Atami Mugitoro Doji 麦とろ童子

Atami is a seaside resort south of Tokyo. If you have access to a car, then put Mugitoro Douji on your radar. I believe you could also come by bus, but best to look into the details.

Mugitoro is a dish made from rice cooked with barley (mugi) that is topped with grated yamaimo (mountain potato), which we call toro. The Atami area is also famous for shirasu, tiny anchovies that have been quickly blanched in hot water. The shirasu are soft and rich in calcium as you are eating the whole fish, head to toe.

Here is shirasudon, short for donburi, or rice bowl, here topped with the boiled anchovies. To the side in the brown bowl with a lip is the grated mountain potato with some dashi and soy sauce which is poured over the leftover rice after eating the fish. The right bowl is simply green tea soba with the grated mountain potato.

The setting is fabulous, with a wall of windows overlooking the sea. The entrance is charming with the handwritten noren banner, and who wouldn’t loved to be hosted by this chef, smiling like a little boy.

Mugitoro Dōji 麦とろ童子

Shizuoka-ken, Atami-shin, Izusan, Gōshimizu 210

静岡県熱海市伊豆山郷清水210

closed Wednesdays

Berkeley’s Tokyo Fish Market

Berkeley’s Tokyo Fish Market is as close as you’ll get to grocery shopping in Japan.

Whether you’ve just gotten back from a trip to Japan or have a particular craving, this place is hard to beat. The selection of fish is superb, the seafood and deli section is clever, and the aisles of imported products ranges from arare (rice crackers) and Hello Kitty snacks, to mochi, soba, and organic Japanese vegetables like komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach) and kabu (white turnip).

aisles tokyo market

Tokyo Fish Market has been around for over fifty years. Although it has grown significantly since the shop opened, the feel of a “mom and pop” store is still there. It’s wonderful. You enter a supermarket, the staff are courteous, and the owner is always there, giving a helping hand.

Mr Nakamura and seafood

Go for fresh tuna or call ahead and ask what will be coming in for the week to pre-order seafood. Visit the deli section for bento boxes or sushi-to-go, or deviate from Japanese food and check out the Hawaiian specialties aisle. There’s a selection of treats, macadamia nuts, lilikoi (passionfruit) jams, and in the freezer you can even find lau lau (traditional luau dish of taro leaf parcels filled with butterfish and pork or chicken). It’s like taking a food tour across the Pacific Ocean.

sake and guide

Tokyo Fish Market also has a gift shop in the building adjacent to the supermarket. Homewares, gifts, knives, chopsticks, t-shirts, and some Japanese memorabilia are available at prices comparable to Japan.

tokyo market grab n go

In San Francisco’s Japantown, Nijiya Market and SuperMira (organic) are two other well stocked Japanese grocers. However, Tokyo Fish Market is best in show.

Tokyo Fish Market

1220 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley CA 94706

Tel. +1 510 524 7234

http://www.tokyofish.net/

Janice Espa photo

Janice Espa

Janice Espa is a Spanish-Peruvian food enthusiast; an avid traveller and inquisitive taster who explores culture through cuisine.  Janice lives in San Francisco where she writes and styles food. Her days are spent visiting grower’s markets, checking out restaurants, and shopping at specialty stores to discover goods from every corner of the world.

Feel free to email suggestions and travel tips, or to contact Janice for her own recommendations, whether you’re visiting Peru, trekking South America or doing a road trip along the east coast of Australia.

Email:  janicespa at gmail.com

Other posts by Janice.

https://foodsaketokyo.com/tag/janice-espa/

Convenience Store Sandwiches

Conbini sandwich

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

 

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.

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.

 

Food Sake Tokyo Radar

To keep our readers up-to-date with the Tokyo food scene, I will post from time to time some news about what’s happening in the metropolis. Keeping a finger on the pulse of cuisine here is hard, so I hope this helps you to know what you should have on your food radar.

Takashi Saito will be opening Taka by Sushi Saito in the St. Regis in Kuala Lumpur this spring. I hear the counter will be twice as big as the Tokyo main shop, so maybe it will be easier to get into? Sushi Saito in Roppongi is one of the hardest reservations to come by, harder than Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Kyoto Katsugyu, famous for its gyukatsu, has opened its first shop in Tokyo. Japanese wagyu or US sirloin is breaded and deep-fried. 1F Chiyoda 21 Bldg., Kanda Mitoshirocho 9-7, Chiyoda-ku. http://kyoto-katsugyu.com/

The Kyoto Distillery will start producing artisanal gin using Japanese botanicals in early 2016. http://kyotodistillery.jp/wp/

Mos Burger has opened an upscale burger shop MOS Classic, with an expanded menu, cocktails, and wine. 1-8-11 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku. http://www.mosclassic.jp/

Milanese pizza is now available in Tokyo at Spontini’s. The thick crust is a big change from the Neopolitan style which is more prevalent. Spontini’s has been in Milano since 1953. Two branches in Tokyo, Harajuku (1-10-37 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku) and Shibuya (1-21-3 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku), serve the pizza by-the-slice. http://www.pizzeriaspontini.jp/english.html

Fans of Omotesando Koffee were sad to see the shop close at the end of last year. Sarutahiko Coffee has opened a branch in the H.I.S. Book and Coffee shop at 1F, Barbizon 7, 4-3-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. http://www.omotesando-info.com/shop/gourmet/shop/sarutahikocoffee-omotesando.html

Sage and Fennel in Hiroo with its colorful salads and soups is mostly, but not exclusively, about seasonal vegetables. 5-19-6 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku. http://www.saf.tokyo/

Verve Coffee Roasters from Santa Cruz, California, will be opening in Shinjuku station this April. Some great information on Sprudge.com here:

http://sprudge.com/verve-coffee-are-expanding-to-japan-93357.html

Asakusa Kamiya Bar 浅草神谷バー

Kamiya Bar in Asakusa, opened in 1880, is one of Tokyo’s classic bars. Known for its signature cocktail, Denki Bran, made from brandy, gin, wine, curacao, and herbs. At 270 JPY per drink, it’s cheaper than coffee. Bottles of pre-mixed Denki Bran are popular omiyage (local gifts) that tourists can bring back home to share with their friends, is sold at a retail window on street.

The bar menu includes classic Japanese small plates like pickles, sashimi, and grilled skewers. In the winter months kaki furai, deep-fried oysters, is popular. Nikomi, offal simmered in Shinshu miso, is a signature dish and a classic shitamachi dish. Shitamachi refers to older parts of Tokyo.

The clientele is made up of a mix of locals and tourists. The second and third floors are restaurants, but it is the first floor bar where you want to go.

I wouldn’t make a special trip across town, but Asakusa is a popular area for the historic temple, Sensoji. It is also walking distance to Kappabashi, a must-visit spot for kitchenware, tableware, and to see plastic food samples. If you find yourself in the area and need a break, stop by for a Denki Bran and a few bites.

Kamiya Bar 神谷バー

Taito-ku, Asakusa 1-1-1 台東区浅草1-1-1

http://www.kamiya-bar.com/

  • Kamiya Bar usually closes on Tuesday, but also on other days of the week, so do check the calendar on the bar’s website.

 

 

Sumo 101

When I first lived in Japan in the late 80s, there was a great wrestler named Chiyonofuji, nicknamed “The Wolf”. He was very strong and handsome. I became hooked on sumo. We went to Ryogoku to the Kokugikan stadium in Tokyo and watched from the cheap seats in the last row. A decade later I was invited by a friend of mine who had corporate tickets that were in the front section. It was a night and day experience watching up close. It reminded me of seeing opera in New York City. My first time, as a college student, was standing room tickets in the back of the house. After I moved to NYC and had a budget for orchestra seats, it made a world of difference.

Here are some tips for you to enjoy your sumo experience, notably the food side of things.

The sport has gone through ups and downs in popularity, and now it is hard to get tickets. When we go we prefer to sit up front in the masuseki 升席 seats that are down on the floor. However, if you are not comfortable sitting on tatami mat for a few hours, then you should get seats on the second floor.

Go early and watch the sumo wrestlers as they come in. In Tokyo the top wrestlers walk into the stadium usually between 2 and 3 p.m. They are often escorted by lower-ranking wrestlers from the same beya. Fans line up with cameras to watch them come in. You are surprisingly close. You can clap your hands and wish them good luck, “ganbatte kudasai“. Be sure to check out the backs of their kimonos as there may be lovely designs, such as the kabuki mask on Endo’s back in pink above. On the right is Tochinoshin, from Georgia (the country).

When you go into the stadium, be sure to rent the English-language radio so you can have a play-by-play. There is plenty to see in the stadium, so allow for some time to walk around.

Be sure to get a bowl of chanko nabe. In the stadium there is a banquet room that has serves up a bowl of the famous hot pot that sumo wrestlers eat.

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Bring your own food and beverages. Many sports venues allow customers to bring in their own food. We love bringing in our own food as that way we don’t waste time standing in line. At the Kokugikan you can even bring in your own beer, sake, or wine. Above are inari zushi, deep-fried tofu that is simmered in a sweet soy broth and stuffed with seasoned rice. If you are in Tokyo on holidays, then just stop by a depachika and pick up a bento and a bottle of saké. Ask for small cups at the department store as they usually have tasting cups on hand. Alternatively, a convenient store will have the essentials, beer, onigiri (stuffed rice balls), and chips.

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Watch the wrestlers come on the dohyo. You should be in your seats by 3:45 p.m. (earlier on the final day). This is the only chance you’ll see all of the wrestlers together. At the end of the day, we also like to watch the closing ceremony. One of the wrestlers artistically swings a large bow in a dramatic fashion. The sound of the drums is a sign that the day has come to an end.

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Divide your trash into paper and plastic and discard on your way out.

  • The sumo tournament in Tokyo is in January, May, and September.
  • If something unexpected happens, some spectators will throw their zabuton (cushions) towards the dohyo. It doesn’t happen often, so it’s great fun to witness.
  • Many of the top wrestlers are not Japanese. Many are from Mongolia, but other countries include Bulgaria, Georgia, and Egypt.
  • The trains can be very crowded when the day ends. Consider grabbing dinner or a drink near the stadium before jumping on the train.

Renkon Chips

Lotus root (renkon, 蓮根) are a vegetable that is hard to forget. The first time one comes across one it is fascinating to see the natural holes in the vegetable. It seems like a work of art at first.

Lotus root start to come into the market in the fall, in September and October, and continue until about January. It has a lovely dense texture and can become a bit slippery when it is cooked.

It is lovely as kinpira, sliced thin and stir-fried in a sweet soy sauce and then accented with some red chili (tōgarashi, 一味唐辛子) or seven spice (shichimi, 七味). It can be cut into thick slices, stuffed with ground meat and fried. Grating lotus root and mixing it with potato starch (katakuriko, 片栗粉) makes a chewy mochi when fried.

It is found in regional food as a local dish from Kumamoto called karashi renkon, the wholes are stuffed with Japanese karashi mustard.

At Izakaya Sakamoto we love frying it into chips. The earthy chips are great on their own or add a nice depth as a topping to salads. With a Benriner mandoline, thinly slice the lotus root. Set it on a bamboo plate or on newspapers and let it air dry in a sunny spot for 30 to 60 minutes. This extra step makes it much easier when cooking in oil. Deep-fry until it turns a golden brown and season immediately with salt.

On a side note, we were hoping to get our cooking school up and running last year, but have been so busy with our Food Sake Tokyo tours that we have not made much progress. We do currently offer cooking classes, but only to those who have kitchens in Tokyo. We will start posting recipes on this blog and will keep you updated on when our cooking classes begin.