Gotta Get – Haagen Dazs

Haagen Dazs


While visiting Tokyo be sure to make a visit to the amazingly well-stocked convenience stores. If I am out and about in the city I am sure to stop by a convenience store at least one, if not several times during the day. Usually for something to drink. The selection can be dizzying; coffee and tea – both hot and cold, fruit juices, pre-mixed cocktails, beer, and one cup saké just to name a few.

Needing a small snack between meals? Onigiri (rice balls) stuffed with a variety of fillings like uméboshi (pickled apricots), nattō (fermented soybeans), or “sea chicken” (canned tuna with mayonnaise). There is an impressive selection of fresh vegetable salads – great to keep in mind as many travelers seem to be craving vegetables while in Japan.

One thing worth making a special trip to the convenience store for is for the Haagen-Dazs mini cups. The flavors change throughout the year, so from time to time I like to see what’s in season. Currently select from rare cheesecake, melty caramel, strawberry marscapone, rum raisin, and pumpkin – Japanese kabocha pumpkin with a caramel sauce.

Don’t dig in right away. Let it melt just a little bit for the best flavor and texture of the ice cream, as shown on this commercial.

You can thank me later.


Hanami 101


Each spring cherry trees around Tokyo blossom while friends, families, and co-workers gather under the blossoms to enjoy the ritual of hanami. If you are lucky to be in Tokyo this week, it is the quintessential Japanese experience. A few tips on how to best enjoy hanami.


Most essential is to pick up a bentō. The best place to select from a wide variety of bentō is depachika, the epicurean basement food floors of department stores. Here is my list of the top ten depachika in Tokyo. But, if a depachika is not on your way to the park, no worries, a convenient store will have lunch boxes or sandwiches, chips, and other snacks.

The bentō above comes from AEN at Shinjuku Isetan, which came in a beautiful bamboo box and had genmai (brown rice) with two types of grilled fish, croquette, pickles, and more. The saké is a junmai ginjō from Shoutoku in Fushimi, Kyoto. It was only 12% alcohol, lighter than most saké which is about 16%, so perfect with lunch. And, I couldn’t resist the packaging.


Another bentō company I love and can’t get enough of is Yonehachi, which has branches in almost every depachika. Yonehachi is famous for its okowa, a mix of mochi-gomé  (sticky rice) and uruchimai (regular rice) that is steamed with different vegetables and meat or fish. You can select what kind of seasoned rice you want with your bentō. This one here has takénoko (bamboo shoots) and fuki (a type of spring mountain vegetable), both seasonal spring vegetables.


Yonehachi bentō, again, as it is my favorite. This one with the takénoko and fuki rice and the kuri (chestnuts) and red beans okowa. The saké with this bentō is from Masumi, a great saké brewery in Nagano. Masumi has an excellent portfolio of saké, including this junmaishu Okuden KanzukuriThis saké is light on the palate and perfect for sipping under the cherry blossoms. I’ve also had this warmed up and it is lovely hot or cold.

Once you’ve picked your bentō and drink, stop by a convenience store to get a plastic sheet to sit on. For some reason these are usually blue.

And, then get to your hanami spot early as the choice spots tend to be taken early in the day.

Be sure to do some research on where to go. I was surprised to see that Shinjuku Gyoen doesn’t allow alcohol to be brought in. There are security guards who check your bag on your way in. Guards are walking throughout the park as well to make sure everyone is abiding by the rules.

Enjoy and have fun enjoying food food and saké under the cherry blossoms.

Nihonbashi Yukari Spring Bento

Yukari 1


Nihonbashi Yukari is one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo. Chef Kimio Nonaga is the 2002 Iron Chef Champion, from the original series. He is the third-generation chef of a kaiseki restaurant that is located in the historic district on Nihonbashi. His restaurant is about a three minute walk from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit.

Yukari 2

On this chilly spring day he starts his lunch course with a savory, warm egg custard, chawanmushi. Inside of the custard is anago eel and it is topped with some grated ginger, which helps warm up the body.

yukari 5

I like to request a seat at the counter so that chef Nonaga can answer questions about the different ingredients and cooking techniques. He’s very passionate about Japanese cuisine and enjoys sharing his knowledge with diners. He doesn’t speak English so it’s best to go with a Japanese speaker.

yukari 4

The bentō lunch needs to requested when making your reservation. It is a mini-kaiseki meal as it includes a variety of dishes incorporating seasonal ingredients that are prepared using different cooking techniques.

yukari 6

One of chef Nonaga’s signature dishes is a Japanese dish made from chicken liver that is topped with keshi no mi. It is not served with the bentō, but we were talking about Valentine’s Day and chocolate and he paired this with some chocolate.

yukari 7

While it is called a bentō, it is an extravagant affair that is presented in a lacquer box. It’s quite a feast:

Sashimi topped with a nattō dressing that he created with an Ibaraki nattō purveyor.

Tender Yamagata pork kakuni.

Tempura of shishitō pepper, shiitaké mushroom, wakasagi Japanese smelt that is is rolled in komé-ko (rice flour) before deep-fried, and kakiagé – a melange of seafood and vegetables deep-fried in a little cake.

Rice is studded with benidaizu red beans from Yamagata, and more.

yukari 8

With the tsukuri, sashimi course, chef Nonaga puts some nattō dressing on it. There was also something crunchy. I asked him if it was dried nattō beans and he said that it was deep-fried anago bones. A great example that nothing goes to waste in the Japanese kitchen.




yukari 9

Nihonbashi Yukari is the rare kaiseki restaurant that serves dessert. This day it is a mattcha yogurt babaloa with a strawberry from Ibaraki, azuki paste, and wasanbon sugar.

yukari 10


And, as if that was not enough, chef Nonaga gave us a second dessert. A cookies and cream ice cream that had some ground coffee in it.

There are so many things why this is a favorite of mine. The location can’t be beat as it is in the heart of the city. Chef Nonaga is full of personality and sitting at the counter, I always learn new things about Japanese cuisine. The food incorporates seasonal ingredients – and many of it from Tokyo, including Tokyo Bay. Finally, it is a bargain when compared to similar restaurants. A client recently dined here twice during her stay in Tokyo and she wrote about it on her blog. If you go, please tell chef Nonaga that Yukari sent you.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

Kappabashi and Tsukiji Market March Tours




Tuesday, March 12th

10 a.m. to noon

Whether you are looking for new kitchen gadgets or for tableware, you’ll find it all at Kappabashi, the wholesale district for chefs and restaurateurs. Kappabashi is reknowned for its plastic food samples, made into keychains and refrigerator magnets. This guided field trip will introduce you to kitchenware and tableware unique to the Japanese kitchen.

Price is 7,000 Japanese yen and includes a copy of Food Sake Tokyo.

Additional copies of Food Sake Tokyo are available for 2,000 Japanese yen.

Each tour is limited to four participants.

To register e-mail: yukari dot shinji dot sakamoto at gmail dot com


Tsukiji Outer Market – TOUR FULL

Tuesday, March 19th

9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Tsukiji Market is the world’s largest seafood market. The outer market of Tsukiji, which is open to the general public, is filled with many food shops and restaurants. This guided field trip will introduce you to ingredients essential to the Japanese kitchen; a visit to a knife shop and a kitchenware shop is included.

This tour does NOT include a visit to the inner market where seafood is sold to wholesalers.

Price is 7,000 Japanese yen and includes a copy of Food Sake Tokyo.

Price is 12,000 Japanese yen if attending both Kappabashi and Tsukiji tours.

Additional copies of Food Sake Tokyo are available for 2,000 Japanese yen.

Each tour is limited to four participants.

To register e-mail: yukari dot shinji dot sakamoto at gmail dot com

Food Sake Tokyo

GENERAL CANCELLATION POLICY: Should Food Sake Tokyo need to cancel any or all segments of a program, every effort will be made to re-schedule sessions at a mutually convenient time. If that is not possible, a full refund will be made promptly for sessions canceled by Food Sake Tokyo.

If an individual or group is unable to attend a Food Sake Tokyo program for which they have already enrolled, that person or group may designate a substitute for him/her/them. No additional fees are charged to the participant (substitute attendee). Any financial arrangements made between the original participant and his/her/their substitute is at the discretion of the person originally enrolled. All requests to have a substitute attend a program, however, must be received by phone or e-mail at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled class meeting. When making such a request, please provide the full name and (local, Tokyo) contact phone number and e-mail address of each person who will be taking the place of the originally enrolled individual or group.

LIMITATIONS on LIABILITY: Every possible precaution is taken to ensure your personal safety and the safety of those in your group. However, registration for, and attendance at, all programs is subject to the following condition: the director and staff of Food Sake Tokyo, are released from, and specifically disclaim, all responsibilities for injuries or illness incurred traveling to and from sessions, during sessions, or resulting from food prepared at, or according to recipes distributed during, cooking & tasting sessions, market tours or other field trips, including restaurant meals.

NOTE: Tuition fees for cooking workshops, market tours, and other field trips conducted by Food Sake Tokyo do NOT INCLUDE food & beverage not specifically mentioned in the program description. Tuition does NOT include the cost of local transportation. Any purchases made by participants during class, market tours or field trips are at the discretion of each participant. Participants in all programs are responsible for making arrangements for, and making payment for, their airfare, lodgings, and transportation to/from/within Japan. Participants are also responsible for obtaining and paying for any travel/trip/health insurance coverage they would like to have.


MetPod photo 201302

Kamasami Kong, Tommy Aoki, and Yukari Sakamoto

I had the great pleasure of doing a MetPod with Kamasami Kong to share information about our new company, Food Sake Tokyo. Click on the link below

Here is Tommy Aoki’s MetPod. He talks about the United Tastes of America competition.


Suji's Pastrami


Suji’s pastrami sandwich. A taste of New York City in Tokyo. Suji’s is the sponsor for the MetPod.  Minato-ku, Azabudai 3-1-5

Popular Egg Dishes in Japan

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper released results of a survey of popular egg dishes in Japan. Many of these are dishes we make at home. The one big difference of living in Japan and when we lived in New York City is that we only eat raw eggs in Japan. Also, our oven in Japan has a steam function making it very easy to make chawanmushi, a savory egg custard.

If you love eggs, then learning how to make the savory dashimaki (rolled omelet) or the sweeter version tamagoyaki is essential. Dashimaki is more prevalent in the Kansai region while tamagoyaki is more popular in the Kantō region. Buying a tamagoyaki pan will help make rolling the omelet a snap.

Japan’s most popular egg dishes are:

1. Omuraisu (ketchup flavored rice enveloped in an omelet)

2.  Tamago kake gohan (raw egg and soy sauce over rice)

3. Dashimaki (savory, juicy rolled omelet)

4. Chawanmushi (savory egg custard)

5. Omuretsu (Western style omelet)

6. Tamagoyaki (sweet rolled omelet)

7.  Medamayaki (sunny side up fried egg)

8. Yu de tamago (boiled egg)

9. Onsen tamago (soft-boiled egg)

10. Tamago sando (egg salad sandwich)

March Seasonal Japanese Seafood

tairagaiTairagai, hokkigai, and kinmedai in a tairagai shell

March is a delicious month for seafood. The cold waters still bring fish rich with fat that shines in sashimi or is nice for grilling. Asari clams are great for making into a quick vongole style pasta. Grilling salted fish heads of buri or tai is quick and simple and the perfect accompaniment to sake or shochu. Bitesize tiny hotaru ika can be quickly blanched and then served with a sweet and vinegary sumiso dressing. Nishin can be salted and grilled. And perhaps my favorite this time of year is katsuo simply seared on the edges, sliced thickly, and served with some soy sauce and garlic.


If you click on the Japanese name of the seafood you should be directed to a link with a photo.


Akagai 赤貝 ark shell (Scapharca broughtonii)

Akagarei 赤鰈 flathead flounder (Hippoglossoides dubius)

Amadai 赤甘鯛 tilefish (Branchiostegus japonicus)

Ankou 鮟鱇 monkfish (Lophiomus setigerus)

Aoyagi  青柳  surf clam (Mactra chinensis)

Asari 浅利 Japanese littleneck clams (Ruditapes philippinarum)

Benizuwaigani 楚蟹  red snow crab   (Chionoecetes japonicus)

Buri 鰤 Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata)

Chidai  血鯛  crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)

Fugu 真河豚 blowfish or pufferfish (Takifugu porphyreus)

Hamaguri 浜栗 common Orient clam (Meretrix lusoria)

Hira suzuki 平鱸   blackfin Japanese seabass (Lateolabrax latus)

Hirame 鮃 olive flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus)

Honmaguro 本鮪 bluefin tuna (Thunus thynnus)

Hoshigarei 星鰈 spotted halibut (Verasper variegatus)

Hotaru Ika 蛍烏賊擬 firefly squid  (Enoploteuthis chunii)

Hotate 帆立貝 scallops (Patinopecten yessoensis)

Iidako 飯蛸 ocellated octopus (Octopus ocellatus)

Itoyori 糸縒鯛 golden threadfin-bream (Nemipterus virgatus)

Kaki 牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)

Kanburi 寒鰤 winter Japanese amberjack (see buri) (Seriola quinqueradiata)

Kasago 笠子 scorpionfish (Sebastiscus marmoratus)

Katsuo 鰹 skipjack tuna or oceanic bonito (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Kawahagi 皮剥 thread-sail filefish  (Stephanolepis cirrhifer)

Kihada maguro 黄肌鮪 yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)

Kinki 黄血魚 thornhead (Sebastolobus macrochir)

Kinmedai 金目 (sometimes called kinme) splendid alfonsino (Beryx splendens)

Kohada 小鰭 gizzard shad (Konosirus pumctatus)

Madai (or Tai) 真鯛 seabream (Pagurus major)

Makogarei 真子鰈 marbled sole (Pleuronectes yokohamae)

Matsuba gani 松葉蟹 spiny crab (Hypothalassia armata)

Matsukawa 松皮鰈  barfin flounder (Verasper moseri)

Mebaru 目張 black rockfish (Sebastes inermis)

Mirugai 海松食 geoduck (Tresus keenae)

Nishin 鰊 Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii)

Oma honmaguro 大間鮪 bluefin tuna from Oma in Aomori (see honmaguro)

Saba 鯖 Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Sakura ebi 桜蝦 sakura shrimp (Sergia lucens)

Sawara 鰆 Japanese Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius)

Sayori 針魚 halfbeak (Hyporhamphus sajori)

Sazae 栄螺 turban shell (Turbo cornutus)

Shijimi 大和蜆 corbicula clams (Corbicula japonica)

Shirauo 白魚 whitefish or ice goby (Salangichthys microdon)

Soudagatsuo 騒多鰹 frigate mackerel  (Auxis thazard)

Surumeika  鯣烏賊  Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)

Tairagai 平貝 pen shell or fan shell (Atrina (Servatrina) pectinata)

Tara 真鱈 codfish (Gadus macrocephalus)

Tarabagani 鱈場蟹 Alaskan king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)

Umazurahagi 馬面剥 filefish scraper (Thamnaconus modestus)

Wakasagi 若細魚 Japanese smelt  (Hypomesus nipponensis)

Yanagi dako 柳蛸 chestnut octopus (Octopus conispadiceus)

Yari ika 槍烏賊 spear squid (Loligo (Heterololigo) bleekeri)

Zuwaigani 頭矮蟹 snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio)