12.17.10 Turning Japanese

Little girl 790 xxx
photos by george billard
Cold weather means hot pots which means trips to Mitsuwa, the Japanese superstore in Edgewater, New Jersey. It's on our way home from the city, and we take special delight in our visits there. For one thing, they have the most spectacular soft-serve ice cream in flavors like green tea and black sesame. I'm especially obsessed with the sesame, which is a murky purple color and so smoothly, sweetly seductive you could almost swoon. The enormous store contains aisles of ingredients—from produce to rice to fresh seafood—as well as kitchen tools (rice cookers), a bakery, an extensive sake selection, and several small restaurants serving udon, ramen, katsu, etc. In short, it's tough to get out of there in a hurry. You'll find yourself examining 10 kids of miso and 20 kinds of soy sauce. I have discovered wonderful quick-cooking brown rice; little jars of yuzu kosho and shichimi togarashi; and fresh chrysanthemum leaves. As I've mentioned before, I highly recommend you delve into the world of hot pots. These one-pot meals are super healthy, warming and hearty, and ideal for one or two people.
Pick up a copy of the excellent cookbook, Japanese Hot Pots, by Tadashi Ono, the talented chef at the wonderful (and gorgeous) Matsuri restaurant in Manhattan. Then head to Mitsuwa to buy a donabe and all the requisite ingredients.
Donabe 790 xxx
I got this donabe as a gift from G last Christmas
Sake 790 xxx
Mitsuwa's mind-boggling selection of sake
Meat 790 xxx
the meat is all ready for shabu-shabu, sukiyaki and other quick-cooking preparations
Soda 790 xxx
some of the packaging is quite gorgeous
Meals 790 xxx
Japanese "fast food" is definitely a cut above
Looking for a great way to incorporate sake into your cooking? Try this delicious recipe for an Asian take on buttery steamed mussels, infused with chile and garlic.SAKE-STEAMED MUSSELSserves 4from Bon Appétit, June 20085 tablespoons butter, divided
2 1/2 cups chopped green onions (about 10 large)
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup sake
6 Thai bird chiles with seeds or 3 small serrano chiles with seeds, sliced crosswise into thin rounds
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 large garlic cloves, pressed
2 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debeardedMelt 3 tablespoons butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Add green onions and sauté until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add next 5 ingredients. Bring to boil. Add mussels. Cover pot and increase heat to high. Cook until mussels open, 5 to 6 minutes.Divide mussels among bowls (discarding any mussels that do not open). Boil juices in pot to reduce slightly, about 1 minute. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over mussels and serve with Japanese rice.


you continue to amaze me. Sake is my new obsession for non asian dishes, it has become that confounding flavor that you can't put your finger on....Happy holidays! thank you for this blog
alex on December 17, 2010 at 5:10 am —
Happy Holidays to you, Alex, and ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!
laura on December 17, 2010 at 5:22 am —
Love Japanese food, but it's interesting to note that the #1 meal/dish there (in terms of frequency of consumption) is curried rice. #2? Frozen hamburgers.
jim on December 17, 2010 at 12:35 pm —
I guess that's what you call global cuisine, eh? It's up to those of us who care to keep the great traditional foods alive.
laura on December 17, 2010 at 12:56 pm —
Crazy timing. In yesterday's class on steaming, we made mussels AND talked about Mitsuwa!
Lisa on December 17, 2010 at 3:38 pm —
Synchronicity? Fate? Destiny!
laura on December 17, 2010 at 3:47 pm —
There is a pretty good Asian market a few blocks from where we live. Amoung my favorites: the vast selection of Poky! It goes right for the jugular of my inner child every time!
rob on December 18, 2010 at 3:22 am —
Assuming you mean Pocky Stix? Watch out for all that evil hydrogenated vegetable oil...;-)
laura on December 18, 2010 at 3:28 am —
What an amazing store. I definitely am going to stop by. Thanks for the post!
Sam on December 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm —
Sam, I don't think you'll be disappointed. And be sure to go hungry!
laura on December 19, 2010 at 12:37 pm —