Welcome to Kyopo Market, one of the Korean grocery shops I grew up with. It was previously located on El Camino Real next to Morning Glory, a cute stationary shop filled with stickers and snail mail goodies. A starkly decorated Indian market now stands where the old Kyopo Market used to be. Saravana Store, they call it. If I ever had to film a post-apocalyptic film, I'd scout this location. Yes, I've visited Saravana before because I adore Indian food and culture.
Back to Kyopo Market. What does this catchy name mean? "Kyopo" is a term for native Koreans who reside in a country outside of their homeland. The name straightforwardly reveals who its target audience is. When my mother and I filmed this week's episode of Kingdom Koreatown, we bumped into many kyopos, including my mother's previous financial adviser and ex-hairstylist. We even encountered a woman we saw during our lunch at a restaurant nearly five miles away! Oh, coincidences.
Weekends are the busiest and that is when you get free samples. Head over to the produce area. The corner furthest from the entrance will have vendors. Sometimes employees from Kyopo promote their banchan (반찬), Korean side dishes. Other tables represent businesses scattered through Koreatown San Jose.
My mother and I munch on bungeoppang (붕어빵), those fish-shaped pastries filled with red bean paste. It's similar to Japan's taiyaki because it was introduced to Korea during the colonization.
One of my favorite activities to do at Kyopo Market is ringing the bell. The first time I heard it, I was in love. It sounds like an ambulance. An overly urgent call to the men working at the seafood section. The bell lasts as long as your finger pushes it. I dare you to ring it for ten seconds and see what happens. I'm a bit of a mischief, so I couldn't help but break out into laughter.
Shhh... Don't tell too many people, but my mother gets her sweet potatoes from Kyopo. She takes a solid ten minutes picking medium-sized sweet potatoes as I circle around her for a photoshoot.
Interested in cooking Korean food? Aside from the edible ingredients, you might want to invest in some "Made in Korea" bowls. Be responsible for creating deliciously boiling, sizzling, and steaming hot messes in your own home! From kimchi jjigae to dwenjang jjigae, this bowl is ready for all the action.
Every aisle will make your eyes pop out. So. Many. Ingredients. You'll be inspired to cook pretty much every Korean recipe out there. Dried sheets of seaweed? Ooh la la, let's make kimbap. Mini roasted sheets of seaweed covered in sesame oil and salt? Enjoy at the dining table by wrapping them over a spoonful of rice. Clumpy seasoned laver? Sprinkle those bits over your bowl of plain white rice.
Beware when stepping into the snack aisle. Prepare your mind for temptation overload. Most snacks are Korean, however there are also Japanese assortments as well. Pepero and Pocky harmoniously are stacked next to each other.
On the same aisle, look at the other side. The top shelf is piled with tall bags of Korean crackers. Don't worry if you haven't been working out. These bags may be big, but are quite light. Even a child can carry one bag in each hand.
Instant noodles may not be the healthiest snack, but is perfect for the zombie apocalypse. Or for your next camping trip. Enjoy them uncooked or marry them with boiling water. I don't eat ramyun often, but when I do: Nongshim Shin Ramyun. In a cup.
Hungry for tangsuyuk (탕수육)? Along with strictly Korean food, there's a menu that offers Chinese Korean dishes at the food court. Savor various versions of jjambbong (짬뽕) and jjajangmyun (짜장면). Not hungry? Take some side dishes to go.
During winter, let soju warm you up. For summer, enjoy it blended with a chilled watermelon. It's popularly mixed with Yakult as well.
Hope you enjoyed the tour of Kyopo Market. There are other Korean grocery shops within miles. Each have their own ambiance and sought-out ingredients by neighboring K-restaurants. Stay tuned for more Kingdom Koreatown episodes to see where our next food adventures take us!
Super Kyo-Po Plaza (aka: Kyopo Market)
3521 Homestead Rd
Santa Clara, CA 95051