For one-stop shopping for food, tableware, kitchenware, and lunch, I highly recommend Ginza Akomeya. The restaurant offers a colorful lunch rich with small dishes. While not vegetarian, it is vegetable-friendly and nourishing.
The retail part of the store is curated offering great products for the pantry. Essentials like mirin, sesame oil, and soy sauce as well as fun condiments like yuzu kosho or ponzu. The tableware and kitchenware selection is also lovely. Pick up a donabe (earthenware pot) for cooking rice on the stovetop.
There is a kome (rice) counter where you can have your rice freshly polished. The selection is impressive, bringing in varietals from all over Japan. Some of our favorites are sold here like Hokkaido Yumepirika, Yamagata Tsuyahime, Toyama Milky Queen and Niigata Uonuma Koshihikari.
Lunch is very popular, so come early or late. The rice is cooked in a donabe. Dinner is also a big affair, and there is a nice selection of saké. In the afternoon the shop offers traditional Japanese sweets. The menu with photos is here:
Chuo-ku, Ginza 2-2-6 中央区銀座2-2-6
The Japanese calendar is filled with many food rituals. While we start the year off with a big bang with お節料理 osechi ryōri, the next event is a nourishing bowl of rice porridge with seven greens, 七草粥 nanakusa gayu. Kayu is rice porridge and nanakusa refers to the seven edible greens. The daikon and turnip are also chopped up and cooked with the rice.
In order clockwise the haru no nanakusa 春の七草:
- 仏の座 ほとけのざ Lapsana apogonoides – nipplewort
- 菘 すずな Brassica rapa – turnip
- 薺 なずな Capsella bursa – shepherd’s purse
- 蘩蔞 はこべら Stellaria neglecta – chickweed
- 蘿蔔 すずしろ（大根）Raphanus sativus – daikon
- 御形 ごぎょう Gnaphalium affine – cudweed
- 芹 せり Oenanthe javanica – water dropwort
These are the traditional seven greens that are sold in packs at the supermarket, but in the past the seven were not decided. Seven edible sprouting greens were picked and cooked in a hot soup. So even if you are not in Japan with access to these seven, you could create your own version in your home countries using seven greens.
The ritual of eating this soup on January 7th, in the past was believed to ward off evil spirits and keep your home from disease and disaster. Nowadays it is eaten with the spirit of good health for the year. It is a simple and healthful bowl that is a big contrast to the big meals at the beginning of the new year.
To make okayu we wash one cup of rice a few times. In a pot add three cups of water to the uncooked, washed rice and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer until the rice becomes soft. Stir occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the pot. Meanwhile wash and finely chop the seven greens, including the root vegetables. Add to the rice porridge and cook until cooked through. Season to taste with salt.
Here is my favorite iron chef, Kimio Nonaga, on youtube with his take on nanakusa ryōri, dishes made using the seven greens.
In the autumn, there is also a collection of seven greens 秋の七草 aki no nanakusa, but these are not meant for eating, but for appreciating the beauty of the seven plants.
- 萩 はぎ Japanese clover
- 尾花 おばな Japanese pampas grass
- 葛の花 くずのはな kudzu flowers
- 撫子 なでしこ pink dianthus carnation
- 女郎花 おみなえし patrinia honeysuckle
- 藤袴 ふじばかま thoroughwort
- 桔梗 ききょう bellflower
At home we cook our rice in a donabe (ceramic pot). It is much faster to cook the rice in the donabe than it is in a rice cooker. Better yet, if you can cook it properly, the donabe will give you a nice okoge, charred crust. A Kyoto restaurant that specializes in rice that has a small restaurant in Ginza, which is a lovely spot for lunch. Here is a standard set lunch (about 2,500 JPY) that includes sashimi, tempura, yuba, and teriyaki Spanish mackerel as some of the dishes.
The vegetarian lunch (about 1,500 JPY) is a delight which included nama fu (wheat gluten), tempura, and tofu. Both lunches included roasted nori, salted kombu, pickles, miso soup (which is made with katsuo so not vegetarian). Both also included chirimen sansho (sardines with sansho berries), so also not vegetarian. But, if you are vegetarian you would be satisfied with the rest of the meal.
The rice has a lovely texture, and is all-you-can-eat. Here is the lovely okoge crust that is so treasured in Japan.
The Ginza restaurant is small. Just a handful of tables and it is a popular shop. We saw many diners turned away.
On our way out the staff called out the traditional Kyoto thank-you, okini.
Ginza Kome Ryotei Hachidaime Gihey 銀座米料亭 八代目儀兵衛
Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-4-15
You can see the lunch and dinner photos with prices here:
Shinji’s father has a boat on Tokyo Bay and he often goes fishing. Recently he came home with an octopus. Shinji set to work preparing the octopus by first massaging it in grated daikon. It was then boiled and here is the boiled octopus.
Octopus, tako in Japanese, is one of my favorite seafood. It’s meaty, has a great texture, and is not very fishy. That’s important for this Japanese-American girl who was raised in Minnesota. When it is cut as sashimi it is not simply sliced, but cut with a up and down motion creating a wave-like design on the flesh. This helps to pick up the soy sauce. How brilliant are the Japanese to think about this?
Battered and deep-fried octopus were amazing, especially with ice cold beer. Just season with salt and pop into your mouth. Yum. I bet these would be a big hit at the Minnesota State Fair, where I first came to experience deep-fried cheese curds.
Octopus Rice in a Donabe
We love cooking rice in a donabe pot. Shinji marinated raw octopus with soy sauce, mirin, and saké and then added to the donabe with rice with dashi. After the rice was cooked it was garnished with julienned ginger. He made a large batch as this can be molded into small rice balls and put into the freezer. It is easy to zap in the microwave.
Growing up in Minnesota I was surrounded by large farms growing corn. There was nothing better than stopping by the side of the road and picking up a dozen ears of corn in a brown paper bag for a buck. At home we would shuck the ears outside on the front lawn. There was one huge pot in our house that was used mostly for boiling corn every summer. The sweet corn was then slathered with butter and salt, and attack ear after ear until my face was covered with butter and the corn disappeared.
While we salted the water when we boiled the corn I was shocked when a farmer’s wife told me that we should cook the corn in sugared water. That revelation changed the way I made corn ever since, and it does make it better.
Corn in Tokyo has been out for a few weeks already. I have been eating an ear or two every day. The only difference is that here it costs a buck a cob. It’s my favorite vegetable and I will indulge while it’s in season.
Shinji’s in culinary school at the moment and one of his recent assignments was corn rice. Takikomigohan is when toppings are steamed with the rice and then incorporated into the rice. A similar preparation is called mazegohan when toppings are mixed into cooked rice. While this is called a takikomigohan this almost feels like a mazegohan as the corn is cooked before it is added to the pot. To be honest, I don’t care what it’s called, it’s delicious.
Sweet Corn Rice
Shinji said that he cooked the ear of corn in salt water. After it is cooked the kernels are cut off of the cob. Rice is cooked with a little bit of salt in the water. We cook the rice in a donabe (ceramic pot). After the rice has come to a boil the lid is taken off, usually a no-no, and sprinkled with some saké and the corn. The lid is returned and the rice is set aside to finish steaming for fifteen minutes. If you are cooking your rice in a rice cooker there should be a timer that tells you when there about ten minutes or so left to cook. I would add the corn at that time.
The rice is ever-so-salty, like the breeze on your face at the ocean, while the corn adds bursts of sweetness.