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!
    This article can also be read at and Korea Taste.
     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!

If you have any questions or comments about "Seoul Food Girl: Zion Market brings Korea to California" please leave them in the comment box below or email

Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

5 개의 댓글:

kushibo said...

Ah, it reminds me of Palama Market here in Honolulu. The thing I most miss is cheap but (reasonably) healthy meals from your neighborhood eatery, and the food court at the Stateside Korean markets of this size seem to supply that (plus a few bucks).

The funny thing with the Cham Isul soju is that the local Costco in Honolulu carries it!

Anonymous said...

I can imagine how happy you were when you found Zion Market in San Diego. AS for me, I have to drive 12 hours to have a shopping in a big Korean grocery market such as Zion Market, although we have small Korean grocery markets in the town. So just twice a year, I drive 6 hours for one way, total 12 hours for round trip, for big shopping in a big Korean grocery market.

In Los Angeles and the surrounding areas(LA County, Orange County, Riverside County), there are about 50 big Korean grocery markets.

The biggest Asian market chain in the U.S. is H-Mart(한아름 마트), which is operated by a Korean entrepreneur. H-Mart has 40 branches in the U.S. and it is expanding its branches actively. You can find 4 branches in S. California.

H-Mart started from the East Coast and came to California and the West Coast lately. When you go there, you can see all kinds of Korean stuffs.

H-Mart 40 locations with pictures in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

I also love Korean honey cookies. I developed a creative way to eat honey cookie more deliciously and delightfully. Heat up honey cookie in microwave just 10 second and you can enjoy fantastic honey cookie taste.

Anonymous said...

I also like Korean honey cookie, well, so badly.
I developed my unique way of recipe to eat Korean honey cookie deliciously and delightfully as well, which is very simple : just heat it up in microwave for 20~30 second.

Your Korean honey cookie will be melting into your mouth. Eat just little by little with a tiny fork over a cup of hot tea. I am sure you will go to heaven.

audience said...

I don't get it. I thought you guys already have a large Korean/Korean-American community in SD. Meaning there would be plenty of K supermarkets. Does this notion only apply to LA?

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Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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