We keep a big variety of canned foods in the pantry, in case of an earthquake, and because Japan offers great options. Canned foods in Japan offer a wide variety of seafood and meats, many worth putting on the table with a glass of wine or saké.
Kokubu is a company that offers a colorful selection in its premium line up. On the upper right photo is simmered beef tendons from the Ginza izakaya, ROCK FISH. The sauce is so good that it’s good to have a baguette for dipping.
From left to right is: smoked kaibashira (shellfish adductor muscle), yakitori with black pepper, habanero sardines, and Hokkaido scallops. The cans are easy to heat up in the toaster oven. Clean-up is a breeze, just rinse and recycle the cans.
There is a Kokubu retail shop, ROJI Nihonbashi, is in Nihonbashi at Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 1-1-1. http://www.roji-nhb.jp/shop/ But you’ll find these sold at supermarkets and some convenient stores.
The canned sardines, both from Kushiro in Hokkaido, and Choshi in Chiba, are standards in our menu. We will open up a can if we need to add a protein to a meal. The sardines are cooked in the cans with sugar, soy sauce, sake, mirin, ginger, and salt. The bones are tender enough that they can be eaten. “Rich in calcium” is what Shinji loves to say about this. These products, made by Maruha Nichiro for Seven & i (7-11 and Ito Yokado), are very good and cost only about 250 JPY (or less) per can.
Mio Sparkling Sake by Takara Shuzo
Small occasion to celebrate this evening. Not worthy of champagne, but deserving of more than a can of craft beer and calling for something with bubbles. Mio is a sweet sparkler from Takara Shuzo. It’s low in alcohol, only 5%, like a beer, and sweet so a nice aperitif to dinner. It paired perfectly with chunky Kinzanji miso which is inherently sweet.
The bottle is only 300 ml, so perfect for two people to share before a meal. It’s hard to tell that it’s saké and to be honest, it is more like drinking 7-up. But it’s fun and we love it. Best of all, it is sold at our neighborhood 7-11 so we could pick it up at the last minute and cool it down in ice water before dinner.
Japanese convenience store food is surprisingly fresh and reasonably priced. In particular, I am a big fan of the sandwiches, which come with many fillings, like tuna or egg salad, katsu (fried pork cutlets), or as seen above, ham and cheese with lots of fresh iceberg lettuce. The sandwiches are about 250 JPY. When I am craving vegetables I get this sandwich.
These are actually from two different shops. 7-11 on the left and Family Mart on the right. The 7-11 was better as it was made with mayonnaise and the lettuce was crispier. I think the Family Mart was made with butter.
A chef friend of mine is addicted to the egg salad sandwiches, which are pretty amazing.
The sandwiches also make for a quick breakfast if you are on the run.
convenience store = konbini
Gari Gari Kun
It is getting hot in Tokyo. Shinji has stocked the freezer with Gari Gari-kun. A popular popsicle that is sold at convenient stores and supermarket. The price of Gari Gari-kun went up last year and the company apologized to fans across Japan in this great commercial. Gari Gari is the sound of biting into something hard and crunchy (or ice cold). Kun is what we use when calling out to small boys. Gari Gari-kun is a fun name for this product that comes in many different flavors like grape, kiwi, or watermelon. You can see their flavors here (in Japanese).
Pick it up when you’re hot and need to cool down. If there is writing on the popsicle stick, that means you get a second one for free. Bring the popsicle stick to any retail store and ask them if they’ll redeem it for you.
convenience store curry pan
The Japanese have a love for “oyatsu pan” or snack breads that can be either savory or sweet. Pan is from the Portuguese for bread. The bakeries here are called pan-ya.
At the bakeries customers pick up a tray and tongs and carefully peruse the bakery putting their selection on the tray before paying. One popular oyatsu pan is curry bread. Savory curry stuffed into a soft dough that is often dipped into panko bread crumbs before being deep-fried.
24-hour convenience stores excel at offering food at a good level. We recently did a tasting of convenience store curry pan. At home, we spritz it with water before reheating in the toaster oven.
The four we tried, clockwise from upper-right:
- Lawson Beef curry pan (125 JPY)
- Lawson Spice curry pan (180 JPY)
- Family Mart curry pan (108 JPY)
- 7-11 Koku Uma curry pan (130 JPY)
Our favorite was the cheapest one, from Family Mart. It had a nice flavor of curry that wasn’t too complicated. The 7-11 curry pan was very sweet, surely from many vegetables like carrots and onions.
The two Lawson curry breads were nice. The Spice curry pan is made from 30 different spice and definitely had more complexity than the rest. The Lawson beef curry pan left me asking, “where’s the beef” (which may date me).
Regardless, be sure to try a curry pan when you are in Japan. It’s a quintessential snack bread. If you are lucky, the sign will say 焼き立て or 焼きたて, for hot, out of the oven.