Deep-Fried Oysters at Tsukiji Market’s Odayasu

Deep-fried oysters at Tsukiji Odayasu

Deep-fried oysters at Tsukiji Odayasu

“Where is your oldest son?”, queried the waitress to the fishmonger at the next table. “He is back at the shop following up on some last-minute orders”, said the older man in rubber knee-high boots. While tourists line up at sushi restaurants next door, my favorite spots at Tsukiji Market are where the fishmongers go. Odayasu is one of these shops. I am the only non-Tsukiji worker. It’s obvious as everyone else is wearing the fishmonger’s outfit of dark blue pants and a vest covered with pockets.

The deep-fried oysters are a popular dish at Odayasu. Six juicy oysters breaded in panko and deep-fried until golden brown. The classic accompaniment is julienned cabbage and tartar sauce. I asked for a small serving of rice as the usual portion would be too much.

Odayasu is a tonkatsu restaurant, so many of items are breaded and deep-fried. The menu also includes seafood meuniere, sashimi, and salmon sautéed in butter.

Kaki Fry - Deep-Fried Oysters

Kaki Fry – Deep-Fried Oysters

Another look at the oysters.

The signature near the kitchen is Hideki Matsui’s. :-)

Odayasu 小田保

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #6

4 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dosa at Kyobashi Dhaba

Dosa by Dhaba

Masala Dosa by Dhaba

I remember ten years when I first had a dosa at Dhaba in Kyobashi. I was in heaven. It immediately brought me back to the first dosa I had in Singapore a decade before. I couldn’t believe that this was in Tokyo and that I didn’t know about it. Luckily I was working at Takashimaya in Nihonbashi and would come here for lunch from time to time. A decade ago I could usually walk in and get a seat right away. On a recent lunch I was surprised to see a line out the front door.

Dhaba India is a sweet spot for Southern Indian in Kyobashi, a very short walk from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit. Many of the diners are eating dosa, and the naan is great, but I come here for the dosa. Breaking up the crispy dosa shell is great fun, until it comes to an end. The curry doesn’t seem to be modified for the Japanese palate. The Masala Dosa here at lunch is 1,400 JPY.

It’s a bustling restaurant, filled with a mix of area salarymen and office ladies. Try and avoid the noon lunch rush.

The only thing I find strange about this shop is that they do not let diners look at their iPads during the meal. I could snap a quick photo of my lunch, but was asked to put it away. I was told that there was a sign on the outside of the restaurant, which there was, about this ban on electronics. I guess this is a good thing and a habit we all should be doing.

Dhaba India

Chuo-ku, Yaesu 2-7-9, Sagami Building

 

Tenfufan’s Bottomless Bowl of Dumplings 天府舫

Suigyoza at Tenfufan

Suigyoza at Tenfufan

The heat and humidity is starting to become unbearable in Tokyo. One way to survive is to eat hot and spicy food as it induces sweat which helps cool you down. I was meeting a Japanese girlfriend for lunch in Shinjuku and we agreed on Shisen cuisine. Tenfufan in Nishi-Shinjuku has been on my radar for a while because it has an all-you-can-eat suigyōza (boiled dumplings) offer with its set lunch, a bargain as most lunches are under 1,000 JPY.

An online website (not the restaurant’s) said the restaurant opened at 11 a.m. We showed up at 11:15 a.m. and were surprised to see a sign on the outside of the shop that said lunch starts at 11:30 a.m. I pushed open the door and the kind owner said that they do not open until 11:30 a.m. but as it was so hot outside that we could be seated early. A pot of iced tea and two cups were set on the table and we started to peruse the menu.

The owner said that all set lunches come with the boiled dumplings. He pointed to a small table set off to the side and said that once service starts the dumplings would be there. “Self-service” he added. There is something about growing up in America, at least in the Midwest, that inspires me at a buffet to dig into as much as I can. I was so surprised to see the tables of salarymen near us taking only a few dumplings and not going back for seconds. I stopped after my second visit, but I am sure that had I gone with an American we would have gone back for thirds. The dumplings are stuffed with meat, the skins seem to be made from scratch, and the spicy dipping sauce hits the spot. Don’t bother with the soy-seasoned eggs that are also on the buffet.

Shirunashi Tantanmen at Tenfufan

Shirunashi Tantanmen at Tenfufan

The shiru-nashi tan tan men is one of their signature dishes, along with the suigyōza. Shiru-nashi means without soup. Underneath the ramen noodles were some peanuts and a hot sauce that comes and catches you by surprise after the fact. It’s not too spicy and is rich in umami. The side dishes included a bland fried rice, an unmemorable egg-drop soup, and some bean sprouts with carrots. But who cares when the dumplings and ramen were exactly what we had come for, spicy, delicious, and rich in umami.

Shortly before noon the shop was filled. Mostly salarymen who must be working in the area as the shop is on a side street. When we left there was a line out the door. 80% of the diners were having either this dish or the mabo dofu. This meal came to 880 JPY, including the dumplings. I will be back.

Tenfufan 天府舫

Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 7-4-9

 

T.Y. Harbor – Oasis in Tokyo

 

T.Y. Harbor

T.Y. Harbor

Tokyo is a massive city and there are so many parts that I have yet to explore. One of the coolest areas, literally cool as the area is surrounded by canals, is Tennoz Isle. Until now I have only passed through on the monorail on my way to Haneda airport. Now I am kicking myself for not having come much earlier. What a great, quiet oasis in the city. It did not feel one bit like I was in Tokyo. The breeze coming off the water is welcomed in this heat and humidity. I went recently to meet a girlfriend who works in the area to eat at T.Y. Harbor. It has been on my radar for over ten years.

T.Y. Harbor has been here since 1997 and is a rare microbrewery in the city. I have had the beer at some of the sister shops like Cicada in Aoyama, and its a great craft beer that is very food friendly. I was surprised at how big the restaurant is inside. The outdoor patio seating overlooking the canals is also spacious. We came early to beat the lunch rush, around 11:30 a.m. and already it was almost full on the deck. Service is friendly, the staff speak English, and the menu is filled with great salads, daily specials, and burgers. The daily specials are put online each week. The burger hits the spot for this American. It’s a big burger, meaty, and comes with a generous serving of fries. The brioche buns are made at the breadworks bakery which is located next door. My girlfriend got a big salad that was topped with beets, blue cheese, and chicken. The lunch meal also comes with a bottomless glass of iced tea or Nozy coffee, a rarity in Tokyo, the concept of a bottomless glass.

There were a handful of tables with small kids and parents and the staff were accommodating. The weekend brunch menu is filled with lots of comfort dishes like pizza, pasta, barbecue ribs, and the burgers. I can only imagine it is a very popular spot on the weekends.

T.Y. Harbor is worth the journey. Allow for some time to walk around the canals before or after your meal. A few times during our lunch I told my girlfriend that I felt like I was back in America. Citibank Japan’s office is nearby and there were a lot of workers from the office there. It was fun to be surrounded by so much English. Escape the madness of the city in this oasis near Shinagawa.

T.Y. Harbor

Shinagawa-ku, Higashi-Shinagawa 2-1-3

 

Sweet Corn Rice

 

Corn Takikomigohan

Corn Takikomigohan

Growing up in Minnesota I was surrounded by large farms growing corn. There was nothing better than stopping by the side of the road and picking up a dozen ears of corn in a brown paper bag for a buck. At home we would shuck the ears outside on the front lawn. There was one huge pot in our house that was used mostly for boiling corn every summer. The sweet corn was then slathered with butter and salt, and attack ear after ear until my face was covered with butter and the corn disappeared.

While we salted the water when we boiled the corn I was shocked when a farmer’s wife told me that we should cook the corn in sugared water. That revelation changed the way I made corn ever since, and it does make it better.

Corn in Tokyo has been out for a few weeks already. I have been eating an ear or two every day. The only difference is that here it costs a buck a cob. It’s my favorite vegetable and I will indulge while it’s in season.

Shinji’s in culinary school at the moment and one of his recent assignments was corn rice. Takikomigohan is when toppings are steamed with the rice and then incorporated into the rice. A similar preparation is called mazegohan when toppings are mixed into cooked rice. While this is called a takikomigohan this almost feels like a mazegohan as the corn is cooked before it is added to the pot. To be honest, I don’t care what it’s called, it’s delicious.

Sweet Corn Rice

Sweet Corn Rice

Shinji said that he cooked the ear of corn in salt water. After it is cooked the kernels are cut off of the cob. Rice is cooked with a little bit of salt in the water. We cook the rice in a donabe (ceramic pot). After the rice has come to a boil the lid is taken off, usually a no-no, and sprinkled with some saké and the corn. The lid is returned and the rice is set aside to finish steaming for fifteen minutes. If you are cooking your rice in a rice cooker there should be a timer that tells you when there about ten minutes or so left to cook. I would add the corn at that time.

The rice is ever-so-salty, like the breeze on your face at the ocean, while the corn adds bursts of sweetness.

Tokyo Ramen Street’s Rokurinsha Tsukemen 六厘舎

Tokyo Ramen Street

Tokyo Ramen Street – Rokurinsha Tsukemen

Rokurinsha’s tonkotsu tsukemen is one of the city’s most sought after bowl of ramen. Tsukemen is an interesting way to eat ramen if you are not used to dipping noodles in a broth. In Japan we often eat soba, udon or sōmen with a smokey soy dipping sauce, so the concept is not too wild. Unlike the traditional bowl of ramen where the noodles and savory broth are together, here they are separate. Grab a few noodles with your chopsticks, dip in the broth, and slurp away. There is a spoon if you want more of the broth.

Tokyo Ramen Street in the basement of Tokyo Station has eight ramen shops all lined up next to each other. Note that the basement shopping area of Tokyo Station is massive. Be sure to head to the Yaesu side of Tokyo Station. There is a map in English if you click below on Tokyo Ramen Street in the address section. I recommend it as a place to go to for ramen as you do have the option of checking out what the other shops offer and the location can not be beat. Most travelers in Tokyo will pass through Tokyo Station at some point. However, most people who come here want to join the line of customers waiting for a seat at Rokurinsha, which is by far the most popular ramen shop. The line is usually filled up with salarymen in white shirts and ties. But the same could be said for many restaurants in Tokyo Station as there are many train lines going through this station and the financial district is near here.

Most likely you will want to order the ajitama-tsukemen for 950 JPY, which includes all of the basics as shown above, including the seasoned egg (ajitama). The umami-rich broth is tonkotsu, based on pork bones, and this is a meaty, in-your-face soup. As you can see, the toppings include a soy-marinated hard-boiled egg, a thin sliced of pink and white naruto fish cake, toasted nori, julienned leeks, and some pork pork belly. There were extra packets of powdered katsuobushi, smoked skipjack tuna, but the dish had enough flavor it did not need any more help. For some it may be too complex, the meaty broth and the smokey fish powder. The thick, straight noodles seem perfect for this dense broth. What some may not care for is the cold noodles being dipped into the hot broth. The temperature of the broth drops quickly and the fatty soup is not as enticing as when it is hot. Regardless, it is very popular and it’s rare that there is not a line to get in here, even first thing in the morning when it opens at 7:30 a.m.

Rokurinsha at Tokyo Ramen Street

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, Tokyo Eki Ichibangai B1

While here,  be sure to pick up the regional flavored Kit Kats at the shop across the aisle. Details in this Metropolis article.

Pickles at Tsukiji Market Nakagawaya

Nakagawaya

Ginger and Garlic, Yuzu Kabu, and Zassai pickles

Pickles play an essential role on the Japanese Table. It is served at many meals. At a kaiseki meal it is included in the rice course with miso soup. Casual curry shops serve fukujin-zuke, a soy-based relish made with daikon, eggplant, and cucumbers. If you really love Japanese pickles, then be sure to have a meal at Kintame. There are two restaurants in Tokyo, my favorite is in Monzennakacho, but the branch at Tokyo Station’s Daimaru department store is centrally located.

We try to include pickles when we can. It’s an easy way to get an extra vegetable dish on the table and fermented foods are good for you.

In the photo above are three pickles from Nakagawaya at Tsukiji Market. On the left is the pickle that I am currently crazy for. Thin slices of ginger and garlic pickled in soy sauce. It has a kick and is great with white rice, fried rice, or simply over tofu. In the middle is an aromatic yuzu and soft kabu turnips. On the right is pickled zassai (Brassica juncea), a Sichuan vegetable called zha cai, which has a nice texture and unique flavor profile that is not usually found in Japanese cuisine.

Japanese Pickles

Japanese Pickles at Tsukiji Market Nakagawaya

There are many shops at Tsukiji Market selling pickles, but none have the selection and variety that Nakagawaya has. The shop is located in the outer market and is easy to find. Some of the pickles are vacuum-packed so it is easy to pack in your luggage to bring home. The staff here are very friendly and the selection is changing throughout the year. There are many regional pickles brought in from all over Japan like iburigakko, the smoked daikon pickle from Akita.

Tsukiji Nakagawaya

Bamboo Shoots and Nanohana Pickles

This spring we had bamboo shoots and nanohana (field mustard). The bamboo shoots were very tender and pickled in a light-colored soy sauce. The nanohana had a bit of a spicy bite to it.

Tsukiji Nakagawaya

Kabocha, Ginger and Garlic, and Zassai Pickles

We have tried making kabocha squash pickles at home to no success. The kabocha here has a soft crunch to it and adds a beautiful color to any table.

Tsukiji Nakagawaya

Eggplant and Kabocha Pickles

Eggplants are in season now and these are harvested young, perfect for pickling. The kabocha pickles are sold like this.

Nukazuke Rice Bran Pickles

Nukazuke Rice Bran Pickles

Nukazuke (rice bran pickles) are something we make at home. Here you can see in the box cucumbers, carrots, and turnips. The rice bran is washed off before cutting and serving the pickles.

Tsukiji Nakagawaya

Tsukiji Nakagawaya’s Misozuke

Here are the misozuke (miso pickles) of cucumbers, ginger, daikon, eggplant, and gobo (burdock root).

Tsukiji Nakagawaya

Nagaimo and Yamaimo Pickles

A very unique pickle that is fun to try are these made from nagaimo and yamaimo potatoes. The pickles have a very crunchy texture but once you start chewing they become very slimy. These come in flavors of shiso, wasabi, and tamari soy sauce. In the bottom pickle can you see that kombu (kelp) is wrapped around the pickles and tied with kampyō (gourd)?

Tsukiji Nakagawaya

Wasabi-zuke, Sake Kasu, and Kōji

Wasabi-zuke is a pickle made from wasabi and saké lees, on the bottom, the two pickles one the left (975 JPY and 760 JPY). Next to that is saké kasu (saké lees) and kōji. Both of these are great fun to cook with at home. We use the saké lees for marinating fish before grilling. The kōji is a very popular cooking ingredient for making shio kōji and soy sauce kōji that can be used as a pickling agent, marinade for proteins, and as a seasoning for stir-fries, salad dressings, and soup.

Tsukiji Nakagawaya 築地中川屋

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-8-5 中央区築地4-8-5

 

 

 

Instant Umami – Hanakezuri Kombu

IzakayaSakamoto

Suzuki Sashimi – Usuzukuri

Sashimi is a staple in our home. We never tire of it as the type of seafood we use for sashimi changes throughout the year. Suzuki, Japanese sea bass, is a firm-fleshed fish so it is cut in thin, usuzukuri slices. If it were cut thick, as we do with tuna, it would be too hard to chew through and unpleasant. In the middle here are julienned carrots, cucumbers, ginger, and daikon. Wrapping the sashimi around the vegetables is a nice contrast in textures.

IzakayaSakamoto

Suzuki Sashimi with Hokkaido Hanakezuri Kombu

The classic seasoning for sashimi is wasabi and soy sauce, but that can become routine, so we change-up the seasonings. The green shavings here are from kombu (Laminaria japonica, Japanese kelp). Kombu is rich in natural umami. Most of the time we use kombu for making dashi, the essential stock for many Japanese dishes. Kombu dashi is good on its own as a vegetarian stock. In our home we usually steep the kombu with katsuobushi, smoked skipjack tuna (or bonito) flakes.

The kombu shavings here are simply sprinkled over sashimi. Not only umami but it also gives the flavor of the ocean to the dish. It can also be used over tofu, rice, noodles, and even Japanese-style pasta.

Hanakonbu

Hanakezuri Kombu – kombu shavings

The name of the product is Hana-kezuri Kombu. Hana-kezuri is the name for the flower-like shavings, that is often seen with katsuobushi flakes.

Hana-kezuri Kombu is made by Towa Shokuhin in Iwate prefecture. This was purchased at the Nomono shop at Ueno Station.

Food Sake Tokyo Update

Food Sake Tokyo

Yukari & Shinji Sakamoto – photo by Gary Stollar

It is the middle of the rainy season. We have been enjoying katsuo (skipjack tuna or bonito) as sashimi, much fatter than usual this time of year as the fish are swimming up north. In the fall when they return south is when they will be really rich in fat. As ume (Japanese apricots, Prunus mume) are in the market we are busy making pickled umeboshi, ume jam, and sweet umeshu for an aperitif later this year.

Izakaya Sakamoto

Katsuo Sashimi

We have had some changes at our company Food Sake Tokyo, named after the book published by The Little Bookroom. The focus of our business is our market visits to Tsukiji Market, depachika, Nihonbashi, Kappabashi, and supermarkets. We really enjoying meeting new people and helping them to explore and better understand Japanese cuisine. We are thankful for their recommendations as we are starting to see friends of former clients as well as clients returning.

We would like to open a cooking school next year. To prepare for that Shinji is taking the next year off from giving tours and is studying Japanese cuisine at Tsuji Culinary School. We are not offering the evening izakaya tours for the time being.

There will be some changes to this blog as we start to include more recipes and tips for cooking at home along with our usual posts on where to eat and shop in Tokyo. Shinji’s studies will finish next March. Once we have found a kitchen to offer classes, we will update it here on our blog.

Thanks for following Food Sake Tokyo and we look forward to someday welcoming you to our kitchen. The plan is to continue offering market visits and to supplement that with cooking classes.

Takashimaya Patissieria Sweets Counter

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

If you have a sweet tooth be sure to visit Shinjuku Takashimaya’s Patissieria in the depachika. The concept is brilliant, over a hundred signature sweets from patisseries throughout Tokyo all displayed together. Carefully peruse the sweets and upon selecting one, or two if you like, take a seat at the counter and order a coffee and enjoy.

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

Even on days when I don’t have time to sit down, I do try and glance through the display case as the offerings are constantly changing. As can be expected, aside from the classics, many are influenced by the seasonal ingredients.

Takashimaya Patissieria Mont Blanc

Takashimaya Patissieria

My view from the counter with a Mont Blanc. Shinjuku Takashimaya is located just outside of Shinjuku JR Station. Take the Shin-Minami-Guchi, New South Exit, take a left and you will walk into Takashimaya in one minute. Follow the escalators down to the basement.

Takashimaya Patissieria

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2, Shinjuku Takashimaya