Remember that song from the 80’s? I seem to be singing it a lot lately. I’ve made no secret of my love for Japanese food especially their donburi fare. I always tell the “Hungry” Hubby that I must have been Japanese in a previous life. However, trying my hand in cooking this cuisine has been a stop and go cycle for me.
You see, I have the classic book, Japanese Cooking: a simple art by Shizuo Tsuji, for a while now, yet the pages have remained unfamiliar. I am embarrassed to say that the only recipe I used in this book was for dashi. A tome that intimidates me? Or is it because most recipes sound so foreign to my ears – after all sashimi and sushi make up such a miniscule part of this book. This adds to the mystique that seem to shroud each recipe, like a discipline that must be learned before one can even begin to cook the Japanese way, not unlike the training of legendary samurai warriors.
I know…I know…just jump right in, right?
Although Richmond, Va boasts a huge Asian supermarket with an impressive variety of items, finding help in navigating the aisles that are bursting with 10 brands of seaweed, 30 types of soy sauce or 40 kinds of vinegar, is wishful thinking. The most information you are going to get is an aisle #. I usually have no trouble when shopping for Chinese or Filipino goods but for some reason Japanese groceries are challenging.
Enter Tokyo Market, a cozy little shop on West Cary st. in the hip Carytown neighborhood. The owner, Chong Park, is a cheerful petite woman..and very helpful. Items were neatly lined on the shelves and as much as I wanted to browse through them one by one, most were all in Nippongo, a language I could not read.
Bento-making was my goal when I stepped into the store and so Chong proceeded to help me with spices to make onigiris – rice balls. I quickly got distracted as I hopped over in glee to the area that held all the Japanese-style kitchen implements like mortars, ladles and pans. One thing the Japanese are experts of is the idea of cuteness- and this is evident specially in the design of their food storage containers…an element of “Kawaii”. Heck, I bought a plastic steamer simply because it was adorable.
I also purchased a side of frozen unagi – bought one previously from another grocery and it was disgustingly “fishy”. Chong told me she gets her broiled eel every two weeks and that even if it was frozen it should not stay in the freezer for long. Pork gyoza soon joined the rest of the items in my basket along with some pickled radishes.
And yes, I soon left the store with three bags of groceries and was already plotting my return.
1. Soba sauce 2. Japanese soy sauce 3. Sake 4. Mirin 5. Kabayaki sauce 6. Soba (Buckwheat noodles) 7. Bamboo rolling mat 8. Omelet pan
So no recipes right now, but I would like to report that the Unagi was one of the best I have ever tasted. A mere 12 minutes in 325 convection oven turned the semi-thawed fillet into a melt in your mouth morsel of delight! It took all of my will power not to gobble the whole thing up in 15 seconds flat.
Top the unagi over rice, drizzle with kabayaki sauce and toasted sesame seeds, serve with a side of pickled radish and you are all set! Quick, simple and totally rewarding.
2820 West Cary Street #B
Richmond, VA 23221