Gotta Gets – Okra Crisps

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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.

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Nihonbashi Tour on November 1st

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Can you tell the difference between the nori on the left and the right?

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Two types of dashi, both using katsuobushi.

What better time to learn about washoku? It seems that UNESCO will recognize the unique cuisine of Japan as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in December.

If you are curious or passionate about Japanese cuisine and would like to know more about it, there will be a 90-minute walking tour of some of the historic shops in Nihonbashi. Learn more about umami, some ingredients from the Japanese pantry, and Japanese cuisine.

The tours are at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4 p.m. on Friday, November 1st. The tours are in English.

For more details, please contact me directly. Our e-mail is on our “Yukari and Shinji Sakamoto” page.

Michelin Guide Kansai 2014

The Michelin Guide Kansai 2014 has given two more restaurants the prestigious three stars ranking in its most recent edition. From the press release, Michael ELLIS, International Director of the MICHELIN guides comments, “We are very pleased to award two new three stars restaurants, Mizai and Kichisen, both located in Kyoto. They serve Japanese cuisine cooked at a remarkably high level. We are also delighted to introduce a Bib Gourmand selection in the Kansai region for the first time. This distinction is really appreciated by our readers”.

“A Bib Gourmand is a separate award from a star and indicates a value-for-money restaurant, offering a menu or a single plate (depending on the restaurant’s style) for under 5,000 yen. The name is a shortened version of ‘Bibendum’ (the Michelin Man), along with ‘gourmand’ which means ‘one who enjoys eating. ”

Upon quick glance at the Bib Gourmand for Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, I believe that non of the recipients are Japanese restaurants but are all French and Italian.

Michelin has partnered with Gurunavi and the information is now available online for free. Here is the updated list of Kyoto three star restaurants:

http://gm.gnavi.co.jp/restaurant/list/kyoto/all_area/all_small_area/all_food/3star/

Surf the Gurunavi site for updates in Kansai including Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Nara.

http://gm.gnavi.co.jp/

 

Harajuku Afuri

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“Regular or extra fat?” asked the guy behind the counter when I handed over my ticket from the vending machine for Afuri’s yuzu shio (yuzu and salt) ramen. No brainer. Extra fat (ōi instead of futsū for regular). A few minutes later I could smell the yuzu as he placed the bowl in front of me. You can see the yuzu peel on the egg.

The yuzu shio is perfect on these chilly autumn days. It’s light and refreshing. The chashū is seared which adds a nice toasty note to the ramen. The egg is soft and full of flavor in the yolk. I love thin noodles and these are very thin. The mizuna is a refreshing, crunchy touch. One of my favorite bowls in the city.

As for the extra fat, it was a rich bowl of ramen, but not too fat. A well-balanced bowl with a round feel of chicken schmaltz. The broth is chicken-based.

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All of the seats overlook the open kitchen. J-Pop plays in the background, think Hikaru Utada, while Hayao Miyazaki’s Kurenai no Buta (Crimson Pig) plays on the TV. Today the shop is filled with a mix of young girls out shopping, area businessmen, and some students.

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This shop is in Harajuku, about three minutes from the Takeshita Dori exit from the Yamanote Harajuku line. The shop front are large windows making the shop brightly lit during the day. It’s a very friendly shop and great for solo diners. The original shop is in Ebisu (Ebisu 1-1-7) and there is also a shop in Azabu-Jūban (Azabu-Jūban 1-8-10), and others in city.

Afuri 阿夫利

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 3-63-1

渋谷区千駄ヶ谷3−63−1

03-6438-1910

10:30 a.m. – 3:00 a.m.

 

 

 

October Seasonal Seafood

sanma

At Tsukiji Market we are seeing many autumn seafood like oysters, wakasagi for deep-frying, and finally sanma for grilling with salt. Some of our favorite sashimi this time of year include katsuo, isaki, and if you get a kawahagi with a big liver we will mix the liver with soy sauce and dip the sashimi in the creamy mixture. Many of the fishy fish like saba, iwashi, and aji are in abundance.

Akagarei 赤鰈 flathead flounder (Hippoglossoides dubius)        

Amadai 赤甘鯛 tilefish (Branchiostegus japonicas)

Ayu 鮎 sweet fish (Plecoglossus altivelis)

Bora flathead mullet or Gray mullet (Mugil cephalus)               

Chidai 血鯛 crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)

Hon kamasu 本カマス barracuda (Sphyraena pinguis)       

Hon kawahagi 本皮剥 thread-sail filefish (Stephanolepis cirrhifer)   

Hon shishamo 本ししゃもcapelin or longfin smelt (Spirinchus lanceolatus)

Ibodai疣鯛 Japanese butterfish (Psenopsis anomala)

Isaki 伊佐木threeline grunt (Parapristipoma trilineatum)

Itoyori イトヨリgolden threadfin bream (Nemipterus virgatus)

Kaki 牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)

Katsuo  鰹   skipjack tuna or oceanic bonito (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Kohada 小鰭   gizzard shad (Konosirus pumctatus)

Kurumaebi 車海老   Japanese tiger prawn (Marsupenaeus japonicas)

Maaji 真鯵 horse mackerel (Trachurus japonicas)        

Maiwashi  真鰯  sardine (Sardinops melanostictus)

Masaba真鯖   pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Mebachi maguro 目鉢鮪 bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus)

Medai 目鯛 butterfish (Hyperoglyphe japonica)

Mekajikiめかじき swordfish (Xiphias gladius)        

Sanma 秋刀魚 Pacific saury (Cololabis saira)

Sawara さわら Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius)

Shirosake 白鮭   chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)                              

Sujiko筋子 salmon roe still in the sac                         

Surume ika スルメイカJapanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)

Tachiuo   太刀魚   cutlassfish or largehead hairtail (Trichiurus lepturus)

Takabe タカベ yellow-striped butterfish (Labracoglossa argentiventris)

Wakasagi 若細魚 Japanese smelt (Hypomesus nipponensis)                                        

Warasaワラサ yellowtail  (Seriola quinqueradiata)        

Watarigani 渡蟹 swimming crab (Portunus trituberculatus)    

 

Other fish you may see in the market

 

Ainame 鮎魚女fat greenling (Hexagrammos otakii)                         

Akagai 赤貝 ark shell (Scapharca broughtonii)

Asari 浅利 Japanese littleneck clams (Ruditapes philippinarum)

Ayu     ayu or sweet fish ( Plecoglossus altivelis)                

Hotate 帆立貝 scallops (Patinopecten yessoensis)

Hoya ホヤ sea squirt (Halocynthia roretzi)

Kihada maguro 黄肌鮪 yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)  

Kinki 黄血魚 thornyhead (Sebastolobus macrochir)

Kinmedai or kinme 金目鯛 splendid alfonsino (Beryx splendens)

Kurumaebi 車海老   Japanese tiger prawn (Marsupenaeus japonicas)  

Maaji  真鯵  horse mackerel (Trachurus japonicas) 

Madai 真鯛 sea bream (Pagurus major)

Makarei 真鰈 Japanese common flounder (Pleuronectes yokohamae)

Mebaru 目張 rockfish (Sebastes inermis)

Mirugai 海松食 geoduck (Tresus keenae)           

Sazae 栄螺 turban shell (Turbo cornutus)

Tairagai 平貝 penshell (Atrina (Servatrina) pectinata)

Tobiuo 飛魚 flying fish (Cypselurus agoo agoo)

Tsubugai   螺貝   whelk (Buccinum undatum)

Nihonbashi Sapporoya – Hiyashi Chuka Goma Dare

ImageTokyo has been unseasonably hot this week. My favorite bowl of cold ramen noodles in the whole city is a great little dive called Sapporoya.The ramen shop happens to be across the street from one of my favorite kaiseki/kappō restaurants, Nihonbashi Yukari. I love that on this narrow street you can find two contrasting meals, both exceptional, at different price ranges.

I used to work in Nihonbashi at Takashimaya department store. I came upon Sapporoya  by chance one night when looking for a quick bite to eat with a girlfriend. It was summer and the cold ramen dish was tempting. The first time I had it I think I picked up the large bowl and sipped up the broth. It is rich in umami and has a nutty sesame sauce that brings the whole dish together. When I went to work the next day at Takashimaya and shared my story with Yamada-san (older man who is a gourmet and introduced me to many great spots), he knew immediately of it. I was advised by Yamada-san that the hot bowls of ramen are also very good here. But, I am addicted to the cold ramen with sesame dressing.

I stopped by this week and was so touched that the owners had remembered me. I haven’t been back in five years, but as soon as I came into the shop I was warmly welcomed. It’s a small restaurant and most of the diners are area businessmen, so I guess as a half-Japanese woman I stick out a bit. Regardless, I was happy to be back. I am very sentimental so their kindness in welcoming back  to the shop almost brought tears to my eyes.

The dish is still as I remember. Presented in a large bowl, rich with toppings, and still with lip-smacking sauce. I no longer pick up the bowl at the end, but the thought did cross my mind. When you come into the store you place your order with the cashier. For this dish, be sure to ask for the hiyashi chuka goma dare. I don’t care for Japanese mustard so I also request karashi nuki.

Sapporoya is just minutes from Tokyo Station on the Yaesu side.

Nihonbashi Sapporoya 札幌や

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-3-5, B1

中央区日本橋3-3-5, B1

Monday – Friday 11:00~14:30 17:00~21:00

Saturday 11:00~14:30

closed Sunday and holidays

Gotta Get – Fresh Green Tea

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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.

ABC Kitchen’s Chef Dan Kluger at the Park Hyatt Tokyo

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Toast, ricotta cheese, and kabocha puree. It doesn’t get much more simple than this, yet the combination of flavors and contrast of textures was blissful. I was satisfied and ready to call it an evening as it was so delicious. The toast is seasoned with olive oil and then pan-fried. This is exactly what I love about grilled cheese sandwiches, the crispy crust and the chewy dough. Handmade ricotta and a sweet yet slightly spicy kabocha topping makes this a homerun dish. I will try and recreate this tomorrow. I am sure that the olive oil pan-fried toast will become a regular part of our repertoire.

Chef Dan Kluger, guest cheffing at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, said that it is so popular back in NYC at ABC Kitchen that some people request it for dessert. He said that the recipe is in the NY Times, NY magazine, and Bon Appetit magazine. It is also on the Today Show website and other places. Suddenly I feel as though I was a bear who has hibernated through a season of culinary greatness.

In an interview with Metropolis magazine, Kluger says that among his favorite cookbooks is Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Simple Cuisine. And some of the basic concepts that Jean-Georges uses are reflected in Kluger’s dishes.

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The mushroom pizza was just such a dish. A whole-wheat crust with shiitake, shimeji, maitake, and eringi mushrooms topped with an egg. The produce shines and Kluger brings it together smartly. These two dishes are available at the New York Bar for the next two nights.

In the main dining room, at the New York Grill, expect more layered dishes, yet still very simple. There are bursts of flavors and hints of chili, but never overpowering a dish. The grilled broccoli salad is also a technique I am going to try and do at home.

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It has been fun as a chef observing Kluger and his team prepare for this event through his visits to Tsukiji and Ohta Markets documented on the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s facebook page. It’s been even more thrilling to see the dishes come to life using ingredients like tilefish (amadai) and the grapes.

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The wine pairings are fun as many of the wines are hand crafted and made in small batches like the spicy and fruity Forlorn Hope Les Deux Mathieux.

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ABC Kitchen is serving up a spicy ginger margarita and refreshing lemonade cocktail at the New York Bar along with that life-changing toast and mushroom pizza. There is a tasting course, or you can order dishes a la carte, at the New York Grill. Kluger and his team is only in town for two more nights.

I am hoping to recreate ABC Kitchen in my home kitchen tomorrow with the kabocha toast. Arigato for the inspiration.

Updated October 11, 2013:

I woke up thinking about the kabocha toast. What a revelation! Kudos chef Kluger.

New York Grill & Bar

Park Hyatt Tokyo, 52nd Floor

03-5322-1234

Spoon Curry

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Japanese curry, one of the country’s comfort food dishes, is something we make at home all of the time. Often using packages of curry roux that now come in a wide variety of flavors and levels of heat.

I am a firm believer in not going out to eat food that can be easily made at home. However, rules are made to be broken, and I will make an exception for the vegetable curry at Spoon near Nishi-Kokubunji station on the JR Chuo Line. 

Spoon is a narrow restaurant, like many ramen shops, with a long counter facing an open kitchen. There are nine seats in the shop and yes, you have to pull your seat up as close as you can to the counter when someone passes you. Most Japanese maintain a narrow waistline, can’t imagine a restaurant this small passing fire codes in New York City.

Each time I come back I carefully peruse the menu. Today I considered getting the daily special which was garlic chicken and a soft omelette over the curry. The seasonal deep-fried oysters also called out to me as oysters are finally back in season now that the waters have cooled down. But, I am addicted to the vegetable curry here. It’s something I can’t be bothered to make at home. Nine different vegetables are deep-fried and then artfully placed on the curry. It’s colorful and the vegetables contribute different flavors including sweetness from the sweet potatoes and textures like from the broccoli. With this variety of vegetables I feel like I have gotten met my daily requirement of vegetables. Cream garnishes the curry with the flourishes of a skilled calligrapher. I don’t think the cream adds much flavor to the dish, but it sure makes it pretty. I splurge and ask for it to be topped with a croquette.

The curry here is something I need to try and recreate at home. Much better than any pre-packaged roux. It’s a dark, almost black curry that is layered with flavors. The smell of the curry lingers into the street, which is how we first decided to come into the shop. We noticed that it was very popular. There is a take-out window on the street and it’s not unusual to see someone waiting for their curry-to-go. 

If you come, be sure to open up the small pickle pot on the counter. The sweet, red fukujin-zuke pickles are the perfect partner to the dish.

To get to Spoon, exit Nishi-Kokubunji JR station. There is only one exit. Take a right outside of the station and then the first left. Walk down the narrow pedestrian street and it is about the 3rd shop on your left. Note that there is another curry restaurant also called Spoon on the South side of the station, not to be confused with this one.

Spoon

Kokubunji-shi, Nishi Koigakubo 2-6-3

042-322-9464