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/

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Japanese Eggplant

The simple step of roasting eggplants and peeling before adding to miso soup adds a rich and smoky dimension to our mornings. Japanese eggplants are thin with small seeds. When cooked the eggplant flesh becomes soft and juicy. Some Japanese eggplant can be eaten as sashimi, simply sliced and served raw with soy sauce. Growing up in the US I was not a big fan of eggplants. But in Japan I can’t get enough of them.

Japanese kitchens lack a big oven for roasting and baking, but often come with a small fish grill, perfect for grilling fish and vegetables. Simply peel off the leaves at the top of the plant exposing more of the skin. Prick the skin in a few spots with a toothpick or knife so that when it cooks the steam can be released. If not, it may explode while cooking. Put in the Japanese fish grill and roast until the skin blackens. If you don’t have a fish grill, you can blacken the skin directly over a gas flame. Be careful.

Put the roasted eggplant in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for a few minutes. Peel, cut into bite-size pieces, and add to miso soup.

We sometimes sauté in a pan with vegetable oil and dress with a sweet Kyūshū soy sauce. It can be stir-fried with ground meat and seasoned with miso, saké, and sesame oil for mabō nasu, which needs to be eaten with a big bowl of rice.

A classic Japanese dish is dengaku miso over roasted or deep-fried eggplant. Dengaku miso is a sweetened thick miso dressing. If you are not an eggplant fan and have access to Japanese eggplants, consider giving it a second chance.

茄子 nasu – eggplant

焼き茄子 yakinasu – roasted eggplant

賀茂茄子 Kamo nasu – Kyoto vegetable Kamo eggplant

田楽みそ dengaku miso – sweetened miso dressing for eggplant and tofu

 

Octopus Cuisine

Octopus from Tokyo Bay

Boiled Octopus

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.

tako sashimi

Octopus Sashimi

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?

deep-fried octopus

Octopus Fritters

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 and Rice Donabe

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.

Octopus Rice

Octopus Rice

Summer Lunch at Nihonbashi Yukari

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch

Iron Chef Kimio Nonaga of Nihonbashi Yukari

On a recent afternoon we found ourselves in Nihonbashi a little after noon. Just around the corner was one of our favorite restaurants in the city, Nihonbashi Yukari. Nihonbashi Yukari is a kaiseki/kappō restaurant. Behind the counter on most days is the third-generation chef, Kimio Nonaga. We actually tried coming in last week but when we called to make our reservations Nonaga-san said that he was going to be at NHK that day filming for a television program. When Nonaga-san is not in the house his father, the second-generation chef, fills in.

We were thrilled when we opened the door to see Nonaga-san behind the counter. We had just seen several people leaving the restaurant so our timing was perfect. The counter was just being cleared and we were seated just in front of the former Iron Chef champion at the best seats in the house.

Usually we pre-order our lunch, the Yukari lunch box which is like a mini-kaiseki meal and a great bargain at 3,500 JPY. Today as we were walk-ins it was our first time to order lunch off of the menu. There is a wide variety of dishes to choose from including tempura, grilled fish, simmered pork, sashimi platter, and much more.

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch sashimi

Summer sashimi course on Edo Kiriko plate

We are big fans of a special nattō taré (sauce) that was created by Nonaga-san. This sashimi course was in addition to the regular lunch. Three types of sashimi, seared scallops, katsuo (skipjack tuna), and kanpachi (yellowtail) is topped with julienned daikon, shiso, myoga, onion, kaiwaré (daikon sprouts), and baby shiso. The dressing is a blend of the fermented soybean dressing which adds a rich umami and deep flavor to the dish. Anago bones are deep-fried and pulverized and sprinkled on which adds an unexpected and welcome crunch to the dish. The dish is a beautiful dish for summer, Edo Kiriko.

Nihonbashi Yukari summer lunch - anago

Anago Jyubako

Anago is sea eel and is often seen at the traditional sushi counter in Japan. At Nihonbashi Yukari the anago is simmered until tender and then served over rice in a lacquer box, jyubako. The anago is so soft that it melts in your mouth. The sauce is ever-so-sweet, not cloying as is often the case with unagi (fresh water eel).

Nihonbashi Yukari - summer lunch simmered meitagarei

Simmered meitagarei (fine-spotted flounder)

There were a few offerings for simmered fish this day. Shinji went with meitagarei which is a type of flounder. The simmering sauce is not made fresh each day but is passed on day after day over the years. It has a deep flavor from it. Nonaga-san said that many different types of fish are simmered in this sauce, hence the depth of flavor. This is something that would be hard to recreate at home, we pondered aloud. Nonaga-san suggested we try it. He said to save the broth and to put it in the fridge. I love his positive and encouraging attitude. The rice served with the simmered fish has julienned fresh ginger and abura-agé (deep-fried tofu) in it. Refreshing for the summer, and we find inspiration in another dish we will try at home.

Nihonbashi Yukari is just minutes from Tokyo Station’s Yaesu Guchi. It is possible to walk-in, but we recommend reservations. Within about ten minutes of being seated the counter filled up again and most of the tables in the restaurant were also full.

Nihonbashi Yukari

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 3-2-14

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.

Osechi Ryori – New Year’s at Izakaya Sakamoto

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As we were busy with Food Sake Tokyo tours through the end of the year we only had December 31st to prepare the osechi ryori, Japanese New Year’s cuisine. First thing on the morning of December 31st we went to our local depachika and picked up last minute ingredients. The department stores are always packed on the last few days of the year as people are shopping for food for January 1st. January 1 is the one day a year that many department stores and other retail shops will close. Working in food retail it is a busy day. I enjoyed my two years working at Takashimaya on these days as many regular customers would come in to pick up sake and wine for the holidays.

First, we started with making dashi from Hidaka kombu and katsuobushi. The kombu is saved from the dashi and used for making kobumaki (yes, spelled without an ‘m’). The kombu is wrapped with kampyō and then simmered in a sweet soy broth until tender.

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Gobō, burdock root, is simmered in water until almost tender, then finished cooking until soft in a dashi broth. It is then tossed in a sweet sesame dressing. This dish is called tataki gobō.

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This year we couldn’t find our vegetable cutters to make the pretty plum blossom shapes from carrots, so made it from scratch. Much harder to do this way of course, and the results not as pretty as they could be. These carrots will go in the simmered chicken dish.

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Hoshigaki, dried persimmons, are lovely when used in pickles. These will go with julienned daikon and carrots for a colorful namasu that is seasoned with a sweet rice vinegar and yuzu.

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The dried persimmons with the carrots and daikon before being pressed in the pickle pot.

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The iridori is savory simmered dish of chicken, carrots, burdock root, bamboo shoots, konnyaku, and lotus root. The store was sold out of snow peas so we added the green with mitsuba.

Most of the dishes are prepared on December 31st and assembled into the lacquer boxes. On the morning of January 1 we grilled buri (yellowtail) in a teriyaki glaze.

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Here is the assembled box.

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We made two layers this year. Here you’ll also find a sweet omelet, datemaki, that is made with happen, eggs, and sugar. The boxes are completed with sweet black beans, kazunoko (herring roe), chestnuts in a sweet syrup, kamaboko (steamed fish cake), tazukuri (dried fish in a sweet soy with sesame seeds), and the dishes mentioned above. Many of the components are on the sweet side.Image

At Izakaya Sakamoto we also served with the osechi ryōri a savory egg custard called chawanmushi, a soup made with mochi, and sashimi of flounder, sea bream, salmon, yellowtail, pickled Pacific mackerel, and three parts of tuna – akami, chūtoro, and ōtoro.

For more information on the different dishes often used in osechi ryōri, please read this piece I wrote for bento.com about ten years ago.

We wish our friends, Food Sake Tokyo tour clients, and blog followers the best for a year filled with delicious meals – and hopefully a visit to Tokyo.

Buri and Hamachi Yellowtail 101

Classic Winter Dish of Buri Daikon

Buri is simmered with daikon in a sweet soy broth until both are tender.

 

Himi Port in Toyama famous for winter kanburi.

These kanburi are at the wholesale fish market which is open to the public.

Kanburi at the retail fish market an hour later.

Prices range from $100 to over $300 USD.

You can purchase a kanburi and have it sent to anywhere in Japan.

Kanburi sashimi breakfast at the restaurant on the 2nd floor of the wholesale market.

This restaurant is open to the public.

Shioyaki salt-grilled kanburi.

The miso soup in both meals is made with fish heads and bones for a meaty broth.

Here is everything a Japanese fishmonger (Shinji) wants you to know about buri and hamachi:

Yellowtail (鰤 Buri, Seriola quinqueradiata) is a very popular fish in Japan for sushi and sashimi. There are many recipes to enjoy this precious protein gifted from the ocean.

The wild fish swim up from the south to the north along the main island of Japan. Yellowtail eat a lot of seafood to obtain as much fat as possible in their flesh for energy to bear the cold waters in the north. The best season is from December to February, when the flesh color turns gradationally pink to white. In March, it ends its peak season after spawning.

Although the wild fish season ends in March, farmed fish is available all-year long. Farmed yellowtail has white flesh with a lot of fat and it is usually delicious. It is called hamachi (farmed yellowtail in Japanese, wild fish=buri, farmed fish=hamachi) and exported all over the world to fill the demand for sashimi, sushi, and grilled as teriyaki.

Wild fish in winter gets as fatty or fattier than farmed fish, and its gorgeous flavor is unbelievably amazing. If you have any chance to try wild fish sized more than 10 kg, from Hokkaido (Tenjo-buri) in Nov to Dec, Ishikawa (Noto-buri) and Toyama (Himi-buri) in Dec to Feb, you must try it.

You can find frozen yellowtail fillets in the US or other countries, but there is no frozen yellowtail distributed in Japan, so when you buy steaks or sashimi loins in the local supermarkets, they should be fresh. Here are some tips to help you when shopping for yellowtail.

Yellowtail has different names depending on its size. The name also changes regionally.

 

Kanto Region Names for Yellowtail

Wakashi 10-20 cm

Inada 30-40 cm

Warasa 50-60 cm

Buri 80 cm or more

 

Kansai Region Names for Yellowtail

Tsubasa or Wakana 10-15 cm

Hamachi 20-40 cm

Mejiro or Inada 50-60 cm

Buri 80 cm or more

Wild or Farmed

The label does not need to show if it is wild, but labeling is required for farmed fish. So If  you see the sign ‘養殖’ (Youshoku, farmed) on the label, it is a farmed fish. Retailers sometimes label the fish as ‘天然’ (Tennen, wild) on the package for wild caught fish, usually with a sticker. If you can tell if the fish is wild or farmed without seeing the sign, it means that you have completed the first step to becoming a fish foodie in Japan.

 

Hokkaido wild buri sashimi

For Sashimi or Cooking

The label must show ‘刺身用’ (sashimi-you, for sashimi-grade fish), ’生食用’ (namashoku-you, if it can be consumed raw) or ‘加熱用’ (kanetsu-you, for if it needs to be cooked). It is better to check the labeling before you buy the fish. Though it is easy for Japanese people to recognize the usage by checking the portion appearance, but just in case, you should check the label. The sashimi-you ‘刺身用’ label does not mean how fresh the fish is, it just means that the fish was cut under careful hygiene standards for sashimi, using sanitized cutting boards and sashimi knives (yanagiba knife), and the freshness is suitable to consume as raw. So kanetsu-you加熱用’ labeled fish can be as fresh as sashimi-you刺身用’ labeled fish. When they cut steaks, they usually use filet knife (deba knife) which is not usually sanitized very often.

Portions

-Steaks or filets (kirimi 切身)

It is easy to know which part of the fish that the steak cuts come from. You can check the skin color, if black, it is back loin (less fat) and if white, it is belly loin (fattier).

 

buri back (left) and belly (right)

this is how it would look on the fish

 

buri steaks back (left) and belly (right)

-Sashimi loin

Firstly, filets are roughly divided into 2 loins, back or belly. But when the loins are too big to sell, they are cut into upper (head side) portion and lower (tail side) portion. Personally I love the fatty portions, and chose in this order: 1. upper belly 2. upper back 3. lower belly 4. lower back. Usually it is sold without the skin, so that you should learn to know which part is which by the appearance.