The other day, my Korean son in law decided we needed to go shopping at the Korean Farmer’s Market. He asked me if we had a Farmer’s Bank in America, and I think we do. I explained to him that from what I understand, farmers can make a loan at an American Farmer’s Bank, use the loan to plant a crop, then when the harvest comes and they sell the crop, they pay the bank back with some of the proceeds from the harvest. However, he said they don’t do that in Korea, but he really didn’t explain the Farmer’s Bank to me. He asked me if we had a Farmer’s Market. I have been to Farmer’s Markets in Ohio, and they are produce that is locally grown. They are in huge tents and basically outside. They sell fruits and vegetables and sometimes home made jams or something similar. However, He said that is not what a Farmer’s Market in Korea is either. He took me to the Farmer’s Market. It is a huge supermarket inside. The thing that is unique about it is that whatever is sold there must come from Korea. There are no imports and no foreign foods, only goods produced in Korea. They are connected to the Farmer’s Bank. The one we went to was in the same building behind the Farmer’s Bank. I think I went to one of these once before across town over by the Electronic’s Market, but I didn’t quite understand its uniqueness going on my own as when I went with my Korean son in law. He wanted me to understand what the store was. The name of this bank and store is Nong Hyeop. (The word for “farmer” in Korean is “nong boo.” My Korean son in law looked the word “Nong Hyeop” up, and he says it means “Agriculture Corporation”.)
When I went to a Nong Hyeop store across town that time, I remember feeling like it was overflowing, but extremely deficient in the things I wanted. I now understand why. It caters to completely Korean tastes. Everything in this store is Korean, and nothing is imported. When I go to E-Mart, Home Plus, or Lotte Mart, the big chain stores in Korea, there are always foreign things there along with the Korean things. I have heard that Home Plus is even owned by the British. There are lots of imports in those stores along with Korean things, but there are none in Nong Hyeop. Nong Hyeop is a very Korean store made for Korean tastes with no imports, but just as big as those other stores.
They sell these kinds of fish in the other big chain stores, but they are more in abundance in a Nong Hyeop. The jars have tiny fish that look like little noodles with eyes. The pictures at the top are shells, and the ones on the top right are still alive.
Here are more pictures of their fish. On the top left, you can see that they can buy fish while they are still alive. The next two pictures at the top have squid. The first one is alive, and the second one isn’t. On the bottom, you can see packages of very small fish and then more squid in packages. Things like this are sold in the other large chains, but this store specializes in this kind of stuff.
Since they are selling lots of only Korean things, they have to sell the ingredients for a nice Korean summer desert called pat bin su. There is a picture of the desert on the package that you can see on the right. It is crushed ice with sweet red beans on the top. They also add bite sized pieces of dock (the Korean rice cakes), sometimes small pieces of fruit or nuts, sweetened condensed milk, and maybe a small dip of ice cream. Their pat bin su is delicious, and I have told my Korean son in law when he comes to America, he needs to open up a place and sell it in America. I also saw special pat bin su ice cream in this store, and I have never seen that before. The blue packages on the right are bite sized pieces of dock, the rice cake. The cans in the middle picture above are small pieces of fruit, and the first picture has packages of sweet beans. All the ingredients for pat bin su were there together, and you don’t usually see them like this, but this is an essentially Korean store for Korean tastes.
When we go to a place like E-Mart or Home Plus, there is one or two huge aisles of different kinds of breakfast cereals. They come from Korea and from import. However, since this store only sells Korean made things, the supply of breakfast cereal was just a small portion, less than a quarter of one aisle. The cereals sold there were ones just made in Korea, and you could tell that only Koreans had worked on them because they wrote English and misunderstood the word and wrote the wrong word on the box. Corn Flakes are not “Corn Flight.”
The picture on the top left is daicon, the big white radishes. I have showed you those on my blog before. The second picture is packages of leaves. They use leaves like this like they use lettuce, but they aren’t lettuce. They look like someone just picked leaves off a tree and packaged them. We don’t sell anything like this in America. I have shown you the small yellow melons called chang mee before too. They are uniquely Korean. They are also selling aloe vera in the picture on the bottom left. I have seen aloe vera growing in Mexico and in Oklahoma, but I have never seen pieces of aloe vera for sale like they have here. Thee stalks were huge like the plants I saw in Mexico. In the last picture, it is locally made tofu. They also had tofu made and packaged like you package meat, but this is fresh tofu made by hand. I had a friend in Japan whose dad had a place set up to make tofu in the front of their house. It was a one man operation, and he had several sinks in a row. I really didn’t understand the process he was going through, but this looks like the stuff he was making and selling. Probably, someone like him made it at home.
In the first picture, you have yellow pickles for sale. In the second one, homemade kimchee (the spicy Korean cabbage they eat at every meal), and the last two are bottles upon bottles of soy sauce. These kinds of products are in abundance all over this store in more than one place. There was even a little lady there with her homemade kimchee letting people sample what she had made. Of course, I didn’t. Kimchee is just too spicy for me. I used to try to eat it, but I basically coughed my head off every time because it made my throat swell there were so many spices in it, and my Korean friends suggested I give kimchee up, and I gladly complied. They have a good supply of these in the other big chain stores, but they are just part of what they sell. They don’t specialize in particularly Korean things in the other stores. For example in the big stores now, you can find tortillas, but in Nong Hyeop, you would never find tortillas.
My Korean son in law showed me lots of packaged mixes and other things that are made especially for Korean tastes. There packages to make different kinds of Korean soup. I often see pieces of wood for sale, and some of the soups have wood in them. Some of the packages have ginseng in the soup. I have seen packages of seaweed soup mix for sale in E-Mart, but not in the abundance that I saw in this store.
Chuke is delicious, and it is what they serve to sick people in Korea because it is milder than their other food. It just isn’t spicy or strange. It is very palatable for the people from the west. It is a kind of rice porridge. there are different kinds of chuke. I like the chicken flavored the best. However, they also have shrimp flavored and pumpkin flavored that are good. There are many different kinds. There are restaurants that serve only chuke. They also have a special chuke restaurant in food courts of large hospitals. If someone is sick, the first thing a Korean will say is “They need chuke.” In old times in America, if someone was sick, we know that people brought chicken soup, and this is the idea with chuke. If you know someone is sick in Korea, you take them chuke. The other thing they bring when you are sick here is oranges. I have been to visit some one who was in the hospital before here and took them oranges because it was recommended by another Korean friend, and when I got there, they already had two big boxes of oranges.
If you shop in the big chain stores like E-Mart, Home Plus, or Lotte Mart, you can find lots of soda pop, all different kinds just like you are in America, and it will be in the aisles or in huge displays as well as in the fridge. However, here it is only in the fridge. At times in stores like this you can’t find any Coca Cola Zero, but we are in Seoul, so you know they will have Coca Cola Zero. However, it is only in the small bottles, not in the large bottles. The supply of Coca Cola in a large chain store is usually much larger. If you look at the bottom of this photo, all the green bottles are Chill Cider a Korean drink. There seems to be a much large supply of Chill Cider, probably because this shop is all about Korean produced things.
You can find packages of seaweed soup and other things like that in the larger stores, but you find them in a bigger abundance in a store that is made to major in Korean things like Nong Hyeop. I had seen Nong Hyeop Bank before and knew that Nong Bu meant “farmer,” so I assumed it was a farmer’s bank. In many ways it is. It is for domestic things. I went to one and tried to change my American dollars for Korean won before, but they didn’t change money. Now, I think I understand why. These places major in Korean things. There was much more to see at this Nong Hyeop grocery store, but this gives you the basic idea of what I saw. It majored in Korean products, not foreign products. I like to buy spreadable margarine in E-Mart, but the only thing they had was hard cooking butter because it is the Korean made product, not the spreadable margarine. There was no French bread, only bread like the kind they call “Milk bread” made by a Korean company in a Korean way. This just gives you a sample of what Nong Hyeop is all about. My Korean son in law was calling it a Farmer’s Market because the meaning of the name gives you that feeling. However, it is about majoring in Korean food and Korean products. You aren’t going to find frozen pizza or frozen cheese cake here like you can in E-Mart. However, you will find live fish, an overload of sea weed, etc., whatever is “local.”