Snackboxe Bistro in Atlanta, was a child in a small town in east-central Alabama, where her family settled after fleeing Laos as refugees. They fermented their own fish sauce, and her father made a weekly trek to Atlanta to pick up lemongrass and galangal at the international farmers’ market.

The essayist Jay Caspian Kang has described Americans of Asian descent as “the loneliest Americans.” Even after the government eased restrictions on immigration from Asia in 1965, being an Asian-American outside major cities often meant living in isolation — the only Asian family in town, the only Asian child at school. A grocery store could be a lifeline.

When the writer Jenny Han, 40, was growing up in Richmond, Va., in the ’90s, her family shopped at the hole-in-the-wall Oriental Market, run by a woman at their church. It was the one place where they could load up on toasted sesame oil and rent VHS tapes of Korean dramas, waiting to pounce when someone returned a missing episode.

A few states away, the future YouTube cooking star Emily Kim — better known as Maangchi — was newly arrived in Columbia, Mo., with a stash of meju, bricks of dried soybean paste, hidden at the bottom of her bag. She was worried that in her new American home she wouldn’t be able to find such essentials.

Then she stumbled on a tiny shop, also called Oriental Market. One day the Korean woman at the counter invited her to stay for a bowl of soup her husband had just made.

“She was my friend,” Maangchi recalled.

Kim’s Convenience” might say, a sneak attack. Once Brian Kwon entered the office, he never left. “My father called it his ‘golden plan,’ after the fact,” he said ruefully. He is now a co-president, alongside his mother and his sister, Stacey, 33. (His father is the chief executive.)

For many non-Asian customers, H Mart is itself a sneak attack. On their first visit, they’re not actually looking for Asian ingredients; customer data shows that they’re drawn instead to the variety and freshness of more familiar produce, seafood and meat. Only later do they start examining bags of Jolly Pong, a sweet puffed-wheat snack, and red-foil-capped bottles of Yakult — a fermented milk drink that sold out after it appeared in Ms. Han’s best-selling novel-turned-movie “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.”

To be welcoming to non-Koreans, H Mart puts up signs in English. At the same time, the younger Mr. Kwon said, “We don’t want to be the gentrified store.” So while some non-Asians recoil from the tanks of lobsters, the Kwons are committed to offering live seafood.

Sunday Family Hospitality Group, in San Francisco, remembers the H Mart of his youth in New Jersey as “just the Korean store” — a sanctuary for his parents, recent immigrants still not at ease in English. Everyone spoke Korean, and all that banchan was a relief: His mother would pack them in her cart for dinner, then pretend she’d made them herself.

Later, as a teenager, he started seeing his Chinese- and Filipino-American friends there, too, and then his non-Asian friends. Spurred by postings on social media, young patrons would line up to buy the latest snack sensation — “the snack aisle is notorious,” Mr. Hong said — like Haitai honey butter chips and Xiao Mei boba ice cream bars. (The current craze: Orion chocolate-churro-flavored snacks that look like baby turtles.)

In “Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown,” a new cookbook by the chef Brandon Jew and Tienlon Ho, Mr. Jew, 41, recalls Sunday mornings in San Francisco with his ying ying (paternal grandmother in Cantonese), taking three bus transfers to traverse the city, on a mission for fresh chicken — sometimes slaughtered on the spot — and ingredients like pea shoots and lotus leaves.

He still prefers “that Old World kind of shopping,” he said, from independent vendors, each with his own specialties and occasional grouchiness and eccentricities. But he knows that the proliferation of supermarkets like H Mart and 99 Ranch makes it easier for newcomers to Asian food to recreate his recipes.

“Access to those ingredients leads to a deeper understanding of the cuisine,” he said. “And that in turn can become a deeper understanding of a community and a culture.”

Chai Pani in Asheville, N.C., and Atlanta, feels that something is lost when you buy paneer and grass-fed ghee at a Whole Foods Market. You miss the cultural immersion, he says, “getting a dunk and having horizons broadened.”

“An Indian grocery is not just a convenience — it’s a temple,” he said. “You’re feeding the soul. Come in and pick up on the energy.”

In the TV special “Luda Can’t Cook,” which premiered in February, Mr. Irani takes the rapper Ludacris to Cherians, an Indian supermarket in Atlanta. Once Mr. Irani had to scrounge for spices like cumin and turmeric at health food stores; now, surrounded by burlap sacks stuffed with cardamom pods and dried green mango, he tells Ludacris, “This is my house.”

Min Jin Lee, 52, remembers how important H Mart was to people working in Manhattan’s Koreatown in the ’80s, when it was still called Han Ah Reum and “tiny, with almost no place to negotiate yourself through the aisles,” she said. (It has since moved across West 32nd Street to a larger space.) Her parents ran a jewelry wholesale business around the corner, and relied on the store for a cheap but substantial dosirak (lunch box) that came with cups of soup and rice.

She sees the modern incarnation of the store as a boon for second- and third-generation Korean Americans, including thousands of Korean-born adoptees raised by white American parents, who “want to find some sort of connection to the food of their families,” she said. “There aren’t gatekeepers to say who’s in or who’s out.”

BTS — anti-Asian sentiment is growing. With visibility comes risk.

For Ms. Lee, this makes H Mart a comfort. “I like going there because I feel good there,” she said. “In the context of hatred against my community, to see part of my culture being valued — it’s exceptional.”

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South Korea Celebrates Oscar Win for Youn Yuh-jung of ‘Minari’

SEOUL — “Minari,” the critically acclaimed movie about a hard-luck family of Korean immigrants in the United States, was not exactly a commercial blockbuster in South Korea: Fewer than a million people watched it in 54 days of screening across the country.

But when one of its stars, Yuh-Jung Youn, won the Academy Award for best supporting actress, South Koreans rejoiced not only because it was a first for a Korean actor, but also because of the recipient.

On Monday morning, the South Korean media sent out news flashes when Ms. Youn won her Oscar. Cable channels announced plans to screen her previous films. Social media was abuzz with fans congratulating her.

“Her performance brilliantly helped us relive the memories of our own mothers and grandmothers,” President Moon Jae-in said in a statement, referring to Ms. Youn’s character in the film.

“Woman of Fire,” but left acting to marry Jo Young-nam, one of South Korea’s best-known singers. In the 1970s, she followed him to the United States, where Mr. Jo tried on a career as a gospel singer. The marriage ended in divorce in the 1980s.

“A Good Lawyer’s Wife” (2003), many female actresses declined the role of a woman who has sex with another man while her husband is terminally ill. Ms. Youn took the role, saying she could used the money to redo her living room.

She once performed the role of a spiteful queen in a Korean soap opera so well that people often cursed when they saw her on the street.

“People like her because they know her life story,” said Huh Eun, a retired college media professor in Seoul. “When they think of her, they don’t think of the glorious spotlight usually associated with film stars, but of a woman who has struggled to make a living all these years like the rest of us.”

Ms. Youn’s global breakthrough came when she was offered a role in “Minari.”

quoted Ms. Youn as saying. “This is our first time living this life, so we can’t help but feel regretful and hurt.”

Ms. Youn’s Oscar acceptance speech went viral for a characteristic tongue-in-cheek attitude. The award was presented by Brad Pitt, whose production company financed the film. “Mr. Brad Pitt, finally, nice to meet you!” she said to the American superstar. “Where were you when we were filming in Tulsa?”

“Minari” depicts a Korean family struggling to build a life as farmers in rural Arkansas in the 1980s, when many poor Koreans headed for the United States for a better life. It is the second film about Koreans to make history at the Academy Awards, after “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon Ho, won four Oscars last year.

“Parasite” grossed more than 10 million viewers within two months of its release. Part of the reason “Minari” failed to achieve the same commercial success in South Korea is because the immigrant experience of the 1980s that it portrays is quickly fading.

These days, far fewer Koreans emigrate to the United States, and those who do are usually the children of rich families who go there to study. That may change, too, as Koreans watch hate crimes involving Asian-American victims soar in the United States.

But Ms. Youn struck a chord with South Koreans in her role as Soonja, the foul-mouthed but loving grandmother in “Minari” who moves from South Korea to the United States to take care of her grandchildren. Her grandson doesn’t consider Soonja a “real grandma” and complains that she “smells like Korea.” They slowly build a bond by playing cards together and sharing Mountain Dew, which Soonja seems to think is a health drink because it is made from “dew from the mountains.”

After “Minari” began accumulating awards at film festivals in recent weeks, fans started calling Ms. Youn “the Meryl Streep of Korea.” She has done what no other Korean actor or actress has done: while “Parasite” won best picture and best director, none of its actors were nominated for Oscars.

On Sunday night during the award ceremony, Ms. Youn said her true inspiration was her two children. “I’d like to thank my two boys who made me go out and work,” she said while holding her statuette.

“This is the result because mommy worked so hard.”

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