My mom and I cannot help but turn into the Palama Market near Waikiki whenever we’re in the neighborhood. It’s a well stocked Korean supermarket with an adjacent food court. This inappropriately titled “food court” has only one restaurant and a drink/dessert shop. But it’s one good restaurant, so we’ll forgive the deceiving title.
It was only 3 in the afternoon, past lunch but not quite dinner so we split an order of the Yook Gae Jang, a spicy beef and vegetable soup. The picture doesn’t reveal much, but dig in with a pair of chopsticks and you’ll pull up hot pieces of tender shredded beef along with chewy glass noodles, seaweed, beaten eggs and a welcomed mass of green onions. The kimchee based spiciness was just appropriate, enough to clear up those sinuses but not so hot to leave you in burning pain. A very filling and hearty soup, we polished it off clean. My mom declared, “Oh, so good!”
The order also came with two mighty scoops of rice, a container of kimchee and “today’s” veggies which included marinated tofu, bean sprouts and watercress. This is a lot of food for only $6! Of all the Korean plate lunch kine places, I feel that the Palama Food Court (yes, that’s the name of the restaurant!) serves the most authentic food. No other quick/takeout places also carry such a wide variety of kim bap (korean sushi) and cold noodles.
The side of the market is lined with individual storekeepers selling everything from housewares to mysterious Asian medicines. I usually breeze pass them, but today one guy caught my attention by handing over a free sample. I LOVE free samples. It’s was a tiny cup filled with a thick muddy green colored liquid.
I eagerly took a sip, as I’ve come to learn though experience, the stranger a drink looks the better it’s bound to taste. Hence my love for durian, mung bean and avocado milkshakes. The drink instantly reminded me of kinako, a nutty soy flour often used in mochi recipes. It had a slightly honey undertone but I wouldn’t call it a sweet drink. More like a very thick kinanko-ey soy milk. The eager Korean storekeeper was pleased with my instant smile of satisfaction as I happily gulped it down. He burst into well practiced speech of the ingredients, “Barley, corn, african millet, kale, banana, pinenut lotus flower seeds, chestnut, spinach, carrot, cabbage, jobs tears, yam…” It seemed to go on forever – what didn’t this concoction contain? They take an equal mixture of everything in the containers above and grind it into a fine powder.
I bought a one pound bag of the Joeun Sunseek. Apparently it’s a newly imported food product from Korea and this storekeeper is Hawaii’s sole distributor. It’s quite easy to make at home. Just mix 2 tbsp with 200 ml of water and add a spoonful of honey to sweeten it just a tad. Served hot or cold, it may look a little funky, though drink it anyways cause it’s reeeeally healthy. But more importantly, it’s so damn delicious!
Palama Super Market
Honolulu, HI 9814
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If you follow what gets said about prices each year, you would end up with the impression that the average price of tea has gone up. But more specifically the price at the most sought after regions (say Lao Banzhang, Bingdao) have gone completely through the roof. A lot of this narrative is anecdotal. Tales of rich Chinese buying up all the top-end product from X area. Part of it can also be seen when someone in the Sinosphere posts the maocha prices per location. These lists come with all sorts of contextual caveats, but the trend seems real. I don’t see any red flags to really doubt this storyline, but I was curious if it’d show up by looking at some of the data of prices on production by western facing vendors.
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