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.

Gotta Get – Chopsticks at Hashichō in Nihonbashi

 

chopsticks store in Nihonbashi Coredo

Nihonbashi Coredo Hashicho

We eat with our chopsticks two, sometimes three times a day. Having a pair that you really love to eat with makes each meal all the more fun. There are so many factors to consider when selecting chopsticks. The size of your hands will determine the length. The tips can be fine or thick. The chopsticks can be round or beveled. The material can range from a simple bamboo to several layers of lacquer that are polished away to show off the colorful layers.

Nihonbashi Coredo

Selection of chopsticks at Hashicho

One of my favorite shops is Ginza Natsuno as the selection may be the greatest in Tokyo. Another shop worth checking out is Hashichō in the new Nihonbashi Coredo Building #3. It is a sister shop to Natsuno. Here you will find not only chopsticks, but also hashioki (chopstick rests) and other tableware items.

Hashichō

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi-Muromachi 1-5-5, Coredo Muromachi Bldg. 3, 2nd floor

03-3277-6033

 

There is also a shop in Roppongi at Midtown (Roppongi 9-7-4) in the Galleria 3rd floor.

Gotta Get – Green Tea at Tsukiji Market Maruyama Noriten

Image

Tsukiji Market is the most popular destination for our Food Sake Tokyo tours. Perhaps the most popular item that clients buy to bring home with them is Japanese green tea. My favorite tea shop in the market is Jugetsudo which is at the Maruyama Noriten Shop. The shop sells a variety of tea including mattcha, genmaicha, hōjicha, and seasonal teas like a sakura tea that has cherry blossoms mixed with the green tea.

Image

What I recommend for busy people who are not in the practice of steeping loose tea are these convenient tea packs. The tea can be served hot or cold. The cold tea is cold brewed simply by putting two bags with a liter of cold water in the refrigerator. A small package of 15 tea bags retails for 400 JPY. This larger package of 70 tea bags retails for 1,570 JPY.

Jugetsudo tea

Here is the cold brew green tea. It is refreshing and nourishes me through the summer.

If brewing hot tea, then only 15 seconds in 100 degrees Centigrade water.

Maruyama Noriten and Jugetsudo have three shops at Tsukiji Market. The photo above is in the outer market:

Tsukiji 4-14-17

The Main Shop, which has recently been renovated is at Tsukiji 4-7-5.

The inner market, jōnai, shop is at Tsukiji 5-2-1.

Nuts and Nori

Image

Nuts and sea vegetables are a new snack for me. The idea was introduced to me by chef friend of mine. My friend was in Tokyo and while here she was on the hunt for a special type of aonori. We looked throughout Tsukiji Market and finally came across what she was looking for. She said she wanted to bring some home to make this dish with nuts.

This is a simple dish to whip together. Take some raw nuts, fry in oil at low heat. Take the nuts out of the oil and then I quickly fry the aonori in the oil and then add to the nuts and season with salt. This dish above is with cashew nuts.

Image

Walnuts and aonori.

Nori Peanuts

Peanuts and aonori.

Aonori

This is the aonori that we used for the nuts and nori. I blogged about it in January as the aonori is also nice in dashimakitamago. These nuts and nori goes well with saké as well as wine, both red and white, and beer.

Gotta Get – Tomizawa’s Deep-Fried Okra

Image

 

We came across these deep-fried okra at Tomizawa. The okra are deep-fried until light and crispy. Not at all oily. Surely they must be better for you than potato chips, right? Well, that is what we tell ourselves. We are seeing lots of fried vegetables sold at the markets, but most of them are non-memorable. These are different. We can’t get enough. The okra are not always in stock, so call ahead before you go. Just wanted to put this on everyone’s radar. We will stock up on some as hanami, cherry-blossom viewing season, is just around the corner. This will be great for any picnic.

Tomizawa is a chain of shops that specialize in dried goods. We go to our local Tomizawa when looking for spices or ingredients for baking. There is a big shop in Machida. Not necessarily worth a big trip to Machida, but worth checking out if you are in the area.

Tokyo shops can be found at: B1 of Yurakucho Lumine, 8F of Shinjuku Keio, B2 of Ikebukuro Seibu, and Shibuya Seibu.

Tomizawa homepage:

http://www.tomizawa.co.jp/shopguide/

 

 

Gotta Get – Sansai Mountain Vegetables

 

sansai2

 

Today at lunch I was reminded of what a special time of year this is. This gorgeous katakuchi bowl was presented with simmered octopus, fava beans, and fukiFuki is the stem of a bog rhubarb. It is no relation to the rhubarb I grew up with in Minnesota. It looks like a thin celery and has a somewhat similar texture, although more refined and elegant.

Image

This time of year when sansai (mountain vegetables), like kogomi ferns, spring up from under the leaves that have covered the ground over winter. Angelica trees start to bud and the tender greens, tara no me, are harvested. And one of my favorites is the bitter butterbur, fuki no to, that is best when served as tempura. Some of these can be blanched and served with a splash of soy sauce.

If you are visiting Japan this spring, be sure to have a meal at a tempura restaurant that serves sansai. If you go out to an izakaya, ask them if they have any dishes with sansai. Some sansai are only around for a few weeks, so carpe diem.

Gotta Get – Taberu Togarashi Furikake

Image

Furikake are toppings that are sprinkled over rice. Most of the times at home we are eating a bowl of white rice. But once in a while we’ll sprinkle on some furikake just to spice things up. This Taberu Tōgarashi is in the genre of the taberu rayū, which we also like to have from time to time. We try to keep this Taberu Tōgarashi in the back of the pantry and not on the table. Why? Because when we do use it we end up eating two to three bowls of rice at a time. It’s that delicious.

Image

We came across this at Tsukiji Market and picked one up to try about a year ago and now it is a staple in our pantry. Ingredients include dried red chili peppers, black sesame seeds, yukari (dried purple shiso), apricot, smoked and dried fish flakes from skipjack tuna and Pacific mackerel, salt, nori, and salt.

Image

On the palate you get the heat from the dried red chili peppers, some tartness from the red shiso and apricot, and nutty from the sesame seeds. The capsaicin in the peppers is what makes this so addictive. The package suggests serving it with noodles, fried rice, onigiri, or as ochazuké. I have yet to try it on pizza, but I imagine most dishes that use Tabasco would also do well with this Taberu Tōgarashi.

Taberu Tōgarashi is sold at some shops at Tsukiji Market. We buy ours at a great little shop called Karaimonya, which specializes in chili peppers and all things spicy.

Karaimonya

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Building #9

03-3541-0607

Gotta Get – Nori Cups at Tsukiji Market

Image

Once in a while you come across something that changes your food life forever. A Japanese chef girlfriend who now lives in California told me about these nori cups at Tsukiji Market. They are sold at a store that I walk by every time we do a Food Sake Tokyo tour, which is about 3-4 times a week. It is a store that we often stop by as they also sell the sushi erasers that are popular gifts. I was kicking myself for not noticing these before. These are perfect for bite-size sushi. Perfect for parties or for a fun night at home.

Image

The version above are unseasoned, while these are flavored with salt. I prefer the salty ones.

Image

Nori cups are circles of nori shaped into small cups like cupcake papers. Just add rice, or better yet, vinegared sushi rice, and top with sushi toppings.

Image

The first time we tried these we were celebrating a special occasion at home and Shinji pulled out all of the stops. Topping options this night included: clockwise from top left: sujiko (soy sauce marinated salmon roe in the sac), mentaiko (salted and spicy cod roe), kombu, seafood salad, maguro (tuna), kazunoko (herring roe), tobiko (flying fish roe), tuna salad, salmon, tamagoyaki (omelet), crab, and shirasu (baby anchovies boiled in salt water).

Image

Everyone makes their own as they like.

nori cup1

On this night we simply did salmon sashimi to celebrate the new saké cups we purchased.
Orimatsu

There are a few shops selling the nori cups at Tsukiji Market. The easiest one to find is Orimatsu in the outer market. While here, be sure to also take a look at the erasers in designs like sushi, bento, and wagashi (Japanese confectionaries).

Orimatsu

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-9-15

3:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Followers of the Food Sake Tokyo blog have written to me to say that the nori cups can also be found at Tokyu Hands in the bento section as well as at Kappabashi.

Gotta Gets – Okra Crisps

DSCN1703

 

When it comes to crispy snacks in Japan, I tend to pick up Calbee potato chips. Calbee changes up its line-up frequently and it gives me a good excuse to buy something to snack on.  When we saw these okra crisps at our local Tomizawa Shōten shop we were so curious. What would okra, which is so slippery and slimy when cooked, be like when fried up? It was a hit in our house. We went back to the store and bought several more packs the next day. They are crispy, the seeds inside the pods are crunchy, and it is well seasoned with salt. Great with beer, sake, or shōchū. Something so good for you must still be good for you, even when deep-fried, right?

Tomizawa Shōten has shops throughout the city including Shinjuku Keio, Yurakucho Lumine, and Shibuya Seibu.

Gotta Get – Fresh Green Tea

Image

It has been incredibly hot in Tokyo this last week. Record high for the month of October, 31 degrees C yesterday, almost 88 degrees F. I tend to drink a lot of water while out in the city, but another favorite, if I can find it, are these green tea bottles. Powdered green tea, sometimes sencha, or sencha mixed with mattcha, is in the cap of the bottle of water. When you twist open the cap the tea falls into the water. Just shake up the bottle and you have cold, fresh green tea. There are a few shops in Tsukiji Market selling this. Usually you’ll see it in front of a tea shop in a big bucket of ice.