Asian Foods Simmer As Near As Glen Burnie

Korean Family Offers Food And Spices For Sale

August 28, 1991|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff writer

Have a yen for boiled lotus root, fungus black-black or sasagaki gobo? Running a little short on waterchestnut powder or Happosai seasoning?

Then Glen Burnie has the place for you.

The Gami Oriental Food Store, 801 Crain Highway, is a treasure trove of Korean, Japanese and Chinese products, many of which can't be found elsewhere in the area.

Sung Yoon, manager of the store and son of the store's owner, Jung Ok Yoon, said customers come from as far away as Towson and Ellicott City to get products for authentic Asian dishes.

Shelves are piled high with exotic-looking edibles, suchas smoked squid, tarako chazuke (otherwise known as seaweed soup), shaved bonito, frozen sea squirt and dried lilly flower.

On Tuesday, a well-heeled shopper driving a large Mercedes Benz stopped in for some chili paste with garlic and Kung Pao Sauce, among other items.

"This place is unique . . . they have a little bit of everything," said Mary Kunes of Millersville. "They have lots of things you can't get get elsewhere, like fresh ginger."

Kunes said she travels farther to the Gami market than she ordinarily would for groceries because of the store's unique selection.

"I always buy things I can't identify, take them home and try them out," she said.

Nanette Sypniewski of Halethorpe says she shops at Gami twice a month, mainly for fresh produce and rice. She also picks up a few extra things on each trip, mostly favorites of her husband, who is Japanese.

Most of thestore's customers are Korean, Yoon said, but many are not. Since opening eight years ago, Yoon has noticed an increased interest in Asianfoods. He attributes this trend to a growing interest among Americans to eat healthier and more unique foods.

The Yoon family moved from Korea to the United states 14 years ago and has lived in Glen Burnie ever since. Although Glen Burnie does not have a large Korean population, the family opened the store here because they like the area, Yoon said.

The store does well because it pulls customers from a large geographical area, he said. To find similar fare, countians would have to drive to Silver Spring in Montgomery County or to Washington, he said.

Yoon said someday he would like to open larger, more mainstream grocery stores, but for now, he'll stick to minding his mother's store.

"As long as my parents want to do it, I'll help them," said Yoon, whose father died last winter. His two brothers help outbut also hold other jobs, so most of the responsibility falls on Yoon.

Yoon gets the store's unique mix of foods and products from distributors in Columbia, Washington and New York. He drives into Washington three times a week to bring back fresh produce, such as Chinese cabbage, hot peppers, bean sprouts and white radishes as large as softballs.

In addition to 50-pound bags of rice, many types of dried fish and dozens of brands of noodles, dried seaweed and mushrooms, the store carries many other Korean products. Cooking utensiles, cookbooks, magazines and newspapers, pots, dishes, sandals and cosmetics line the shelves of two aisles.

The store also rents Korean books and movies.

And even though the store carries many products the average customer might not be able to identify, it also carries a fair number of more commonly available products, such as Kikkoman Soy Sauce and Polaner garlic in a jar.

There's even some prepared foods, both frozen and fresh, for the novice cook who may be wary of starting from scratch.

Customers say the prices are good, particularly for fresh foods and produce. One of the store's specialties is a seasoned Chinese cabbage, prepared on the premises. The cabbage is ready to serve as an appetizer, Yoon said, and is very popular.

Hours for thestore are Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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