Off the Japanese Market

January 2, 2008 at 10:58 am

I easily take for granted the ‘ethnic foods’ section at my local supermarket, not to mention the Japanese grocery store down the street. Friends in Japan still can’t believe I can buy natto (fermented soy beans) here in Los Angeles. Truthfully, there are few Japanese things that can’t be found in this town.

nattou.jpg

Japanese markets, on the other hand, have their limitations. I remember how hard it was to find a turkey when Thanksgiving came around. For starters, most household ovens can’t handle a 15-pound bird. And besides, turkeys are as mythical as fire-breathing dragons in Japan; they just don’t eat it.

Luckily, in most big towns you have your gourmet market, syllabically pronounced “gu-ru-me ma-ketto.” It’s not exactly Bristol Farms; “gourmet” just means that most products come from a foreign country, whether it be salsa or Cheese Whiz. Prices are hiked up, but markets like these come in handy when you’re really craving a light snack.

My favorite gourmet market in Sendai City was called Jupiter. (“Venus” and “Mars” in the works, perhaps?) It was located in the basement of the train station and I’d spend several minutes each day walking down the aisles searching for good ‘ol American gems like Pepperidge Farm cookies or Spam. But when I was really in the mood for home-style cooking, gourmet markets proved disappointing. Real cheese will cost you an arm and a leg, and you’re better off growing herbs in your foot-wide balcony. Forget about spices.

There’s no doubt that Japan is home to the some of the world’s best restaurants. The Michelin Guide recently bestowed eight Tokyo restaurants with its highest award. But when it comes to finding home flavor it might be easier to just buy a plane ticket home.

Himawari

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Entry filed under: Japanese Culture, Japanese Foods. Tags: , , , , .

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