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Expand Your Korean Horizons At H&Y

If you’ve wondered what Korean food tastes like, a visit to H&Y Marketplace in Hicksville is in order. The store features samplings of at least eight different dishes every Saturday and Sunday. On a recent visit I enjoyed leek and meat filled mini dumplings, udon noodles, seaweed salad, their special Gold Ratio Multigrain rice and bulgogi (marinated sliced ribeye). After tasting their seafood pancakes, I took home a batch of fresh batter to cook later in the week. It was good.

It’s a smart move to provide these tastes because although Long Islanders are familiar with other Asian cuisines such as Chinese and Thai, Korean food is a relative newcomer here.

“We want people to experience our 5,000 year old culture and cuisine,” says Robert Han, vice president of H&Y, the second generation in the family business. Han’s parents arrived in the U.S. in 1985, opening up a vegetable store. There are now four H&Y markets in the metropolitan area, with the store in Hicksville having opened in 2007.

H&Y stands for Han Yang, an ancient name for Seoul, which is commonly used to represent the traditional values of health and youth. “Healthy eating and well being are an important part of the Asian diet,” says Han.

Korean food, relying heavily on natural ingredients, is hearty and the flavors are bold, especially in kimchi, the spicy cabbage slaw that is served with every meal. I love their array of fiery orange/red kimchi and asked Han how to choose. Each brand is different, depending upon the fermentation process — how long, how much salt, what kind of salt. With 10 different ingredients, including napa cabbage, ginger, garlic and soy sauce, there is infinite variety. He recommended the Hansol brand for a first taste of kimchi and then explained the store’s policy: if you try it and don’t like it you can return it. “We want customers to explore their taste buds,” he says.

And if the return policy isn’t enough, Han says the staff is very willing to help customers make their choices of any products in the store. Often people will come in with cookbooks, asking for help to get the right ingredients for the recipes they want to try out. Han says they’re planning to run cooking classes in the spring.

Everything in the produce department looked fresh and enticing. I was impressed with the mushroom choices — that included king oysters, oyster mushrooms and enoki mushrooms in addition to the usual button and Portobello — and the fresh lime leaves, ginseng and lotus root. In the refrigerator section, the containers of the vividly colored fish roe — green, gold, red, black and orange — made me want to start making sushi. As would be expected in a cuisine that savors tabletop barbecuing there are lots of meats, sliced and prepared and ready for BBQ and some that are marinated and ready for grilling. The fish department is outstanding with lots of choices and live fish that, on a recent visit, included fluke, eel, black fish and lobster.    

About half the products in the store are Asian, says Han, and sometimes the variety of products can be daunting. There are at least 20 different kinds of soy sauces and within those variations are multiple manufacturers with their own distinctive tastes; 30 feet of store space is dedicated to soy sauces alone. Han urged, “Try something new.” I purchased a bottle of a ponzu sauce with citrus, keeping in mind H&Y’s we’ll-take-it-back-if-you-don’t-like-it policy. It was delicious and not as salty as some and is now at home on my condiment shelf.

H&Y Marketplace is located at 478 Plainview Road in Hicksville. For more information call 516-935-4041 or visit www.hy1004.com