Gotta Get – Okinawa Ryukyu Glass

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Okinawa Ryukyu Glass

Selecting tableware is a very important part of the Japanese dining experience. Glassware is also an integral part of regional expressions in Japan. I am a big fan of the Ryukyu glass from Okinawa. Okinawa is a tropical paradise in Japan. Ryukyu is the name of the former independent kingdom, which is now Okinawa. Ryukyu glass is colorful and on the table it is light and refreshing, like being on the islands.

These glasses are perfect for the local drink, awamori, served on the rocks. But I also use it for milk, juice, and iced coffee. The cups are sturdy and easy to wash.

The Okinawa antenna shop, Washita Shop, in Ginza, has a nice selection of Ryukyu glass on the basement level and one of the staff members is a Ryukyu glass specialist. The selection is constantly changing, so if you live in Tokyo, it is easy to stop by every now and then to see what is in stock.

The first floor of the shop is for food and has Tokyo’s largest selection of awamori. The basement floor has tableware, clothes, and music. The local music is melodic and can be high-spirited, but some of it melancholy.

Better yet, take a trip to Okinawa and start your collection there.

Okinawa Washita Shop

Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-3-9

http://www.washita.co.jp/info/shop/ginza/

awamori  泡盛

Ryukyu glass 琉球ガラス

Okinawa 沖縄

 

Gotta Get – Tomizawa Dried Mikan

Tomizawa Dried Mikan

Tomizawa Dried Mikan

A friend who is the editor of a food magazine introduced me to these addictive dried mikan. These are sweet and tart at the same time. Tomizawa is a chain found throughout Tokyo. I come here to buy nuts, flour, dried fruit, and much more. If I am baking this is the first shop I go to as they have yeast, fondant, you name it. The dried mikan are great for hiking, traveling, and a healthful snack at home.

The main shop in Machida is fun, if you find yourself out there, but not worth a special trip as there are big shops in Tokyo. Shinjuku Keio department store has a big shop on the 8th floor. There are also small shops at Shinjuku Takashimaya, Coredo Muromachi, and Shibuya Toyoko Norengai depachika.

Tomizawa Shoten

http://tomiz.com/shopguide/index.html

 

 

Gotta Get – Furikake Pen

We have just returned from a trip to Western Japan and one of my favorite things I brought back as an omiyage for myself is this furikake pen that happens to say yukari on it. Yukari is a furikake made from red shiso leaves that are dried and minced with salt. I love it as a topping over rice, but it also makes for quick pickles when massaged into cucumbers or cabbage. It is also can brighten up a salad dressing or be used as a seasoning for popcorn.

The pen was designed by the president of Mishima, a company that is known for yukari furikake. Mishima is based in Hiroshima. Here is a link to the US site for the furikake:

http://www.mishima.com/cgi-bin/mishima/38021.html

The yukari furikake also comes with bits of dried ume (salted apricots), also oishii.

http://www.mishima.com/cgi-bin/mishima/38020.html

On a recent visit to the Hiroshima antenna shop in Ginza, I see that it is also being sold in Tokyo. The pen cap comes off and can be refilled.

Now, I have my own personalized furikake pen.:-)

 

Tau Setouchi Hiroshima Antenna Shop

Ginza 1-6-10 銀座1-6-10

http://www.tau-hiroshima.jp.e.fk.hp.transer.com/

If you do make it to the Hiroshima antenna shop, ask for some brandy-infused momiji Mi. You’ll thank me later.

 

Gotta Get – Kokuto Black Sugar 沖縄黒糖

Kokuto

Kokuto

Do you know about kokutō? Black sugar that is harvested on the islands south of Kagoshima in Okinawa. It is a dark sugar that is rich in minerals and is 100% natural sugar cane. We often keep a jar of kokutō on the counter. It makes a nice little snack. Kokutō can be cooked with water to make a syrup for desserts. This with some kinako, roasted soybean powder, over vanilla ice cream, is a combination of flavors that most people love.

A friend of ours is an editor of a famous food magazine in Tokyo. He is a fountain of information and I never share a meal with him without my notebook and pen. At a recent dinner party we were talking about kokutō and he said that each island produces a different flavor of black sugar. Of course, that totally makes sense, but how different could the flavors be?

Shinji picked up five different kokutō at the Washita Okinawa antenna shop in Ginza. Each from a different island. First of all, they all look very different from each other. Who knew? And, drumroll…….they do all taste very different from each other.

Kokuto Packaging

Kokuto Packaging

These small packages are 50 grams each and cost about 200 JPY ($2 USD). Our tasting notes counter-clockwise starting at pink:

  1. Ie-shima 伊江島 (pink) *** Our favorite. Light in color, not too sweet and surprisingly salty. Rich in flavor and very natural. Will go back for this.
  2. Yonaguni-jima 与那国島 (yellow) ** Medium in color. Light in flavor, not as rich as Ieshima. A hint of saltiness. Hard texture and cut into squares.
  3. Iheya-jima 伊平屋島 (blue) * Light in color. For both of us it was too sweet, much like sugar.
  4. Tarama-jima 多良間島 (dark orange) * Dark color and very hard texture. Sweet and rich flavor.
  5. Hateruma-jima 波照間島 (light orange) ** Very dark in color. Blocks are very chewy. Rich mineral flavor.

Overall the Ie-shima was our favorite. We loved that it wasn’t too sweet and the saltiness was a surprise at first, but we came to love it. Most people love kokutō when they try it.

Note on the names. Shima means island in Japanese. Sometimes the pronunciation of shima can change to jima depending on what name comes before it.

Instant Umami – Hanakezuri Kombu

IzakayaSakamoto

Suzuki Sashimi – Usuzukuri

Sashimi is a staple in our home. We never tire of it as the type of seafood we use for sashimi changes throughout the year. Suzuki, Japanese sea bass, is a firm-fleshed fish so it is cut in thin, usuzukuri slices. If it were cut thick, as we do with tuna, it would be too hard to chew through and unpleasant. In the middle here are julienned carrots, cucumbers, ginger, and daikon. Wrapping the sashimi around the vegetables is a nice contrast in textures.

IzakayaSakamoto

Suzuki Sashimi with Hokkaido Hanakezuri Kombu

The classic seasoning for sashimi is wasabi and soy sauce, but that can become routine, so we change-up the seasonings. The green shavings here are from kombu (Laminaria japonica, Japanese kelp). Kombu is rich in natural umami. Most of the time we use kombu for making dashi, the essential stock for many Japanese dishes. Kombu dashi is good on its own as a vegetarian stock. In our home we usually steep the kombu with katsuobushi, smoked skipjack tuna (or bonito) flakes.

The kombu shavings here are simply sprinkled over sashimi. Not only umami but it also gives the flavor of the ocean to the dish. It can also be used over tofu, rice, noodles, and even Japanese-style pasta.

Hanakonbu

Hanakezuri Kombu – kombu shavings

The name of the product is Hana-kezuri Kombu. Hana-kezuri is the name for the flower-like shavings, that is often seen with katsuobushi flakes.

Hana-kezuri Kombu is made by Towa Shokuhin in Iwate prefecture. This was purchased at the Nomono shop at Ueno Station.

Gotta Get – Chopsticks at Hashichō in Nihonbashi

 

chopsticks store in Nihonbashi Coredo

Nihonbashi Coredo Hashicho

We eat with our chopsticks two, sometimes three times a day. Having a pair that you really love to eat with makes each meal all the more fun. There are so many factors to consider when selecting chopsticks. The size of your hands will determine the length. The tips can be fine or thick. The chopsticks can be round or beveled. The material can range from a simple bamboo to several layers of lacquer that are polished away to show off the colorful layers.

Nihonbashi Coredo

Selection of chopsticks at Hashicho

One of my favorite shops is Ginza Natsuno as the selection may be the greatest in Tokyo. Another shop worth checking out is Hashichō in the new Nihonbashi Coredo Building #3. It is a sister shop to Natsuno. Here you will find not only chopsticks, but also hashioki (chopstick rests) and other tableware items.

Hashichō

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi-Muromachi 1-5-5, Coredo Muromachi Bldg. 3, 2nd floor

03-3277-6033

 

There is also a shop in Roppongi at Midtown (Roppongi 9-7-4) in the Galleria 3rd floor.

Gotta Get – Green Tea at Tsukiji Market Maruyama Noriten

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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.

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.

Gotta Get – Tomizawa’s Deep-Fried Okra

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We came across these deep-fried okra at Tomizawa. The okra are deep-fried until light and crispy. Not at all oily. Surely they must be better for you than potato chips, right? Well, that is what we tell ourselves. We are seeing lots of fried vegetables sold at the markets, but most of them are non-memorable. These are different. We can’t get enough. The okra are not always in stock, so call ahead before you go. Just wanted to put this on everyone’s radar. We will stock up on some as hanami, cherry-blossom viewing season, is just around the corner. This will be great for any picnic.

Tomizawa is a chain of shops that specialize in dried goods. We go to our local Tomizawa when looking for spices or ingredients for baking. There is a big shop in Machida. Not necessarily worth a big trip to Machida, but worth checking out if you are in the area.

Tokyo shops can be found at: B1 of Yurakucho Lumine, 8F of Shinjuku Keio, B2 of Ikebukuro Seibu, and Shibuya Seibu.

Tomizawa homepage:

http://www.tomizawa.co.jp/shopguide/