Exploring ethnic markets: Arirang

  • Photos by Meghan Ralston
By Columbus Alive
From the July 25, 2013 edition

What’s in store

Most Korean food junkies — and we’re growing by the second — believe the play-at-home game is next to impossible. For starters, how are you gonna make that wild array of potent small plates called banchan, that turns every Korean meal into a party — let alone all those sauces, marinades, kimchi-laden soups, etc.? Well, if you only know about Arirang as a great little eatery, then you need to go shopping there.

Because just traipse through this UDF-sized, spic and span and exceedingly econo-priced store, and you’ll uncover those aforementioned Korean kitchen standards and dishes — and many will be “just open and heat or eat.” Along with soba noodles, an eye-popping wall of assorted dried mushrooms, pickled daikon, shrimp, crab and octopus flavored chips, hard-to-find bibimbap add-ons like fernbrake and “seasoned” spinach, soju in a box (think Korean vodka), and easy-as 1-2-3 jeon mixes (Korean pancakes), you’ll see a packed fridge case near the rear. In there is a gold mine of plastic tubs filled with stupid-cheap and ready-to-eat banchan-y things, kimchis, full entrees, and so forth.

Grocery list

· Korean BBQ Bulgogi Marinade ($3.59/jar): Sure, homemade’s better, but this no-brainer works surprisingly well.

· Fish Cakes ($4): Whether as a snack, side dish or pizzazz-adder to entrees, I love these toothsome, sorta linguine noodles and their mildly sweet, spicy and seafood-y flavors.

· Gochujang (wide array of brands and sizes, but always inexpensive): That ketchup-resembling, magical chili paste that’s indispensable for this cuisine, it always goes into bibimbap, and makes everything instantly taste deliciously Korean.

· Kimchi stew ($5): I’m smitten with this sour, spicy and explosive slurp with rustically hacked, fermented and chili paste-flaming Napa cabbage flavored by smidgens of thinly sliced pork.

· Spicy Beef Stew ($6): Another dynamite and rustic entree; think oniony and Asian-mushroomy pot roast soup with a serious chili pop to it.

Dine-in

Some of the best-priced and best-tasting Korean food in town is ordered by number at the cashier counter, then retrieved and eaten in the rear dining area. Try the seafood pancake, dolsot bibimbap and jeyukbokkeum (like spicy pork bugolgi).