Table-worthy Canned Goods

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.

Tuna Lovers’ Day Trip From Tokyo

Misaki Maguro Kippu is a special discounted train, bus, and lunch ticket that is a fun day trip from Tokyo for tuna lovers. Many Japanese train and bus lines offer discounted tickets for round-trip excursions. Misaki is a famous port for tuna. Maguro is tuna, and kippu is for ticket.

The Misaki Maguro Kippu can be purchased from the Shinagawa Keikyu line ticket booth. 3,060 JPY per ticket which includes round-trip fare on the express trains as well as all bus routes on the peninsula. We only made it to the fishing port, but if you have more time, you could also visit an aquarium and an onsen on the bus routes.

The express train goes to Misaki-guchi 三崎口 station. From there take a bus to Misaki-ko 三崎港. We went on a weekend and about 40 others from the train were also using the same pass so we just followed them to the bus. The train ride was a little over an hour and the bus to the fishing port was another 20 minutes.

The ticket includes lunch in the city. The tickets come with a map with photos of the different lunches available on the peninsula. There are 30 shops to choose from. Here is a link to the options:

http://www.keikyu.co.jp/information/otoku/otoku_maguro/list.html

Many shops are busy on the weekends, so be prepared to stand in line. We went on a colder day and didn’t have to wait to get seated.

After lunch we went to the seafood market which was like many seafood markets in fishing ports around Japan. As Misaki is known for tuna, most of the vendors were selling tuna, mostly frozen cuts called saku. The second floor of the market is a farmers’ market. I picked up all of the daikon above for 500 JPY.

This is a fun day trip from Tokyo. The shops are kid-friendly. We will do it again, next time in the summer and we’ll be sure to see the aquarium and onsen. There is a bicycle rental shop and ferry rides are also available at the port.

Details on the Misaki Maguro Kippu (in Japanese):

http://www.keikyu.co.jp/information/otoku/otoku_maguro/

Shout-out to Takumi-san at Roberto Perozzi Salon in Shibuya. I go to Roberto to get my hair cut and Takumi-san told me about this ticket, arigato! If you need your hair cut in Tokyo, Roberto is the best.

New Breakfast Spot at Tsukiji Market

tsukiji-uogashi-shokudo

Uogashi Shokudō breakfast

There is a brand new place to have breakfast at Tsukiji Market that is void of tourists and offering a value priced meal. There is a new facility, Tsukiji Uogashi, with about sixty retail shops for seafood and produce on the first floor. The first floor is open to the general public after 9 a.m. Prior to that it is for trade people only. The second floor is administrative offices and is off limits to visitors.

The third floor is a new shokudō (dining hall) that is run by a non-profit organization to supporting Japanese seafood and produce from Tsukiji Market. The recommended breakfast, only 650 JPY, included a small grilled fish filet, simmered fish with daikon, miso soup, pickles, and rice. The breakfast above was only 800 JPY and was a large serving of yellowtail and daikon simmered until tender in a sweet soy broth.

The dining hall on a recent morning was very quiet, only a handful of customers. The dining hall is so new that many don’t know about it yet. I was seated at a counter overlooking the open kitchen. The staff were very friendly and genki (enthusiastic).

The shokudō is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch prices too are reasonable, with a sashimi donburi for only 1,000 JPY or a sashimi set lunch for 1,200 JPY. I highly recommend starting your morning here if you will be visiting Tsukiji Market.

Chūō-ku, Tsukiji 6-26-1, Odawarabashi Ren 3rd floor, Uogashi Shokudō

中央区築地6-26-1小田原橋棟 3F

http://www.tsukiji.or.jp/forbiz/uogashi/

Savory Unagi

unagi-aji-no-miyakawa-ikebukuro

Ikebukuro Tobu is Tokyo’s largest depachika with over 200 food stalls. The depachika is spread out over two floors and two buildings, and is worth a careful peruse. The restaurant floors on the upper five floors of the department store offers tempura, tonkatsu, sushi, unagi, and much more. The restaurant floors are packed on weekends, but a great option for weekdays. The unagi shop, Aji no Miyagawa, grills the fresh water eel and glazes it with a sauce that is not sweet. It is a nice change from the cloying sweet soy that is often found at unagi-ya. The unajū box of rice topped with grilled eel and sauce, but on this day, the lunch set called out to me, including sashimi, and simmered vegetables. The clear soup includes the eel liver. This lunch is about 4,000 JPY. Aji no Miyagawa’s main shop is at Tokyo Station. There are a few branches in the city.

Aji no Miyagawa 味乃宮川

Toshima-ku, Nishi-Ikebukuro 1-1-25, Ikebukuro Tobu, 12th Floor

 

 

Keisuke Fugu Ramen

Fugu, a fish that has many names: torafugu, pufferfish, tiger blowfish, blowfish, porcupine fish, or globefish. Regardless of what you call it, you probably know that it is the fish that one could die from if it is not handled properly. Nowadays fugu farmers in Japan have figured out how to raise poison-free fugu.

As for the fish, we do eat it in nabe hot pots from time to time. The broth from fugu is rich in umami. I prefer it best deep-fried, glorified fried fish, simply seasoned with salt.

Keisuke Fugu Ramen is in the basement of the Tokyu Plaza Ginza at the Sukiyabashi Ginza crossing. The Fugu shio ramen with soy egg is 1,150 JPY. The staff said this was the most popular bowl. It was a tiny bit on the salty side, but otherwise a good bowl. The noodles are thin, which I prefer. It included nama fu (wheat gluten), bamboo shoot, Napa cabbage, and the fugu sashimi is cured in kombu and garnished with yuzu.

If you come, be sure to order a side of fried fugu.

Keisuke Fugu Ramen

Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-2-1, Tokyu Plaza Ginza B2

中央区銀座5-2-1  B2東急プラザ銀座 B2F

http://www.grandcuisine.jp/keisuke/8daime.html

Nodaiwa

I first came across Nodaiwa while working at Nihonbashi Takashimaya. The fifth-generation unagi-ya has a branch at Takashimaya. Here is the fifth-generation shokunin, Kanejiro Kanemoto-san.

Details are in Food Sake Tokyo, my book. I just wanted to share these photos of the storefront and the lovely Kanemoto-san.

http://www.littlebookroom.com/products/food-sake-tokyo

Japanese Breakfast – Kuouesu

Kuouesu

I have a six-month column on Japanese breakfast in the Japan Times. This special spot was mentioned in my first column on traditional Japanese breakfasts.

Kuouesu near Hiroo offers a very unique Japanese breakfast. The kappō restaurant is only open for breakfast and dinner. It was a long walk from the station, so best to take a taxi if you can if the weather is not good.

I was greeted by chef Moteki. She was in the back kitchen for most of the meal, getting ready for the next seating. I loved having a female chef as I don’t run into them very often, especially at traditional Japanese restaurants.

This is a classic ichiju sansai meal of rice, miso soup, and three side dishes. Ichiju sansai is literally one soup and three vegetables. This meal is rounded out with a grilled fish on this day. The rice has an al dente texture and Moteki-san said that they cook it with less water than usual in Iwate Nambu steel pot to make the Niigata koshihikari rice firm. I loved it.

Managatsuo pomfret is prepared in a classic yuan-yaki style of soy sauce, saké, and mirin that is grilled over charcoal.

Reservations are required for this bargain breakfast of 900 JPY. Side dishes like tamagoyaki and nattō can be added. This is a hidden gem. I only wish I lived closer.

 

 

Kuouesu 栩翁S

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 7-14-6 Minami-Aoyama Bldg. 1F

港区南青山7-14-6南青山1F

Japan Times article on traditional Japanese breakfasts.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2016/08/05/food/start-morning-serving-tradition-breakfast-joints/#.V7v-SZN96i4

Shinjuku Kaijin 海神

Kaijin literally means the God of the Seas, a perfect name for this ramen shop that does not use meat. The seafood soup at Shinjuku Kaijin changes daily based on what seafood is in season. The broth, while rich in flavor, is light and refreshing on the palate. The fish that goes into the broth is written out daily on large white paper that is hung up on the wall.

The menu is read from right to left, top to bottom:

本日のアラ   honjitsu no ara  today’s seafood scraps (head, bones, etc.)

真鯛   madai   sea bream

平政   hiramasa   kingfish (in the same family as yellowtail)

太刀魚   tachiuo   cutlassfish or beltfish

甘鯛   amadai   tilefish

穴子   anago   sea eel

Ara refers to the head, bones, and other scraps of fish that can be either simmered in a sweet soy broth and carefully picked over when eating. Here at Kaijin the chef uses the ara scraps to make the soup stock. Salt is added to the broth. The noodles are thin, which is exactly what this broth needs. It is garnished with julienned leeks, and a chicken and a shrimp dumpling. If you have an allergy, be sure to tell them, ebi no arerugi- ga arimasu.

If you have a big appetite, be sure to order the grilled onigiri (rice ball) and put it into the soup when you are done with the noodles. The salty yuzu koshō paste is also a great way to add depth to the ramen.

Kaijin also has shellfish ramen, like asari (littleneck clam) or hamaguri (Orient clam). I have tried these, but much prefer the complexity of the seafood ramen, their signature dish.

These are the signs in front of the Shinjuku shop. It’s a smaller shop with counter seating for five, a table for four and a table for two. There is often a line going down the stairs, but it usually moves quickly, as this is a quick meal. Be sure not to linger after you’re done eating if there are people waiting.

There are three branches in Tokyo at the time this blogpost was written. I have been to the Kichijoji shop, which is close to the station, but the soup was too salty and I won’t go back. The Shinjuku shop is also near the station and where I go. A new shop has also recently opened in Ikebukuro.

Shinjuku Menya Kaijin

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-35-7

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Minamicho 1-5-9, Kumamoto Bldg. 2F

Toshima-ku, Ikebukuro 1-19-2

http://www.kaijin-ramen.com/menu.php

 

 

Temakizushi Party

Temakizushi Party

A fun idea for entertaining at home is a temaki-zushi party. Hand rolls (手巻き寿司) are interactive and as each person makes their own rolls it can be a good way to keep everyone happy. Some supermarkets and department store seafood sections will sell the seafood already cut for the rolls, especially on weekends and holidays.

Ingredients are whatever you like. A pot of rice and nori cut in half, as these are easy to roll by hand. For fillings, you can see in the photo above, we have starting from the upper right going clockwise: salmon, tuna, imitation crab, boiled scallops.

mekabu kombu, canned corn with mayonnaise, canned tuna with mayonnaise, and hikiwari natto

shirasu (boiled sardines), avocado, julienned myoga (ginger buds), shiso, denbu (sweetened cod fish colored pink), and ikura

cucumbers, kaiware (daikon sprouts), mizuna greens, and carrots.

Other fillings you could include:

tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet), Japanese pickles, seasoned kampyo gourd (sold at supermarket already cooked), roasted salted salmon, cream cheese, toasted sesame seeds, unagi, and more.

We also put out small plates with soy sauce for dipping the rolls and small bowls if anyone wants to make a salad.

When I visit my dear aunt in Osaka we usually have okonomiyaki one night, and the other night is usually temakizushi. It is festive, fun and also a great option for hot summers as they only thing you have to cook is the rice.

Japan’s Most Challenging Food

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Chinmi. I am not a fan, not one bit. But my husband, Shinji, loves having some type of chinmi in the fridge at all times. Usually we have one or two types, but we recently traveled and Shinji picked up some along the way. Chinmi is fermented seafood, often including the guts or other parts of seafood like the liver. It is very intense and one only needs to eat a little bit of this when sipping on saké. But even if I am drunk on saké I have a hard time swallowing this. We did a tasting recently. Well, Shinji did a tasting and I took a tiny bit of each. Remember, although I was born in Tokyo, I grew up in Minnesota and this is as foreign to me as it is for many overseas guests.

Saba shiokara. Pacific mackerel is super salty, you can taste the crystals, of what surely must be salt. There are small pieces of the filet, making this the most appealing by appearance. We picked this up on a recent trip to Tottori to Sakai Minato port.

http://shop.sakaiminato.net/product.cgi?no=255

Aka Hoya. Red sea squirt is very chewy and a little funky. While it is called red, the color is a bright orange and the aftertaste lingers, way too long, and not in a pleasant way.

http://shop.shizengumi.net/?page_id=878

Surumeika koji zuke. Koji-fermented squid was my favorite of all in this tasting. It is slightly sweet, and has the texture of koji, meaning tiny bits of softened rice. We picked this up from Sakai Minato port on a recent trip to Tottori. I would have this again. You gotta love how the website suggests serving suggestions, like on crackers with cheese. That would make it even easier to eat.
Katsuo shuto. Fermented skipjack tuna innards. This is one of the most famous types of chinmi that is from Odawara, just south of Tokyo. It is rich in umami and has a thin chewy texture, like chewing on a balloon. This is one of the more easier chinmi, meaning it is palatable, if you are drinking a lot of saké.
English website for this product:

Awabi Toshiro. The liver of the abalone made the biggest impression. My notes from the tasting are as follows, “Will not go back there, ever, even if I am drunk.”

Ayu no uruka. Ayu is a freshwater sweet fish that is gorgeous when simply salted and grilled. However, this 3-year fermented chinmi is super salty, creamy, gross, way too funky. I come back to this word as nothing else comes to mind. Why would anyone eve think to eat this? Seriously…
It was the worst food tasting I have ever done in my life. Nothing will top this. We found two that I like and will have again. Hopefully none of these others will be in our fridge again.