Welcome to Joong Boo Market
Located between the Kennedy Expressway and a Metra train line, the very popular market has nowhere to expand. That also means you can find a whole lot of Korean products stuffed into a small space. It's one of my favorite places to shop in Chicago, and I was lucky enough to get a tour by Chong Suh, the Marketing Director.
11 Pounds of Pears
Mr. Suh noted that Korean families still like to buy items in bulk: "You won't see loose items as much. It's much more family-style for Koreans." So that explains why fresh Korean pears are sold in eleven pound boxes.
Popular Drink Items
As you first enter the market, a cooler on the right side showcases some Korean teas, along with Mexican sodas and Starbucks Frappuccinos.
The front is where you'll also find a collection of fresh noodles. Don't worry, we'll get to the dried and frozen noodles later on.
Joong Boo's Brand
I knew that Joong Boo distributed products to restaurants around the area, but I didn't realize it had a house brand. It's kind of hard to see here, but any idea with the red deer logo (which is barely visible in the top left corner) is Joong Boo's own product.
Joong Boo stocks numerous different brands of tofu, from fresh to dried versions.
Though 65 to 70 percent of the customers are Korean, the market also stock loads of Japanese and Chinese products.
The vegetables on the right side are the ones most commonly used in Korean cooking. Note all of the cabbage.
Pounds and Pounds of Bean Sprouts
Mr. Suh believes that they go through approximately 300 pounds of bean sprouts a day! That doesn't include the 500 pounds of soy bean sprouts they also go through a day. (Numerous Korean restaurant purchase their sprouts from here.)
Five Pounds of Garlic
If you ever need five pounds of peeled garlic, this is your place.
This is how you make Korean food spicy. The top shelf is Joong Boo's brand.
Dried Beans and Grains
Suh explained that cooks like to mix whole grains into their rice.
You can find all kinds of salt, from sea salt to coarser salt that is ideal for making kimchi.
Nearly half of the aisle is dedicated to packaged ramen. While this looks like a lot, there is more stacked elsewhere; you can buy most of these brands by the box.
Individual portions of coffee that already have cream and sugar mixed in are very popular.
Joong Boo has an extensive collection of nori, and Suh believes that each has its own unique character.
The entire top shelf of one of the aisles is stocked with tea.
So Much Soy Sauce
When asked which one was the best, Suh explained that most have individual purposes. Some are better with sushi, while others are better to cook with.
Korean BBQ Marinades
If you don't feel like whipping up your own batch, these are available for your next Korean barbecue. Apparently they go through "pallets" of this brand a week.
All the Gochujang You'll Ever Need
The Korean red pepper paste is available in numerous styles, from merely hot to extraordinarily spicy.
One side of an entire aisle is dedicated to dried noodles. The ones on the bottom are the traditional Korean noodles made with sweet potato starch.
Along with other dried vegetables.
The most popular snack? "We sell a ton of the shrimp chips," said Mr. Suh.
Korean Cheetos and Sun Chips
According to Suh, these taste totally different from the American versions.
The market has an enormous frozen fish section. For the most part, the frozen fish are the ones that the market can't get locally.
The most popular frozen fish in Joong Boo is the yellow croaker, which is very common in Korean cooking.
Suh said that these potstickers are the most popular item in the whole store. People have called from out of state to try to get them delivered.
On the other side of the frozen fish is an enormous section of frozen seafood.
Ice Cream and Mochi
This section is bigger in the summer months.
And, finally, the last of the noodles. Here's where you'll find udon and other noodles that hold up better when frozen.
Like beer, you can buy them by the six pack.
These are located on the bottom shelf.
Has anyone tried either of these?
Prepared Side Dishes
If you don't feel like cooking all the separate banchan for your feast, you can just pick them up here.
The market stocks three brands of kimchi, though each brand has multiple different styles.
This is the house brand of kimchi. You can tell by the grandma on the label.
All the beef you need for Korean barbecue is already sliced and ready to go.
Joong Boo also sells a lot of sashimi. That's especially true on Wednesdays when a platter is discounted to $25. The shop regularly sells 150 trays on that day (though you should call in to make sure you get the deal).
There is also a fresh fish section, which features fish that can be shipped around the U.S. The most popular option is cod.
The one in the middle was fierce.
You can buy both head-on and headless shrimp.
The Joong Boo Cafe
In the back right corner of the market is a cafe, where you can pick up a variety of soups and noodle dishes. If you've ever visited during lunch or dinner time, you'll know just how busy this little place can get. Mr. Suh says that prices are low because it's connected to the market.
In case you need to catch up on your Korean news.