Super H Mart is super hot spot for Asian cooking
Michelle Chapman-Rienstra and Teresa Shattuck, both of Oak Park, talk about miso paste at the Super H Mart in Niles. | Melissa Elsmo~for Sun-Times Media
Mel’s Foodie Hookup
Super H Mart
801 Civic Center Drive
Niles, IL 60714
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m.-11p.m.
Sunday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Credit cards accepted. Be prepared to pay for lunch separately.
Updated: March 7, 2012 9:49AM
I am a grocery store geek.
Roadside beef jerky stands, fruit-filled orchards, artisan cheese markets, tiny spice houses — nothing makes me happier than blindly wandering through an unfamiliar market.
Last summer, while shuttling my daughter to dance practice, I regularly passed a sign for Super H Mart on Waukegan Road in Niles. Initially, I assumed the enormous building housed a big box store, but after further inspection, I discovered a grocery store — a sprawling Korean grocery market.
Pull over and stop the car!
I didn’t have enough time to properly tour the market on my first visit, so later I assembled my fellow grocery store geeks and made a pilgrimage to Super H Mart. Oak Park moms and foodies Michelle Chapman-Rienstra and Teresa Shattuck along with fifth-grader and budding chef Theo Trefonides joined me to check out what this extraordinary market has to offer. None of us had much experience with Korean cooking or ingredients, so we allotted ourselves three hours to navigate the vibrant market.
We started our exploration in the produce section and uncovered several varieties of sweet Asian grapes, curiously large carrots, a diverse array of Japanese greens and spiny rambutan and durian fruits. Everything in the produce section is competitively priced, but no offering is short on quality. Super H Mart offers produce to meet the needs of both average Western cooks and adventurous chefs alike.
We lost ourselves in a maze of aisles brimming with pan Asian noodles, sauces, seaweed, snacks and rice cookers. The meat section offers a wide array of unique cuts of beef and pork; pre-sliced Kobe beef and ready to cook pork belly would elevate everyday stir-frys and soups to a new level. Moving into the fish section revealed open bins full of crawling crabs and display cases overflowing with sashimi grade fish. Super H Mart has an entire section devoted to fresh kimchee, miso pastes and dumplings.
After a couple hours of roaming through the food stuffed market, we were ravenous. We made our way to the food court to enjoy piping hot bowls of memorable Korean dumpling soup.
Markets of this nature can be overwhelming and intimidating on a first visit, but not for my crowd. Teresa purchased the ingredients for her aunt’s Korean egg rolls, and Theo picked up dumpling wrappers for his next kitchen project. Michelle impressively managed to source (for around $100) enough ingredients for five or six family dinners, including an adventurous buckwheat and black bean noodle dish called Jjajangmyun. I turned my purchases into a satisfying and fast family dinner I call Fusion Fish.
Super H Mart makes a thrilling adventure — and not just for grocery store geeks.
Melissa Elsmo is an Oak Park mom, wife and chef/foodie. She speaks regularly about reclaiming the family dinner hour with nutritious meals. Check out her food blog at www.outofmelskitchen.blogspot.com.
Tips for navigating ethnic markets
Theo: Use pictures as a guide when you can’t read the labels.
Michelle: Use the Internet and cookbooks to familiarize yourself with the cuisine before you set foot in the store. Being prepared prevents first-time shoppers from becoming overwhelmed.
Teresa: If you can’t bring along someone who has already been to the market, don’t be afraid to look in other carts to see what regular customers are picking up.
Mel: Eat in or near the market you are shopping in. Make a point to savor the dishes made from the ingredients in the store. It will help you better understand the uses and flavors of the items available for purchase.
Mel’s Super H Market Fusion Fish
4 tilapia fillets
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (black, white or a combination)
10-ounce package Japanese somen noodles*
1 cup somen-tsuyu (straight)*
4 baby bok choy, halved
1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 2-inch pieces
Vietnamese crispy garlic or shallots (optional)
3 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce (I like Lee Kum Kee brand)
Marinate the tilapia in the soy sauce and sesame oil in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Meanwhile, cook the somen noodles in boiling water and chill according to package directions.
Sprinkle the fish fillets with the sesame seeds and sear in a hot non-stick skillet until golden brown and cooked through (about 3 minutes per side). Remove fish from skillet and set aside until ready to serve. In the same skillet heat 2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil until hot. Add the bok choy cut-side down and cook (undisturbed) for 2 minutes or until lightly golden. Flip the bok choy and season with salt and pepper. Add the asparagus to the pan and ½ C water. Cover the pan, reduce heat to medium and allow veggies to steam for 3-4 minutes.
To serve, place a portion of somen noodles in the bottom of each of four bowls. Pour ¼ cup (or more to taste) of somen-tsuyu over the noodles. Place the two pieces of cooked bok choy next to the noodles and top with the fish. Garnish with asparagus, crispy garlic, and chili garlic sauce.
*Somen noodles are very thin wheat noodles that are most often served cold. Somen-tsuyu is a lightly flavored dipping sauce for the noodles. “Straight” varieties do not need to be diluted before use. Along with the other ingredients in this recipe, somen noodles and somen-tsuyu can be found at Super H Mart. My friend Michelle often packs cold somen noodles and dipping sauce in her kids’ school lunches.
Teresa’s Yaki-Mandu (Korean Egg Rolls
1 pound ground pork (not breakfast sausage)
3 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/8 cup soy sauce
1 pinch salt and black pepper
1 yellow onion, diced
1-2 cups carrots, diced
1/4 green cabbage, shredded
2 baby bok choy, shredded or diced
2 green onions, cut thin
1/4-1/2 cup mushroom, diced small
2 (12-ounce) packages small egg roll wraps (wonton wrappers)
Mix garlic, soy sauce, salt and pepper into ground pork and set aside. Prepare remaining vegetables as directed and mix together.
Some recipes call for the cabbage and bok choy to be boiled first, but my aunt always said this makes the egg rolls too watery and a little slimy. If the greens are cut thin enough, they cook through when the rolls are fried.
Beat egg in a small bowl or cup and set aside.
Place an egg roll sheet on a work surface and fill with 1 teaspoonful of meat mixture, and add a teaspoonful of veggie mixture. Roll and seal with fingers that have been dipped in egg batter. Deep fry until golden brown. Serve hot with dipping sauce.
Spicy Dipping Sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 large clove garlic, very finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2-3 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Whisk together and refrigerate overnight so flavors blend. Sample and adjust heat to taste. Serve sauce with Mandu.