Have you ever found yourself with plans to go to a nice Korean restaurant, only to realize once you get there that all you really want to do is get your Korean feast to go and to high-tail it straight back home? Then head to Asiana Korean Market in Mesa.
Along with squeaky-clean aisles and specialty Korean food items, this market offers a great prepared-food section stocked with a variety of classic Korean dishes made in-house. We gave the refrigerated shelves a quick scan before throwing more than a few of the packaged goodies into our basket to take home.
We started with seasoned hot anchovies. The fish come coated with a thick and sticky red sauce that has a sweetness to it, but turns exceptionally spicy in time. Still, the savory anchovy flavor is strong enough to come through despite the powerful sauce. A background note of nutty, sesame oil was perfect to round things out. As for the texture, this dish was super-chewy and gave us an adequate jaw workout. If there is such a thing as Korean beef jerky, we may have found it.
And because we're talking about Korean food, we couldn’t resist get a batch of fresh kimchi. Instead of the typical cabbage kimchi, however, we opted for fresh radish kimchi. At Asiana, the little radishes are fermented whole — stem and all. We thought the body of the radish worked well for kimchi, but we weren't too keen about the green stem, which was hard to chew through. Unlike cabbage, which loses its shape as it absorbs the liquid it is fermented in, the radish remained crunchy and very refreshing for being a super-spicy and acidic dish.
We also picked up the fish cake kimbap, essentially a Korean take on sushi. What made this nori-wrapped roll Korean was the fillings, which included imitation crab, fish cake, egg, and seasoned vegetables — cucumber, carrot, and pickled yellow radish. Each piece of the kimbap offered a nicely balanced bite. The flavors were welcomingly delicate between all our spicy dishes, and the yellow pickled radish had a wonderful bit of tanginess and a satisfying crunch that brought the roll to life.
Finally, we had the vegetable bibimbap, a dish so vibrantly precision packaged we couldn’t help but be drawn to it during our deliberation period in the aisle of Asiana. The dish's veggies are segmented into clean little heaps of shiitaki mushroom, soy bean sprouts, seasoned spinach, and julienned radish and carrot. Sitting between all the fresh veggies is the infamous gochujang red chili paste, an irreplaceable condiment that gives dishes a notoriously deep spiciness, but also a slight sweetness. The veggies were so fresh and simply prepared that this dish would have been delicious even without the paste. But of course, when eating Korean food, bring on the spice.
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Asiana has quickly become a good option for when our schedules are tight but we don't want to settle on a boring meal.
Asiana Korean Market
1116 S. Dobson Road, #117, Mesa