Taste of Culture – The Tohoku Kitchen Workshop

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Elizabeth Andoh’s school, Taste of Culture, is a wonder school in Tokyo for learning about Japanese cuisine and food culture. This class was on the cuisine of Tohoku. My mother is from Yamagata and I still have family there. It is always so impressive to see that the cuisine is so rich in Japan as there are always new ingredients and dishes to study. The Tohoku region has been affected by the events of March 11th, and Elizabeth’s e-cookbook, Kibō, introduces many recipes from Tohoku.

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Hoshigiku, dried chrysanthemum petals, are a sheet of flower petals, almost like nori. We actually use this in our home when we make pressed sushi with unagi. In this class we used it with enoki mushrooms in a vinegar dressing. The hoshigiku here comes from Aomori prefecture, on the northernmost tip of Honshu, Japan’s main island.

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Elizabeth is demonstrating how to roll a sweet miso paste into fresh shiso leaves that will later be skewered and then pan fried. This is a dish I came to know visiting family in Yamagata.

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The pickles in Tohoku are some of my favorite, perhaps because they are so familiar. The packet on the left are Kinkon-zuké and on the right is iburigakoIburigakko is somewhat similar to takuan, pickled daikon, except that this has been smoked. It has a very unique flavor with the smoking of the daikon. We eat this at home, often sliced thin and with some cream cheese sandwiched in between.

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Here are all of the dishes that we as a group made. A taste of the local dishes of Tohoku. I highly recommend taking a class with Elizabeth if you are visiting Tokyo, better yet if you live here. I have taken many classes throughout the year, and continue to learn from her. She is very generous with her knowledge and she is great at empowering students to take what they learn home so that the dishes continue to live. Elizabeth also offers 3-day intensive workshops if you really want to immerse yourself in Japanese cuisine. I have spoken with friends who have taken the class and they speak very highly of the program.

Taste of Culture

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Pickles at Tsukiji Market’s Nakagawaya

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Miso cucumbers, bamboo shoots, and field mustard pickles from Nakagawaya.

Nakagawaya at Tsukiji Market, a purveyor of pickles, has a colorful array of vegetables pickled in salt, vinegar, miso, rice bran, kōji, miso, and more. The selection changes throughout the year and this time of year one of my favorites, pickled takenoko (bamboo shoots) are available. Takenoko are boiled and then pickled in a light soy sauce marinade, but there is no change in color to the tender shoot. Nanohana, field mustard, retain a bit of bitterness, a signature trait of many spring vegetables. The other pickle above, on the left, is cucumbers in a miso paste that we picked up while traveling in Niigata.

Hasu1Hasu (lotus root) stalks pickled in vinegar.

Nakagawaya has an impressive variety of pickles, many from different regions of Japan, like the smoked daikon pickle, iburigakko, from Akita prefecture or Nara-zuké, gourds pickled in saké lees for 2-3 years from Nara. These lovely pink-blushed pickles are young lotus root stalks. We love serving this with sashimi.

The staff here are friendly and knowledgeable. We love having pickles on our table, no matter the time of day. It is a great way to add a vegetable to any meal.

Nakagwaya 中川屋

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-8-5

Japanese Kissaten – Ginza Tsubakiya

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Some twenty years ago friends brought me to this coffee shop in Ginza. It was my first time in one of these classic kissaten 喫茶店 (coffee shop). I had no idea that such places existed. It felt as if we had stepped back in time. The coffee was (and still is) expensive, but one could order exquisite cakes or sandwiches, and sit there for as long as we wanted. Tsubakiya is an old-school kissaten in the heart of Ginza, perfect for some quiet solo time or for meeting friends.

Recently a friend was visiting from overseas and we decided to meet for coffee. Of course there are great spots in the city, like Omotesando Koffee or Turret Coffee, but not all are ideal for lingering over conversation. So I returned to Tsubakiya, and nothing seems to have changed.

Tsubakiya sits on the corner, just a block off of the main Chuo Dori. The coffee shop is on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building. The 3rd floor is non-smoking, which is good to know as some of these older shops can be filled with smokers. There is a stairwell that leads up to the shop from the street level. The dark interior is a nod to the early 20th century Taisho era (1912-1926). Waitresses are in black dresses with white aprons and completed with a frilly white cap. A cup of coffee starts at 1,000 JPY, and I believe refills are for about 300 JPY. The coffee is made with a siphon and the cup I had was very smooth. A great spot if you are looking for a quiet cup of coffee in Ginza. It opens at 10 a.m., another reason why we chose this spot as other coffee shops don’t open until 11 a.m.

Tsubakiya is part of Towa Foods and has a few shops throughout the city.

Ginza Tsubakiya

Chuo-ku, Ginza 7-7-11, Sugawara Denki Bldg. 2F and 3F

03-3572-4949

Kichijoji Satou

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If you have been to Kichijoji’s famous shōtengai on the North side of the station, most likely you have walked past the long lines at Satou. The shop is famous for its menchi katsu, seasoned ground beef patties covered in panko and deep-fried. The line is infamously long. I have never seen Satou without a long line, so I was thrilled when Satou had a temporary stall in our local depachika. There were only three people in line so I joined the queue. The first two ladies in line each ordered about a dozen pieces. Typical for popular items like this. Most likely the ladies are not buying only for their own household but will share these with friends as Satou menchi katsu is very famous.

The menchi katsu (200 JPY) was disappointing as was the potato croquette (140 JPY). It was fine, but nothing special, and definitely not worth standing in line for. So curious why people queue for this. Because it is famous, even if it is not good? There is a steakhouse on the 2nd floor of the take-away shop that also is popular.

Steak House Satou

Musashino-shi, Kichijōji Honcho 1-1-8

NY Croissant Donut at Mr. Donut

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So Mr. Donut Japan has brought its version of the Cronut to Japan, the Mr. Croissant Donut. It’s not as good as the cinnamon-dusted New York Rings at the Roastery in Omotesando, but a huge improvement over the version made by Banderole. It is crispy and flakey and the whipped cream was pretty skimpy. It is definitely not worth standing in a long queue for hours for. Japanese consumers love trying new food products, so it was no surprise that the two people in front of me both were buying the Mr. Croissant Donut. On my way out of the shopping mall I saw three other customers holding the specially designed bag for the Mr. Croissant Donut. I won’t be going back for a second.Croissant Donut2

The Mr. Croissant Donut comes in three flavors and is about $2. As in the photo above, from left to right:

1. Chocolate with whipped custard

2. White chocolate with whipped caramel

3. Maple with angel whip (whipped cream)

If you like croissants and sweets, then make a beeline to the Croissant Taiyaki shop.

Nuts and Nori

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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.

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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.

The Future of Tsukiji Market – Tokyo Ichiba Station – Toyosu Market

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It is no news that Tsukiji Market’s Inner Market, Tsukiji Jōnai Ichiba,  will be moving in the next few years. While the government is saying 2016, our friends who work in the market are telling us it is more likely to be 2017. For sure the market must move by 2018 so that preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games can start. Last I heard the media center would be stationed here. The media center then would be taken down after the Paralympic Games and high-rise condominiums will be built here. UPDATE as of 23 Aug. 2014: Recently did a tour with some clients who are in Tokyo with the International Olympic Committee and they tell me that the press center will NOT be going to where the current Tsukiji Market is. Of course, that could always change. Also, yesterday while visiting this Tokyo Ichiba Project we queried the staff and they tell us the market will not move until 2017.

As for the Outer Market, Tsukiji Jōgai Ichiba, it will stay as it is. The Outer Market is always open to the general public. It is the Inner Market where the wholesale seafood is, as well as the famous tuna auction.

What is up with the future market? To get a better idea, be sure to stop by the Tokyo Ichiba Project museum which is located inside of the market. The museum has pictures of the future market as well as a three-dimensional models.

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Here is an overview of what the Toyosu Market will look like. One of the attendants in the museum said that the market name will change from Tsukiji to Toyosu once it moves. Perhaps the current Outer Market will continue to be called Tsukiji. It is very interesting as the models also show how the new market will be broken up into three different complexes with each building having a few floors. The monorail is also shown so that visitors will have an idea of how to access the Toyosu Market.

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A photo of the tuna auction at Toyosu. Visitors will be able to view from a second floor viewing platform and from side windows.

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The brand new facilities will be temperature controlled.

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There will be many restaurants for visitors.

What is not shown at the museum, but what has been shown on television is that a hotel will also be built here. There will also be a hot springs at the hotel with an outdoor onsen on the rooftop that will overlook Tokyo Bay. It is slightly more convenient for the delivery trucks to access, especially for those that make the trip to Narita airport. This PDF has a map of the new facility compared to the current location.

* The new market is only 2.3 kilometers from the current location.

* Toyosu Market will be accessible by the Yurikamome monorail.

* The stop for the Toyosu Market is called “Shijo Mae”.

Tokyo Ichiba Project Museum

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1

open from 9 a.m. to about 2 p.m.

Rocco’s New York-Style Pizza

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Rocco’s New York-Style Pizza has been on my radar for a long time. We have great pizza in Tokyo, like the classic Italian Neopolitan style, cooked in wood-burning ovens, as can be found at the famous Nakameguro Seirinkan. What is harder to find is the New York-style, baked in a deck oven, and sold by the slice. Toppings are what I often crave like pepperoni, Italian sausage, and olives, items that aren’t traditionally put on the Neopolitan pizzas.

Rocco’s is just a short walk from Oji station, an area that is not part of my regular routine. I am thrilled to have finally made it as Rocco’s pizza reminds me of my years in New York City. Big slices that fall over the paper plates that are right out of the oven. The tables are lined with red-and-white checker cloth. Grated cheese, chili flakes, and powdered garlic condiments are also on the table, another nod to New York. There is a full menu, including calzones, Buffalo wings, and New York cheesecake. We didn’t have much time this day but will definitely go back to try more of the menu.

The owner, Dan, is from New York, and I was thrilled to be able to catch part of a New York Yankee’s game on the big-screen television. The sports schedule is listed on their website. While Oji was not an area I went to often the past, I see that changing. This pizza is worth a journey.

Rocco’s New York-Style Pizza

Kita-ku, Oji-honcho 1-1-24

03-3906-9710

http://www.roccosnewyorkstylepizza.com

Monzennakacho Monz Cafe

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Monzennakacho is a very cool neighborhood that is close to the heart of Tokyo. Accessible via the Tozai or Oedo subway lines. Part of the area abuts the Sumidagawa River and there is a river that runs through it that offers boat rides under the cherry blossoms in spring.  I lived here for a few years and love this area very much. There are a few temples in the area including the Tomioka Hachimangu and Fukagawa Fudosan, as well as a big festival every three years in the summer. My favorite pickle restaurant in Tokyo, Kintame, has a shop just in front of the Fukagawa Fudosan.

A new addition to the area is Monz Cafe, hip cafe on the old street that leads from the Tozai station exit to the Fukagawa Fudosan temple. On this spring day the windows and doors are wide open. Two young girls are behind the counter. Inside is tight seating for 18. There is a small glass case with some baked goods like pound and chiffon cakes. The limited food menu includes panini and Eggs Benedict. My “flat white” is like a cappuccino, but with more milk. The coffee is rich, but not too bitter or dark. The cafe has a light and refreshing feel to it. A great spot to grab coffee with a friend, or perhaps a coffee after a pickle lunch at Kintame.

I asked one of the girls behind the counter what this was prior and she said it used to be an amazaké shop. She pointed to the space above the door and they have retained the old sign. A small gesture, but one that is perfect for this neighborhood, which still retains the feel of shitamachi, the heart of old Tokyo.

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Monz Cafe

Koto-ku, Tomioka 1-14-5

03-6873-0835

Monday – Friday 8:00-19:00

Weekends and holidays 9:00-18:00

One minute from Tozai exit #1.

Tsukiji Market Breakfast – Onigiriya Marutoyo おにぎり屋 丸豊

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Onigiri or omusubi is the quintessential comfort food in Japan. A ball of rice that is stuffed with savory fillings. I grew up eating this and it makes for the perfect quick bite. Onigiri-ya Murotoyo is a famous shop in Tsukiji Market known for its handmade onigiri. A television show recently featured this shop and my curiosity was piqued. Marutoyo is just a few shops down from our favorite knife shop, Tsukiji Masamoto.

The selection to choose from is surprisingly rich. I stood there for minutes as I couldn’t decide. The signs are in Japanese so best to ask for your favorites like:

sake – salmon

umeboshi – pickled apricot

ikura – marinated salmon roe

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There is a small seating area around the corner to the right of the shop. A tiny table and a few chairs where you can rest your feet. Marutoyo also servse miso soup and small side dishes if you want to round out the meal. There are also sushi rolls and chirashi-zushi, but it is the onigiri that makes this shop famous.

I went with the bakudan which is stuffed with a soft-boiled egg and a seasonal one of tempura of bamboo shoots. The rice balls are a bit on the pricey side, about twice what you pay for at the convenience stores, and worth the mark-up. My only gripe is that it was under seasoned. I would have liked a bit more salt on the outside of the omusubi. I will be back, and next time I will order an item that is naturally salty, like ikura or pickled greens like takana or the classic umeboshi.

Onigiri-ya Marutoyo

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-9-9

The shop opens early in the morning, around 3 a.m. according to one website, and is open until about 2 p.m.