerated noodles, dumplings, and dumpling wrappers. Once you hit the pantry areas, you’ll find everything you need, from Chinese black vinegar to fermented black beans, all at reasonable prices. Their frozen food section is also extensive, and offers many delights that you’d never find in a standard grocer’s freezer (frozen scallion pancakes, red bean ice cream, etc.).
If all that shopping works up an appetite, stop by their very reasonably priced food-court style restaurant off to the side of the store. There, you can order one of the 30 or so Korean specialties that they offer. Korean diners from throughout the region seem to congregate here to sample the menu–on both of my visits I was surprised by how packed the place got. There are a few tables packed in behind bags of rice and other staples, and when your food is ready you can pick it up at the counter on a giant tray. This isn’t a place to bring a date.
Your entree will come with a few banchan (Korean side dishes such as kimchi and radish salad), though not nearly as many as you’d get at a more proper Korean restaurant. The food is decent. Upon request, they prepared me a vegetarian version of the dolsot bibimbap (served in a hot stone bowl) and it was delicious (it is featured in the header image above). The cold bibimbap was less remarkable, and the bulgogi dupbab (marinated beef) was flavorful, but pan-cooked rather than grilled, which is the more traditional preparation (though you occasionally see both).
At the time of this review (2015), dinner prices were all under $10, with everything a few bucks cheaper for lunch. The portions are generous, and you certainly won’t leave hungry. It’s not the absolute best Korean food within a 20 minute drive of Trenton, but it’s pretty good and you can get your grocery shopping done at the same time. So give H Mart a try!!