Food Sake Tokyo Tours with Taste of Culture

Tsukiji Market, Ningyocho, depachika, and Kappabashi are four of my favorite places in Tokyo to explore the food culture of Japan. I have the honor of conducting tours with Elizabeth Andoh’s Taste of Culture this November.

The tour includes a copy of my book, Food Sake Tokyo, part of The Terroir Guides published by The Little Bookroom.

Elizabeth will have a Tohoku-Style Osechi tasting program on December 1. I will participate with a discussion and tasting of Tohoku sake.

Please see the Taste of Culture website for more details.

Shochu Slushee

What better way to beat the heat in Tokyo than with shochu on the rocks. Or how about a popsicle? Better yet, combine the two! A friend recently posted on facebook a cocktail that he had out at a local izakaya. This blue popsicle is called Garigari-kun. He was very popular in the 80’s and is making a come back now. It’s sweet, like syrup.

The cocktail itself is quite easy. Shochu on the rocks in a large beer mug. The regular shochu cups are too small to hold the popsicle. Add a Garigari-kun (or your favorite popsicle) and let it melt a bit.

Once it starts melting I used the popsicle stick to break up the popsicle stick. It turned out to be a nice slushee. Actually one popsicle didn’t add enough flavor to the drink so I added a second one. Kome (rice) shochu or a kokuto (brown sugar) shochu is ideal for this drink.

I hope this inspires you to make your own cocktails at home!

Japanese Beverage Trends – Low Alcohol Fruity Drinks

There has been an explosion of fruity, low-alcohol drinks on the market. Chuhai drinks or cocktails at about 3% alcohol. This is popular especially with young Japanese in their 20’s. The packaging is colorful and often includes pictures of fruit. The three big companies, Suntory, Asahi, and Kirin, are all active in this category.

Back L to R: Asahi Cocktail Partners Cassis Orange, Asahi Grapefruits Slat, Asahi Chuhai Kajitsu no Shunkan Pione (grape)

Front L to R: Suntory Yorohoi Hiyashi Anzu, Suntory Aki (fall) Ringo (apple) Chuhai, Suntory Yorohoi Umeshu Soda

The Suntory Chuhai line-up includes this Hiyashi Anzu Horoyoi which is one of my favorite packages with the fireworks that fill the Japanese summer skies at night.

These are 晩酌 banshaku, or evening drinks. For people in their 20’s banshaku is usually at 10 p.m. – surfing the internet or checking e-mail. For people in their 40’s it’s usually a drink with dinner.

The drinks are sweet, like drinking a fruity soda, complete with the bubbles. As for me, I enjoyed these as an aperitif on the hot days in a glass filled with ice. But one is just right. From there I prefer to go to shochu. But I know a lot of people who can not have a lot of alcohol and for that market this is perfect.

Popular Donburi in Japan

Donburi are great one bowl meals. A large bowl of hot rice with toppings. We often eat these at home when we are in a hurry. Or, if Shinji is making the meal, he often resorts to donburi. They are easy to assemble and only one dish needs to be washed.

The Asashi Shimbun reported today results from an online survey taken in August. From 1842 surveyed, results for the most popular donburi are as follows:

1. Katsudon (tonkatsu)

2. Unadon (unagi)

3. Kaisendon (seasonal seafood sashimi) *what Shinji usually makes for us

4. Tendon (tempura)

5. Oyakodon (chicken and egg)

6. Gyudon (thinly sliced beef)

7. Chukadon (Chinese style, usually of meat and vegetables)

8. Tekkadon (tuna sashimi) *also popular in our home

9. Unidon (uni)

10. Ikuradon (salmon roe)

Looking over the list there are no surprises. Many of these are hearty dishes. Some chain restaurants specialize in some of these dishes. Tenya for tempura donburi or some of the gyudon chain restaurants like Sukiya. Specialty restaurants like Tamahide in Ningyocho have long lines for the signature oyakodon. If you are craving donburi after reading this, your best bet may be Tsukiji Market where several restaurants in the outer market will have the kaisendon, tekkadon, unidon, ikuradon, and more.