Super H Mart

I love the Saigon Market near my house, but I have been hearing the virtues of an even larger Asian Market called Super H Mart. It’s in north Carrollton, which is on the other side of the Metroplex from my humble home, but my car gets good mileage and I had some time today, so off I went.

It looks like a Kmart

Super H Mart is a chain, which started on the East Coast. It’s a huge place, with a massive grocery store surrounded by little stores and a long corridor of a food court. The biggest draw is the produce department with an endless assortment of fruits and vegetables… from normal looking peppers to the strangest looking spiky fruits from the far corners of the globe.

The place was packed with shoppers, noisy and active. It’s not very well organized, so you get to walk around a lot looking for stuff. It’s really clean though, and it’s an odd contrast, with the exotic selection presented like a typical American Megamart.

A great selection of Ramune

Of course, like any good Asian market, the seafood section is a treat. The back wall is full of tanks with every sea creature you can imagine. What isn’t swimming around is lined up on rows of aisles of ice. I wandered around looking at the stuff, watching some woman probing a case of blue crabs, watching them jump around, trying to decide if they were active enough.

Are your Abalone fresh?

Fan mail from some flounder?

Saigon Market in my neighborhood specializes in Vietnamese Fare, of course. Super H Mart specializes in Korean Food. I have never seen so much Kimchi in my life. Glass jars, plastic tubs, and big bags of a bewildering array of different kinds of fermented goodness – whole head cabbage, napa cabbage, radish, and many more that I didn’t really understand.

Jars of Kimchi, half and full gallons.

I like to buy my kimchi by the bag.

So I picked up a basket and filled it with a six pack of Ramune, some Udon, a big bag of Tobagi Kimchee, a bag of nectarines, and some Jufran hot banana sauce. Just another day at the grocery store.

There is a large section of teas and herbal remedies. Including this one, "Super Colon Sweeper." You have to admire a product with a drawing of the human lower digestive system on the label.

Ramune

When I was in the Soda Gallery in the Bishop Arts District I noticed a notice posted inside extolling the virtues of Ramune Soda. I thought about buying a bottle, but the cap looked intimidating – plus I had a hankerin’ for some Root Beer.

The Ramune was stuck in my head, though. I know I had seen it before, and thought about where. One place was in the Anime, Rahxephon, that I worked my way through a couple years ago.

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So I did some web searches on Ramune.

The most famous aspect of this Japanese soft drink is the bottle. The container is sealed with a glass marble jammed up into the neck and held in place by the pressure of the carbonation in the drink. To get at the precious fluid you have to knock the marble down, presumably with the plastic plunger tool that is attached to the plastic cap. Once this trick is accomplished, you have to hold the bottle, just so, in order for the marble to be caught between two little glass ears inside the neck, or else it will fall back and jam the opening.

Sounds like fun!

I was thinking about it and realized that they probably had Ramune at the Saigon City grocery store down in my neighborhood. They specialize in South Asian products, but have enough Japanese items that surely a few bottles of Ramune would slip in. I walked down there and, sure enough, they had a little section of Ramune.

Their selection of flavors wasn’t great, especially since I wanted to restrict myself to the glass bottles (plastic Ramune bottles? Oh, that’s just not right). I gathered up some Orange, Melon, and Lychee flavor and lugged it home. I drank a couple, and gave the rest out as Christmas Stocking-Stuffers.

Ramune

The Ramune Cap, with instructions. If you've never opened one before... your gonna need this.

The Ramune bottle is fun – cool to look at, interesting to open, and, best of all, the marble that rattles around in the neck of the bottle is an entertainment even after all the sugar water is swallowed.

The history of the bottle is as cool as a rattling marble. It began with an Englishman, Hiram Codd, in 1872. He came up with the idea of using a marble to plug the neck of a bottle of carbonated beverage. For many years, this was the standard in Europe for bottled soft drinks. Because children would break the bottles to get at the marble inside – these old Codd bottles are collected and rare types are very valuable.

Apparently, the Codd bottle was never very successful in the United States, because the filthy Americans couldn’t follow instructions and would push the marble down with their filthy American fingers – thereby contaminating the beverage.

Eventually, the crown cap was invented and took over the industry. Except in Japan, where there was some resistance to changing over – the new automated bottling lines were expensive and the children were attached to the bottle with the marble in the neck.

The Codd neck bottle died out in Europe, but has continued to be popular in Japan. There are Codd neck bottles produced in India too, to support a cottage industry production of a drink called Banta. Now there is an American version of Ramune in Codd bottles, called Marble Pop.

I’ll have to get a bottle of this.

Oh, and here’s a link to another youtube video that has disabled embedding (some of you guys might prefer this one).