Soba at Honmura An

Honmura An

Fresh Yuba on Chilled Soba

My first introduction to Honmura An was in New York City back about 15 years ago. A friend who loved soba wanted to share with me his favorite soba shop in the city. I was mesmerized with the stone grinder for crushing the dried buckwheat and impressed that the noodles were being made fresh daily. Sadly the Manhattan shop has since closed. Honmura An has since relocated to Tokyo, in Roppongi, just across the street and around a corner from the massive Tokyo Midtown complex. It is a short walk from Roppongi Hills or any of the Roppongi stations.

The interior is modern and sparsely decorated with simple washi, Japanese paper, that hangs from above. In the back of the restaurant there is a large window overlooking the soba prep room. Sadly when we arrived the rolling and cutting of the noodles were done for the first seating of lunch.

A few tables had solo diners, in their 20s, plugged into their own music or engrossed into their phones and the outer world. Most of the diners were area businessmen and ladies who lunch. The restaurant has a big menu of small bites that can be had before finishing off with soba. At lunchtime most people were not having the side dishes but all going straight for the buckwheat noodles. This day it was quite hot outside and as one would expect, most diners were ordering the cold noodles.

Honmura An

Ikura and Grated Daikon on Chilled Soba

I had asked if they had yakimiso, a classic dish of a sweet miso, often studded with buckwheat, that is grilled. I was disappointed when I was told it wasn’t served so we ordered two types of soba. One topped with a creamy, fresh yuba (soy milk skin) and the other a grated daikon and ikura (marinated salmon roe).

The noodles are fine and very delicate and this would be a great light lunch during the hot summers that Tokyo is known for.

Honmura An has a nice selection of saké and wine. I was so happy to see Urakasumi Junmaishu on the list that I didn’t even bother looking at the wine list. The saké is easy on the palate and a nice partner to the soba.

Honmura An

Minato-ku, Roppongi 7-14-18

03-5772-6657

English menu available.

Closed Monday and 1st & 3rd Tuesday

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Gotta Get – Green Tea at Tsukiji Market Jugetsudo

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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.

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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 one bag 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.

Haagen-Dazs Vegetable Ice Cream

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For those of you who are not meeting your daily recommended servings of vegetables, you can now have your vegetable for dessert. The Haagen-Dazs SpoonVege comes in two flavors, Carrot and Orange or Tomato and Cherry. I tried it with two friends so we could all share our thoughts. The Carrot and Orange reminded us of a Creamsicle®, fruity and creamy and shared that same orange color. It was good but not great. Same with the Tomato and Cherry. One friend said later in an e-mail that she thought it didn’t work out as it was cream based. I agree. Both of these could have been interesting had they been created in a sorbet style. We threw these away after we all took a spoonful. My recommendation? Buy one and see if you like it. If you do, go ahead and try the other. Better yet, stick with what they do well, flavors like Melty Caramel or Green Tea (a rich mattcha). In Japan you often come across flavors not available back home, so if you are visiting Japan, be on the look out for for Haagen-Dazs mini cups at convenience stores and supermarkets. Be sure to ask the cashier for spoons which they often keep at the check-out counter.

My suggestion? Stick with the vegetable ice cream flavors you are already doing a great job with, kabocha and purple sweet potato. Maybe bring those back with this new packaging.

Hanamaru Summer Udon Salad

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It’s that time of year again. The weather is warming up and restaurants are starting their summer menu. Japanese restaurants, even fast food chain restaurants, offer menus that change throughout the year. This time of year many restaurants offer lighter fare, often featuring salad greens and generous vegetables. Each year I look forward to the summer salad at Hanamaru Udon, a chain of udon restaurants, with locations throughout Tokyo.

This year’s summer salad udon offers a full day’s of vegetables served over udon noodles for the bargain price of 500 JPY (about $5). The udon noodles are cooked and then quickly chilled in ice water and then topped with lettuce, carrots, daikon, deep-fried kabocha squash, okra, and some boiled chicken. Diners are offered the choice of a dressing, either creamy sesame or ginger. Here is a close-up photo on the company’s website. The other noodle bowls here are great, but the salad udon dish is one that I go back to often, especially in hot Japanese summers.

Hanamaru Udon restaurants are great for a quick meal. We went recently on a weekend and the shop was filled with families and school kids (both high school and college). If you are looking for a healthful meal and are on a budget, or are just craving some vegetables, check out Hanamaru Udon. The shop’s logo is an orange flower.

There is a shop in Ginza at Ginza 3-10-9, Kyodo Bldg. B1, and shops throughout the city.

Tsukiji Market Tsukudani – Suwa Shōten 諏訪商店

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One of my favorite Tsukudani shop at Tsukiji Market is Suwa Shōten. It is in the outer market (jōgai). The shop is easy to find as there are large square and round aluminum vessels holding the sweet, soy seasoned seafood, usually small fish or shelled clams, and sea vegetables. Sometimes you will find meat products as well, but not much of it to be found at Tsukiji Market. If you walk by and this auntie is working behind the counter, you are in luck, as she speaks English, fairly well.

Tsukudani originated in Tsukuda-jima, which is an island that is very close to Tsukiji Market. The name, Tsukudani, is made up of the place name, Tsukuda, and ni, for simmered goods. This is why Tsukudani should always be capitalized.

Tsukudani originated as a way to preserve the seafood and sea vegetables. It is very intense in flavor as it is quite salty and sweet. The simmering sauce is often made up of soy sauce, hence the dark color, mirin, and sugar. Tsukudani is so richly seasoned that it should be eaten with rice. Usually a small spoonful on a bowl of rice, or as a stuffing for omusubi (rice balls).

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Not all Tsukudani is dark in color. On the top left, the golden-hued ika-arare is sweetened shavings of dried squid. Up front, from left to right, shiitake (formerly dried) and kombu, konago (sand lance), and shijimi (Corbicula clams).

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On the top left in this photo is kiri-ika, also sweetened, dried julienned strips of squid.

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At home we like to make Tsukudani with leftover kombu that we have in abundance from making dashi from scratch. Here on the right are three types of kombu Tsukudani. Do be careful if you have an allergy to shrimp as some Tsukudani is made with tiny shrimp. You could always advise the shop, “Watashi wa ebi no arerugi ga arimasu.”

If you are curious to try the beef Tsukudani, I highly recommend Asakusa Imahan’s version. It is available at many depachika throughout the city.

Suwa Shōten 諏訪商店

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-10-8 中央区築地4-10-8

Essential kanji

Tsukudani  佃煮

Tsukiji Market 築地市場

jōgai (outer market)  場外

Tsukuda-jima 佃島

kombu  昆布