As a Don Quijote Kaheka regular, it’s obvious the main demo’ who shop there are “mixed race” locals and Nihonjin transplants, along with the occasionally adventurous visitors from the hotels in nearby Waikiki. However as a newer, somewhat regular now at Palama Super Market next door, I notice for the most part, the clientele there are mostly Korean folks; at least 95% in my observation on any given day. So much so, sometimes I get looked at as a foreigner by some shoppers there. Not in a bad way, just in a “you look different than everyone else here” kinda’ way. Which is kind of awkward, yet flattering at the same time. I guess. lol
The only reason I elaborate on demo’, is I’m trying to get more of you readers here who don’t normally adventure “outside the box” to check it out, as I think Palama Super Market is still one of those “undiscovered” gems only the Koreans are in on, that you should be reacquainted with. And they’ll surely welcome your business. ;-)
In case you haven’t noticed by now (they’ve been there for years now), there IS a Palama Super Market store just a short block next door to Don Quijote Kaheka, right behind DQ’s overflow parking structure, at the corner of Makaloa Street and Kalakaua Avenue. This Palama Market branch replaced what was once a Gas ‘n Glo service station dating back to the 80s and earlier, that featured an automated car wash service similar to McKinley Car Wash.
The original Palama Super Market in the Kapalama Shopping Center moved to a much larger location in Kalihi on N. King Street back in 2012, while this second location here near Ala Moana next to Don Quijote opened long before that move back in the early 90s.
What’s funny is, if you didn’t know it was a Korean market, other than the “subbed” Korean marquee, you’d as well assume by the name ‘Palama Super Market’ it was just another local mom ‘n pop type grocery store or butcher shop.
However if you love Korean food and all that is Korean culture as I do (except for those hot tempers lol), you’ll be in HEAVEN upon entering Palama Super Market. From the wafting aroma of grilled Kalbi coming from their in-store food court, to unique imported Korean groceries and housewares abound, this is arguably the next best place to browse and shop on the island for such goods, short of being right there in Seoul.
The good thing is, all the Korean products have labels that at least translate the descriptions in English, so you shouldn’t need to bust out that translator app. Some also have English translations deeper than that, including the entire information on the label, both back and front. Also, the prices for many of the product and food court items are very reasonable!
Of course not everything’s from Korea, with some of it produced either locally or from the mainland.
While I’ve been to their former Dillingham location several times, I’ve honestly never been to the new 20,000 sq. ft. King Street Kalihi location yet (right across the street from the Ferguson showroom; formerly Plumbing Specialties).
There’s another Korean market on “Koreamoku Street” (Keeaumoku St.), across Walmart, which I went into once, where the selection looks pretty good, but no can touch Palama Super Market; at least from my first impression.
I won’t go into the details much more, as I’m certainly no expert on Korean cuisine or culture, however certainly a fan of whatever it is I try. I LOVE Korean food, never having one dish disappoint me yet, right down to that side dish of squid banchan.
Which is kinda’ ironic, while neither she nor I (obviously) have Korean blood, my mom is a HUGE Korean “soaps”, a.k.a. “K-Drama” fan, watching those shows pretty much around the clock. Nuts, I tell ya’. lol
That said, here’s a brief walk around the ready-to-go trays of prepared foods, along with some food court specialties the Palama Super Market Makaloa location had to offer on the day of this visit this past week. Of course like any other spread, it changes quite a bit, so every day there’s something interesting and new to check out. And you really should more often. It’s such a neat store, parking is a plenty in the area, the people in there are very nice, and again, it’s reasonably priced!
Now we’re in the food court area, which is to the right as you enter, with about 4 or 5 main vendors in there. This is their in-house specialties menu…
Pretty much the usual suspects you’ll find at most Korean takeout joints on the island. Except here you can’t pick and choose your banchan up to 4 like most other places, but it’s set (and they won’t budge, I asked several times). However the prices are really cheap, yet the portions are generous and the taste of the food is FANTASTIC! For just $11 (the price went up a buck since I took that shot), their Kalbi plate is a winnah!…
Again, while you can’t pick and choose the banchan, the ones they give you are OUTSTANDING. Especially the Kimchee, which has that hint of fish sauce in it, giving it a nice “Umami” flavor. And their Kalbi is pretty much as good as it gets for takeout. Excellent char-grilled, perfectly marinaded flavor, decent tenderness, and they give “choke” (plenty) for just $11! If you’re craving Kalbi, for the taste, portion and price, can’t go wrong here!
In the center of the food court is Von’s Chicken…
While I haven’t tried them yet, apparently Yelpers really like Von’s Chicken, as they have a “People Love Us on Yelp!” certificate placard displayed proudly right in front.
On the right back corner of the food court is this Korean Soup and Stew shop, that specializes in kinds of stuff, as you see by the menu.
This is one of the quick-bite specialties sitting on the counter at this shop…
Here’s a couple of bowls that came out of that shop the other day, courtesy of some nice Korean patrons sitting next to me who were willing to let me take a photo of their dish….
This last dish (bowl) was VERY interesting, as it was basically sekihan (sticky mochi style) rice topped with greens and cubes of fresh ahi and salmon, mixed together by the diner with Kochujang sauce. The guy eating it said it’s AMAZING, and just $11 for this MASSIVE bowl, including the Banchan sides! All I know is I’m SO ordering this exact same spread on my next stop there!
Next time, if I get permission from their manager, I’ll share what’s available at the Palama Super Market Kim Chee self-serve station. That “Bizarre Foods” section alone deserves its own post!
Palama Super Market… CHECK IT OUT!
Palama Super Market
1670 Makaloa Street (near Don Quijote Kaheka), or
1070 N. King Street (across Ferguson showroom)
The Tasty Island rating:
5 SPAM Musubi