Monday, March 5, 2012

Seoul Food Girl: Zion Market brings Korea to California

A photo of me so happy to see giant bottles of Yu Ja Cha citron tea and reasonably priced soju!
     Californians have easy access to a full Korean grocery store at Zion Marketplace. Stepping inside Zion, I felt like my body had somehow time warped back to Seoul. All of my favorite Korean snacks and vegetables were suddenly in front of my eyes but I was 6,000 miles away in sunny San Diego. Mul Naengmyeon buck wheat cold noodles 물냉면, kimbap, bulgolgi, and even my favorite pistachio ice cream bars were among my first purchases as I wandered around the store completely awestruck. After an afternoon spent searching for Korean grocery stores in Kearny Mesa and a lackluster trip to the massive Asian market "Ranch 99" I took a wrong turn near the freeway and suddenly saw a massive grocery store with Korean Hangul written in bright green letters.
     After returning home with all of my goodies I decided to do a little research on Zion. Why had I not heard of this Korean grocery from any of my friends in San Diego? As the website states, Zion was one of the first Korean markets in the San Diego area when it opened its small shop in 1979 on Convoy Street. In 2002, Zion expanded nearly 7 times at 32,700 square feet and remains housed in a modern building on Mercury Street. With a popular store in San Diego, the owners decided to expand opening a store in Cerritos, Los Angeles, and Irvine. Now Californians have easy access to the freshest Korean produce and brands making Korean culture easier to retain in America through its unique food culture.
     If you don't feel like cooking your own Korean food, Zion has plenty of pre-made food and several in-store restaurants that will cook up your favorite meal in traditional stone pots and metal serving bowls. The prices are extremely reasonable and there are weekly specials offered to customers by looking at their online website. A standard bottle of soju cost about $3 including tax which is only about $1 more than in Korea.
     Zion really made me feel at home in San Diego after a difficult acculturation process that left me wondering why I ever left Korea. I suggest stopping by the store and talking to people if you want to make Korean friends or meet other people that were former expats in Korea. Visiting the store may also be a great place to practice your Korean language skills and find a language exchange partner.

My Korean honey cookie obsession can live on in California!

I can finally make my own kimbap now that I have pickled radish!

Soju and meokgolli were on sale the day I visited the store!

A home goods section of Zion Market has all of the traditional Korean cookware.

One of the in-store restaurants has a menu full of Korean food as well as Japanese foods.

My Korean ESL students always gave me Bacchus-D when I was sick or tired.

Beef galbi will bring back Korean BBQ to your household.

I missed Koreans fresh pealed bags of garlic! At only $3 you cannot go wrong!

Don't want to make your own Korean cold noodle soup? No problem, this pre-made package has everything.

My favorite Margaret cookies from Lotte.

The inside of Zion Market reminds you of any standard Korean grocery store piled high with boxes!

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