More Mitsuwa

Instagram Post 3/4/2019

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In addition to the specialty shops and restaurants that accompany their extensive selection of Japanese packaged and prepared foods, Mitsuwa Marketplace, 595 River Road, Edgewater, NJ plays host to a series of promotional events. Currently, for example, three exhibitors from Japan are presenting bespoke Japanese sweets, premium dashi (Japanese soup stock), and luxurious seafood bento. The products are available for a limited time at the store and, I was told, once they go back to Japan, so does the opportunity to sample them locally.

Marumasa, hailing from Yamanashi Prefecture, featured a regional style of fried chicken (kara-age) along with other deep fried snacks. This set included [1] fried shrimp nestled within onigiri (rice balls) which were excellent and [2] chicken that would have been good had it not suffered from being out of the oil for too long rendering it cold and a bit greasy, an uncommon happenstance I was told.

[3] A fixture among Mitsuwa’s restaurants, Tendon Hannosuke specializes in tempura bowls. Shown here is the Original Tempura Plate with whitefish, two shrimp, soft-boiled egg, nori and vegetables.

If you’re into Japanese cuisine, cooking, and culture, Mitsuwa Marketplace is worth the short bus ride across the river for a few hours of exploration and dining. And if you have a little extra time, there’s a bookstore (Kinokuniya) and a home décor emporium (Little Japan USA) right nearby. (PS: Don’t miss the creamy, delicious soft-serve which we gobbled too hastily to photograph!)
 
 

Hamada-ya Bakery

Instagram Post 3/3/2019

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I’ve been making the pilgrimage to Mitsuwa Marketplace, the Japanese superstore at 595 River Road, Edgewater, NJ since it was Yaohan. (Raise your hand if you remember that.) In addition to being the most comprehensive exclusively Japanese supermarket in the area offering great prepared food to boot, Mitsuwa also sponsors frequent events (more about those in an upcoming post) and incorporates a number of specialty food concessions featuring Japanese confectionery and soft serve ice cream, sushi, rice balls, tempura, ramen and the like. Based on a recommendation from my Instagram friend @rudumplingme, I headed to one such shop, Hamada-ya Bakery (an outpost of Tokyo’s Richu Hamada-ya) to taste their wares

[1] She singled out the Vanilla Cream Cornet (the katakana クリームコロネ on the sign reads “cream coronet”) which proved to be great: the dough was crisper outside and airier inside than I expected, and custard filling in Japanese baked goods is sometimes less rich than their European counterparts, but this was perfection.

[2] Another familiar treat in Japanese bakeries is Melon Pan (メロンパン), sometimes plain but adorned here with chocolate bits that break the monotony (the photo may be a little deceiving, there’s no filling inside). With a crispy thin crust and a yielding interior, this sweet bread made a righteous breakfast the following morning. Note that no melons are harmed in the making of melon pan; the name merely refers to its appearance, a bit like a cantaloupe. Incidentally, the word “pan” (bread) made its way into Japanese via Portuguese missionaries.

[3] Their rendition of pain au chocolat, choco croissant (チョコクロワッサン) was satisfying as well. Hamada-ya also sells savory sandwiches like fried fish and egg, tonkatsu (pork cutlet) and tuna, and goodies that seem to straddle the sweet/savory fence like cheddar cheese curry donut. Next time!
 
 

Japan Village – Hachi

Instagram Post 2/22/2019

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In the beginning, there was a popular well-stocked market in Little Tokyo in the East Village accessible only by elevator, the darling of anyone in search of authentic Japanese ingredients and prepared food. That market, Sunrise Mart, begat Japan Village in Sunset Park (fitting) where cuisine from the Land of the Rising Sun (stretch) now reigns supreme in the Japanese answer to Eataly.

Three metaphors later, I can tell you that Japan Village at 934 3rd Ave in Brooklyn is good – and it’s only going to get better. The food hall that occupies one side of the expanse is home to a variety of vendors, each offering a different category of Japanese comestibles including sushi, onigiri, tempura, rice bowls, ramen, udon and soba, baked goods, bentos, and more. The other side houses a new Sunrise Mart, the genesis of this world.

Hachi, the stall that vends street food like takoyaki (octopus balls) and yakisoba (stir fried wheat noodles) also offers two kinds of okonomiyaki, a shredded cabbage pancake whose name means “your preference” (okonomi) and “grilled” (yaki): the original, with pork; and seafood, with octopus, shrimp, and scallops, our preference. We opted for the add-on scallions and mozzarella. Don’t ask. (The white squiggle is Kewpie mayo, BTW, not mozz.) It was topped with animated bonito flakes that looked like tiny pink flags flapping in the rising steam as if to wave goodbye to my diet. Seriously though, I thought it was perfectly delicious.
 
 

Matsuya Stick Cookies

Instagram Post 2/2/2019

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Since we’re on the topic of Asian cookies, you might want to give these Stick Biscuits a try if you see them in a Japanese or Chinese market. For the language nerds reading this, the Japanese katakana on the label, スティック ビスケット, written vertically in the two columns on the left reads “sutikku bisuketto” (drop the silent letter U’s and you’ll hear “stick biscuit”) and the larger kanji 牛乳 on the right means cow’s milk. They are indeed made with milk or perhaps it means they’re destined to be enjoyed with milk, but that’s as far as my language skills can carry me. They appear to be manufactured in Taiwan by Matsuya.

I’ve seen four kinds: brown sugar, cocoa, sesame, and milk. All are good, not too sweet (there’s that phrase again) and rather addictive as much for the taste as the crunchy texture which is about as hard as a cookie can be and still not effect an emergency visit to the dentist. The rigidity adds to the fun, however: my first thought was to plunge them into something harmonious – use the cocoa version to scoop up some peanut butter or dunk the milk variety in Nutella; any dip of similar consistency and yumminess would suffice. There’s a Greek brand of delicious sweet tahini, one type is flavored with chocolate, another with orange (it might be worthy of a post of its own) that was perfect with the sesame flavor. Sort of like Pocky on steroids.

And if your sugar high flies too far off the charts, they can be repurposed as playthings as well: think Lincoln Logs. Jenga anyone?
 
 

Keki Modern Cakes

Instagram Post 1/19/2019

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You know the line that formed outside the door the day that Keki Modern Cakes opened at 79 Mott St in Chinatown? I was in it, mainly because they were (unconsciously) utilizing their unusual cakes to demo the mechanics of momentum in the window, and I’m the nerdy type. In case you missed it, Keki makes “Bouncy Cheesecakes” and they do live up to the promise of their name.

[1] On a postprandial visit to their midtown location, 315 Fifth Ave at 32nd St, my lunchmates and I indulged in the ube variety. Light, fluffy, adorably jiggly and not too sweet (it seems to be so important to so many), the flavors of cheese and ube were present but subtle. Pretty good, actually.

[2] Bisected.

[3] They also offer castella sponge cakes, tarts and “pot pies” that look like larger tarts in flavors like blood orange, melon banana, and pumpkin (these may be seasonal), as well as [4] fancy cheese cakes, described on a chalkboard just above the yellow neon imperative, “Let’s Bounce”. Sure, why not?
 
 

Fubuki Manju

Instagram Post 7/28/2018

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Keeping it short and sweet for this post with a Japanese Fubuki Manju (wheat cake) from Simply Bakery at 70 Bayard St in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Fubuki means snowstorm in Japanese and indeed the thin cakey white coating does give the appearance of a snowball but it’s the chunky sweet red bean paste within that provides the dominant flavor of this confection; it’s unlike mochi where the outer coating is a lot thicker and made from glutinous rice.
 
 

Alimama Tea

Instagram Post 5/30/2018

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Ready for something unusual? Check out recently opened Alimama Tea, 89A Bayard St, Manhattan, and their unique assortment of mochi doughnuts and Asian inflected cream puffs. The donuts don’t look remarkable but they’re actually based on mochi, the sweet Japanese rice cake, and as soon as you take one chewy bite, you’ll get the picture. I chose the most straightforward in appearance in order to get to the heart of the issue, Brûlée with a crisp, burnt caramelized sugar glaze, but there are more fanciful flavors like Salted Caramel Nutella, Coconut Dark Chocolate, Cereal, Matcha, and Onyx, each topped with a harmonious glaze.

Cream puffs have a place of honor here as well and are available in yuzu, matcha, and ube (shown here, intact and hacked), light and not overpoweringly sweet.

Naturally, since it’s a tea shop, the cold brew tea list is extensive. Here’s Floral, described as butterfly pea tea, rose, and chrysanthemum with tapioca balls; both cold and hot drinks are available. There’s an emphasis on organics and health including vegan and gluten-free options, but that didn’t deter my (well-satisfied) quest for sweets!
 
 

Ethnojunket: Snacking in Flushing – The Best of the Best

An ethnojunket is a food-focused walking tour through one of New York City’s many ethnic enclaves; my mission is to introduce you to some delicious, accessible, international treats (hence, “ethno-”) that you’ve never tasted but soon will never be able to live without (hence, “-junkie”).

Snacking in Flushing – The Best of the Best
On this ethnojunket, we’ll choose from a seemingly endless collection of authentic regional delights from all over China: Heilongjiang, Shandong, Henan, Shanghai, Shaanxi, Guangzhou, Hubei, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and Japan and Taiwan as well. We’ll enjoy Chinese crêpes, juicy dumplings, tasty noodle dishes, yummy dim sum, and distinctive snacks from the savory to the sweet. And as if that weren’t enough, we’ll finish with some amazingly rich Chinese influenced American ice cream! If you’re into cooking, we can also check out JMart, a sprawling Asian supermarket. All this within four blocks!

Some photos from past visits:
(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

Details:
The cost of any tour is $85 per person (cash only, please) and includes a veritable cornucopia of food so bring your appetite: you won’t leave hungry, and you will leave happy!

Tours usually begin at 1pm and typically run about 3 to 4 hours (depending upon the neighborhood).

Sign up!
Simply send me a note below and tell me when you’d like to experience a food adventure and which ethnojunket you’re interested in – I’ll bet we can find a mutually convenient day! I’ll email you with details.

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Name


Please note: While I generally have a pretty good idea of what ingredients go into whatever we’re consuming, I can’t vouch for salt or sugar or gluten or so many other clandestine buzz killers. If you have any dietary restrictions or food allergies, please be mindful of that and take responsibility for them just as you would if you were dining under any other circumstances. (I’m a foodie, not a doctor!) By the same token, if something troublesome happens to you along the way, I can’t take the liability for that any more than if you were just walking along the street or in a shop by yourself. (I’m a writer, not a lawyer!) In other words, when you join one of my ethnojunkets, you are taking complete responsibility for your own welfare and safety.

What I can do is bring you a few hours of entertaining, educational, and delicious fun!

Questions? Feel free to write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com.

Ethnojunket: Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst

An ethnojunket is a food-focused walking tour through one of New York City’s many ethnic enclaves; my mission is to introduce you to some delicious, accessible, international treats (hence, “ethno-”) that you’ve never tasted but soon will never be able to live without (hence, “-junkie”).

Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst
It is said that Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world. Its Elmhurst neighborhood reflects that characteristic in its own microcosm of Latinx and Asian populations, and on this tour, we’ll zoom in still further for a look at the sheer diversity of its Asian community and their culinary treasures.

On this ethnojunket, we’ll savor goodies from Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Myanmar, the Philippines, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia and parts of China – surprising snacks that are practically addictive, unique Himalayan dumplings, exotic noodle dishes, sweet yogurt comfort food from South Asia, Taiwanese street food, and lots more! And if you’re into cooking, we can explore a large Pan-Asian supermarket along the way.

Some photos from past visits:

Details:
The cost of any tour is $85 per person (cash only, please) and includes a veritable cornucopia of food so bring your appetite: you won’t leave hungry, and you will leave happy!

Tours usually begin at 1pm and typically run about 3 to 4 hours (depending upon the neighborhood).

Sign up!
Simply send me a note below and tell me when you’d like to experience a food adventure and which ethnojunket you’re interested in – I’ll bet we can find a mutually convenient day! I’ll email you with details.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Name


Please note: While I generally have a pretty good idea of what ingredients go into whatever we’re consuming, I can’t vouch for salt or sugar or gluten or so many other clandestine buzz killers. If you have any dietary restrictions or food allergies, please be mindful of that and take responsibility for them just as you would if you were dining under any other circumstances. (I’m a foodie, not a doctor!) By the same token, if something troublesome happens to you along the way, I can’t take the liability for that any more than if you were just walking along the street or in a shop by yourself. (I’m a writer, not a lawyer!) In other words, when you join one of my ethnojunkets, you are taking complete responsibility for your own welfare and safety.

What I can do is bring you a few hours of entertaining, educational, and delicious fun!

Questions? Feel free to write to me directly at rich[at]ethnojunkie[dot]com.

Japanese Potato Salad

Instagram Post 11/3/2017

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

More of my home cooking from Japan 🇯🇵 by way of Brooklyn 🇺🇸!

Here’s my rendition of Japanese potato salad. (Yes, it’s a thing.) Its name, ポテトサラダ, is pronounced approximately “potato salada”; needless to say, there’s a word for potato in Japanese, じゃがいも, “jagaimo”, but since the dish is rather American, the English name is used more commonly. The texture is key to this dish: the potatoes are partially mashed but there are still abundant chunks. It works because the mashed potatoes meld with and become an integral part of the dressing; the chunks remain to provide occasional bites of straight ahead potato.

My ingredient list cleaves pretty closely to the canonical Japanese version: potato 🥔, carrot 🥕, cucumber 🥒, hardboiled egg 🥚, sweet onion, ham; and the dressing is fairly authentic: mayo (only Kewpie of course!), rice wine vinegar, and neri wakarashi (Japanese mustard paste) but I’ve added a little sweet miso paste as well as a few shakes of ichimi togarashi (dried Japanese red pepper) and sansho (dried Japanese green pepper peel) to kick it up a little, and a sprinkling of shichimi (a seasoning mix of Japanese red pepper, sesame seed, orange peel, yuzu, etc.) and black sesame seeds on top. Simple, but most satisfying.

Of course, the ingredients’ proportions are what distinguish one recipe from another, so I haven’t really revealed any secrets here!

Those are Thai spicy pickled mangoes on the side for flavor and color contrast.