Tsukiji - photo by Yusuke Takahashi
Some of my favorite shops at Tsukiji Market. This article first appeared in Metropolis magazine.
http://archive.metropolis.co.jp/tokyo/682/localflavors.asp (text follows)
It is no surprise that the bustling, frenetic Tsukiji Market is a popular tourist destination. Nowhere else in the world will you see so many varieties of seafood under one roof. Restaurants such as Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi have lines out the door before the sun comes up with customers hungry for fish as fresh as it comes.
The Tsukiji places that I am most familiar with, however, are the many shops in the outer market. These are open to the public, and you can get your hands on the same goods that are stocked in many of the top restaurants in town. Keep in mind that shopping at Tsukiji is not as easy as at, say, depachika. Navigating the narrow aisles of Tsukiji, you must watch where you step and be mindful of the speeding stevedores. But your energies and efforts will be rewarded. Here are some of my favorite shops; I am sure you will discover your own.
If you are allergic to cooking, or are too busy to bother, you can pick up ready-to-go meals. For fans of oden, Tsukugon puts the convenience-store varieties to shame. Served up with some nihonshu, these bites of fish deep-fried and stuffed with goodies like shrimp or gobo (burdock) are irresistible. An oden feast wouldn’t be complete without some tender, slow-simmered daikon, deep-fried ganmodoki tofu, and light, airy hanpen fish cakes, which look like marshmallows.
Fans of dim sum can indulge in the homemade yummies at Yamucha Suga Shoten. The food here is much better than anything you can get at your local supermarket, and it saves you a trip to Chinatown in Yokohama. Chill some beers, pack your steamer with gyoza, shumai and nikuman, and you are ready to chow.
For home cooks, there are plenty of shops to satisfy any urge. In the mood for something hot and spicy? Check out the varieties of kimchi, including negi, sesame leaf and octopus, at Marukita. Fill up your basket with Korean seaweed, sweet miso for barbecues or marinades, and some creamy, sweet makkoli—low in alcohol and an interesting alternative to Japanese nigorizake. Incorporate the kimchi into fried rice, serve it up in a nabe with some tofu and thinly sliced pork, or simply eat it as a beer snack with some of that addictive Korean seaweed flavored with sesame oil and a generous sprinkle of salt.
The variety of vegetables available in Japan is one of the delights of cooking at home. At Vegetable Ishibashi, you will discover produce you can’t find at your neighborhood supa. Check out the kyo-yasai—vegetables native to Kyoto, such as mizuna salad greens. Kyo-imo potatoes simmered until tender are dense and rich, and the sweet, burnt-orange kyo-ninjin carrots will add color to any dish.
If you are excited by the smell of sweet vinegar, and if pickles tickle your toes, don’t miss Juichiya. With over 400 varieties of seasonally changing pickles in their portfolio, this shop offers
a couple hundred at any time of the year—colorful vegetables pickled in salt, vinegar, miso and more. From the ubiquitous umeboshi apricots found in every bento box to the heady narazuke, which is pickled for years and is an acquired taste, you’ll find something here to make you pucker.
The venerable knife shop Aritsugu, from Kyoto’s Nishiki Market, dates back 400 years. At its sister shop in Tsukiji, you can invest in everything from knives to graters to strainers. The cutlery, if cared for properly, will last a lifetime, and would make a great gift for any cook.
Tsukiji is centrally located in the heart of the city, just a short walk from Ginza or Tsukiji stations. It’s scheduled to move to Toyosu in 2012, so come now and dive in to the market before it becomes a part of history.
These shops are open every day except Sunday, national holidays and Tsukiji market holidays (usually two Wednesdays per month).
Tsukugon 4-12-5 Tsukiji. Tel: 03-3542-0181. Open 7am-2:30pm.
Yamucha Suga Shoten 4-10-2 Tsukiji. Tel: 03-3541-9941. Open 6am-3pm.
Marukita 4-9-5 Tsukiji. Tel: 03-3543-5643. Open 5am-1:30pm.
Vegetable Ishibashi 4-10-1 Tsukiji. Tel: 03-3545-1538. Open 5am-1pm (approx).
Juichiya 5-2-1 Tsukiji. Tel: 03-3541-8118. Open 5-11am.
Aritsugu 4-13-6 Tsukiji. Tel: 03-3541-6890. Open 5:30am-3pm.