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Columbus Day at Mitsuwa Market: a photo essay

Columbus Day at Mitsuwa Market: a photo essay
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  • Columbus Day at Mitsuwa Market: a photo essay

    Post #1 - October 14th, 2005, 5:30 pm
    Post #1 - October 14th, 2005, 5:30 pm Post #1 - October 14th, 2005, 5:30 pm
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    Could there be a better place to celebrate Columbus Day (two or four days late, depending on which one you observe) than a Japanese market? I can't think of one, and neither can the folks at Mitsuwa Market, so I decided to celebrate the discoverer of America and director of Home Alone and Bicentennial Man with a little photo essay on one of those places that you never get tired of exploring.

    Image

    A simple bowl of udon and some sushi for lunch, accompanied by a side of pickled things in three of the least appetizing colors known to man. If J. Crew named these they'd be Decay or Ptomaine. Close your eyes and think of England, though, and they taste fine.

    Image

    Another delicious color at the Pastry Hippo House. The label says red bean paste; the color says-- spinach? Seaweed? Really old red bean paste? Who knows?

    Image

    Even as I learn more and more about Japanese food, it only reveals new mysteries. Anyone know why bonito, alone among the fish at this counter, is lightly cooked (and when, like the iPod, it started coming in black as well as white?)

    Image

    This at least is familiar: squid guts. Been there, done that.

    Image

    These look... heavenly!

    Image

    Let's look for the least appealing cartoon character on a snack food. Our first contender: Old Alkie and His Skid Rovers...

    Image

    Then there's Hideously Misshapen Chips-- no two are alike, despite the best efforts of top plastic surgeons!

    Image

    And, uh, well, I think I better not even try.

    Image

    In fact, Columbus Day is past and another holiday beckons, so our genuinely admiring photo essay with cheaply snarky commentary draws to an end. Who knows what treats (and tricks) we'll find at Mitsuwa next time....

    P.S. You know what the only thing I bought besides my lunch was? Canadian bacon. No, there isn't some fabulous Japanese Canadian bacon I found there-- I just needed some and there I was, so...
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  • Post #2 - October 14th, 2005, 11:24 pm
    Post #2 - October 14th, 2005, 11:24 pm Post #2 - October 14th, 2005, 11:24 pm
    Good to read that the Arlington Heights Mitsuwa is still providing new discoveries. Snarky commentary deserves an earnest reply.

    A simple bowl of udon and some sushi for lunch, accompanied by a side of pickled things in three of the least appetizing colors known to man.


    The pale green on the left looks like takana -- a type of Japanese green in the mustard family. The yellow looks like standard-issue takuan, or pickled daikon radish dyed with tumeric. The purple black on the right looks like eggplant. If prepared correctly, the first should be salty-sour, the second salty-sweet, and the third mainly sour. As for texture, the first should be chewy-stringy, the second crisp-crunchy, the third soft-chewy.

    I agree that none are visually appealing, but three of the least appetizing colors? I would have to disagree. I sumbit to you narazuke. The city of Nara is as beautiful as its namesake pickles are ugly. The fact that everything turns brown is unfortunate enough, but many of the choice vegetables for the preparation turn out to be long and thin. Cucumbers, narrow daikon, burdock, and carrots are all too common. Displays proudly featuring coils upon coils of these pickled vegetables are enough to make me turn away when I walk through the food section of Japanese department stores. They taste medicinal, overly sweet and alcoholic hot -- they are pickled in sake lees, if I remember correctly. Oh, and they smell putrid too.

    Another delicious color at the Pastry Hippo House. The label says red bean paste; the color says-- spinach? Seaweed? Really old red bean paste? Who knows?


    The sign says yomogi, which is mugwort. Something like this might be a more familar application of the herb. I don't think I've ever seen mugwort incorporated into bread, and your photo may be a good indication as to why. Actually, this mugwort bread with red bean paste filling could be a close relative of the first cartoon character that you malign. He is known as Anpanman. The cartoon centers around various pastry-based superheros, led by Anpanman, fighting against Germ-Man. A very popular series among the under-5 crowd.

    Anyone know why bonito, alone among the fish at this counter, is lightly cooked?


    I couldn't quite get to the bottom of this one. This maniacal fisherman says that the searing allows the flavor from the subcutaneous fat to permeate the flesh (the linked page is all in Japanese, but check the author's photo at the bottom right). But he doesn't explain why the preparation is unique -- or at least seemingly so -- to bonito. Plenty of other fish I eat have that gelatinous, fatty layer just under the skin. I'll try asking my aunt and grandmother when I go to Japan next week.

    Happy eating and happy exploring,
    Mumon
  • Post #3 - October 15th, 2005, 6:58 am
    Post #3 - October 15th, 2005, 6:58 am Post #3 - October 15th, 2005, 6:58 am
    Mike G wrote:Image

    These look... heavenly!


    They do look good, like some sort of new from of spinach gnocchi or strangulaprevete... But what are they really?

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #4 - October 15th, 2005, 7:18 am
    Post #4 - October 15th, 2005, 7:18 am Post #4 - October 15th, 2005, 7:18 am
    They do look good, like some sort of new from of spinach gnocchi or strangulaprevete... But what are they really?


    Tossing out a guess it looks like a seaweed and/or wasabi flavored rice cracker. Great snack for watching tv.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #5 - October 15th, 2005, 7:28 am
    Post #5 - October 15th, 2005, 7:28 am Post #5 - October 15th, 2005, 7:28 am
    Cathy2 wrote:
    They do look good, like some sort of new from of spinach gnocchi or strangulaprevete... But what are they really?


    Tossing out a guess it looks like a seaweed and/or wasabi flavored rice cracker. Great snack for watching tv.



    Thanks. If that's what they are, I'd like to try them.

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #6 - October 15th, 2005, 7:32 am
    Post #6 - October 15th, 2005, 7:32 am Post #6 - October 15th, 2005, 7:32 am
    Heavenly was more a joke about the lighting... who knows what they are? You buy them and they could be jalapeno-broccoli or lime-smoothie flavored, there's just no telling.

    Thanks, Mumon, for the additional info, especially good catch on the mugwort bread. If I have another meeting out in Waythef***outville, I'll stop at Mitsuwa on the way back and try one, for the record.

    By the way, I did make another stop, at Mont Blanc, the Japanese patisserie a few blocks east of Mitsuwa, which I know has been mentioned but I'm not sure if anyone has actually tried. I bought two things-- an apple tart which I would swear is straight out of Joel Robuchon's and Patricia Wells' Simply French (the pastry crust was identical to Robuchon's, which I've made dozens of times). It was fine. Stranger, more interesting if not entirely successful, was a blueberry-cassis mousse cake. Cassis-flavored mousse, rather too much white cake, and on top of it a very sturdy blueberry gelatin, all in layers. Like the desserts at Todai, indulgent and well made, but something a little too assembly-line perfect about them for my taste. Still, nobody objected at my house.

    Mont Blanc
    274 E Algonquin Rd
    Arlington Heights IL 60005-4662
    847-228-5306
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  • Post #7 - October 15th, 2005, 8:52 am
    Post #7 - October 15th, 2005, 8:52 am Post #7 - October 15th, 2005, 8:52 am
    Cathy2 wrote:
    They do look good, like some sort of new from of spinach gnocchi or strangulaprevete... But what are they really?


    Tossing out a guess it looks like a seaweed and/or wasabi flavored rice cracker. Great snack for watching tv.

    Regards,


    Yes these are wasabi flavored crackers...
  • Post #8 - October 15th, 2005, 9:36 am
    Post #8 - October 15th, 2005, 9:36 am Post #8 - October 15th, 2005, 9:36 am
    Wow, I was there yesterday too!

    They usually have tuna tataki.
  • Post #9 - October 15th, 2005, 5:36 pm
    Post #9 - October 15th, 2005, 5:36 pm Post #9 - October 15th, 2005, 5:36 pm
    By the way, I did make another stop, at Mont Blanc, the Japanese patisserie a few blocks east of Mitsuwa, which I know has been mentioned but I'm not sure if anyone has actually tried


    Funny you should mention Mont Blanc. It was part of my three part Green Tea Cake tasting and benchmarking (which I hope to continue as I find more sources of green tea cake).

    Green tea cake is usually (but not always) a white or yellow genoise layer alternating with a green tea mousse that is choc full o gelatin. The entire cake is covered in whipped cream. More elegant versions may have no whipped cream at all, and simply be layers of (lower gelatin content) mousse and cake, dusted with matcha.

    The green tea cake at Mont Blanc was passable: moist, loads of cream, and not too sweet. It wasn't the most beautiful green tea cake, but its mousse was less rubbery than the first entrant, Hippo's green tea cake (sorry, no pictures).

    The third green tea cake I tasted was at Japonaise, a Japanese bakery that has been in operation in Brookline (and Newton) MA since circa 1986. Not as good as I had remembered. Mousse was less gummy than Hippo, not too sweet, but could have been a touch more bitter.

    Another good Japanese favorite to benchmark is the Mont Blanc - the chestnut/whipped cream/yellow cake confection that takes on several forms, but is almost never served as a slice.

    The one at Hippo is okay - not great. The chestnut is a bit too watered down with cream for my liking. On the plus side, it is a moist cake.

    My favorite item so far at Hippo is the Goma Daifuku -- glutinous rice cake, filled with an (sweetened red bean), and rolled in sesame seeds. Made fresh and o so good!
    CONNOISSEUR, n. A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.
    -Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

    www.cakeandcommerce.com
  • Post #10 - October 15th, 2005, 6:09 pm
    Post #10 - October 15th, 2005, 6:09 pm Post #10 - October 15th, 2005, 6:09 pm
    I used to drive to Mont Blanc just to pick up birthday cake for my ex-boss. My favorite? The Whipped Cream Cake with Strawberry... And they have these cookie sandwiches with whipped cream and raisins. I have not seen these since I was a kid and my dad would bring them home from Japan.

    I like the cakes from MontBlanc, because they are not as sweet as most cakes in the US. That and the fresh whipped cream... yum...
  • Post #11 - October 15th, 2005, 6:38 pm
    Post #11 - October 15th, 2005, 6:38 pm Post #11 - October 15th, 2005, 6:38 pm
    Thanks for the additional comments re: Mont Blanc.

    I forgot to mention that when I was there, they were visible in the back making sandwiches with mayonnaise from the largest jar of mayonnaise ever created. This is the size Costco rejected as impractically large.

    I saw, but didn't go, another bakery next to Mont Blanc, specializing in more croissant/muffin type things rather than the confections Mont Blanc makes. I also went in the Korean grocery, but quickly realized I was kind of exotic-groceried out and left without looking around much. Anyone ever been in either?
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  • Post #12 - October 15th, 2005, 6:50 pm
    Post #12 - October 15th, 2005, 6:50 pm Post #12 - October 15th, 2005, 6:50 pm
    HI,

    I have been to Mont Blanc as well as the bakery next door. I bought an octopus pastry which had actual octopus in it. I never actually ate because someone took my bag with all the 'exotic' choices and I got his 'safe' choices. He later told me he really like my choices. :roll:

    What I recall about the bakery next door sells bread in a perfect rectangular box rather than rounded on top. I remember seeing a loaf of lunch bread for $4, which I was assured was preferred by Japanese. It was also packed in those crinkly sounding cellophane bags, which Martha would approve.

    It is the only time I have ever seen bakeries next door to each other anywhere.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #13 - October 15th, 2005, 8:11 pm
    Post #13 - October 15th, 2005, 8:11 pm Post #13 - October 15th, 2005, 8:11 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:HI,

    What I recall about the bakery next door sells bread in a perfect rectangular box rather than rounded on top. I remember seeing a loaf of lunch bread for $4, which I was assured was preferred by Japanese. It was also packed in those crinkly sounding cellophane bags, which Martha would approve.


    The bakery next door primarily sells bread, rolls and MontBlanc is more cakes and pastries. No direct competition. :lol:

    I do prefer the rectangular bread. Most of the sandwich breads I see in American stores are either bread with a crusty exterior & firm interior or super soft like WonderBread. Asian sandwich breads are really soft in the center and chewy not hard on the outside. This is of course IMHO....
  • Post #14 - October 15th, 2005, 8:41 pm
    Post #14 - October 15th, 2005, 8:41 pm Post #14 - October 15th, 2005, 8:41 pm
    I wonder if they're related in some fashion, as they're so complementary rather than competitive.
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  • Post #15 - October 15th, 2005, 9:03 pm
    Post #15 - October 15th, 2005, 9:03 pm Post #15 - October 15th, 2005, 9:03 pm
    I really like using the thick slices of Japanese bread for french toast, egg salad sandwiches, and tuna salad sandwiches. I also love toasting it and topping it with sweetened condensed milk or now my new found morning spread, kaya.

    I have also enjoyed the strawberry cake from Mont Blanc, but I found the cake kind of on the drier side compared to St. Anna's. Nonetheless, it is a good alternative when it's not feasible to make a pick up from Chinatown.

    I haven't been to Crescent Bakery (next to Mont Blanc) in a few months now. Sometimes you have to beat the after school crowd that often cleans out some of the inventory. I have a few favorites:
    1) hot dog wrapped in puff pastry rolled in panko breading and deep fried
    2) round crossaint like bread filled with fresh whipped cream & red bean paste Image
    3) again, another puff pastry like shell filled with fresh whipped cream and topped with sliced strawberries
    Image
  • Post #16 - October 16th, 2005, 5:00 pm
    Post #16 - October 16th, 2005, 5:00 pm Post #16 - October 16th, 2005, 5:00 pm
    #2 - the puff pastry filled with Whipped Cream and Red bean is one of my all time favorites - they make a fantastic version at Japonaise in Brookline. I haven't had the one pictured above, but it looks good.

    Japonaise
    1020 Beacon Street
    Brookline, MA
    (617) 566-7730

    Japanese Bread, aka shoku pan, is not one of my favorites. I remember mornings when breakfast was soup served with shoku pan egg salad sandwiches - ugh. My least favorite breakfasts. What I did love in Japan were the baguettes. We had a great bakery in the neighborhood and their baguettes were better than anything I could get back in the burbs of Boston.
  • Post #17 - January 1st, 2006, 10:13 pm
    Post #17 - January 1st, 2006, 10:13 pm Post #17 - January 1st, 2006, 10:13 pm
    CrazyC wrote:I do prefer the rectangular bread. Most of the sandwich breads I see in American stores are either bread with a crusty exterior & firm interior or super soft like WonderBread. Asian sandwich breads are really soft in the center and chewy not hard on the outside. This is of course IMHO....


    I was at Hippo Bakery at Mitsuwa today, I took this picture to illustrate the bread under discussion oh so long ago:

    Image

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #18 - January 1st, 2006, 10:22 pm
    Post #18 - January 1st, 2006, 10:22 pm Post #18 - January 1st, 2006, 10:22 pm
    Another item at Hippo Bakery one might not expect:

    Image

    These are the very same Pao de Queijo Brazilian cheese bread offered at churrascarias. I wish I could say this was my original find but Monica Eng beat me to it some years ago!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #19 - January 3rd, 2006, 7:58 am
    Post #19 - January 3rd, 2006, 7:58 am Post #19 - January 3rd, 2006, 7:58 am
    given the Japanese migration to Brazil in the early 20th century, and subsequent return of a number of nissei, sansei, and yonsei to Japan, this isn't that surprising. And as an fyi, the Japanese word for bread, Pan, is from the Portuguese, who are also credited with influencing Japanese cuisine (via Jesuit missionaries in the 16th Century): think Castella cake, Tempura, etc.
    CONNOISSEUR, n. A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.
    -Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

    www.cakeandcommerce.com
  • Post #20 - February 12th, 2006, 11:28 pm
    Post #20 - February 12th, 2006, 11:28 pm Post #20 - February 12th, 2006, 11:28 pm
    Had an interesting work-related reason to go to Mitsuwa the other day-- my colleague Wyatt needed a plastic product bottle to use in something which was not identifiable as any American dishwashing soap or whatever. So here are more pics from Mitsuwa, seen with the ad guy's perspective:

    Image

    You think you can defeat me with Grateful Dead packaging, Boss? Ha! I am GOD of soft drink!

    I cannot imagine what would happen if, on a naming project, I suggested "God" as a possible product name.

    Image

    Another good name with lots of marketing possibilities-- "There's a little Cow in every woman," "Look in the mirror and see a Cow", etc....

    Image

    What else would you call crackers to go in consomme but Pickup? I hear though that the kids these days prefer a rival brand, Hookup.

    The copy on the following Gummy packages needs no snarky explanation; it is purest poetry, ad-ku.

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Mitsuwa is so cool.
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  • Post #21 - February 13th, 2006, 1:06 am
    Post #21 - February 13th, 2006, 1:06 am Post #21 - February 13th, 2006, 1:06 am
    The apple gummies are really tasty.

    Also, we've got a can of GOD in the fridge from a long ago visit to Mitsuwa. I still don't have the guts to drink it, although I'd imagine it's pretty inoffensive.

    I'm more worried about the blasphemy angle.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #22 - February 13th, 2006, 8:43 am
    Post #22 - February 13th, 2006, 8:43 am Post #22 - February 13th, 2006, 8:43 am
    gleam wrote:
    Also, we've got a can of GOD in the fridge from a long ago visit to Mitsuwa. I still don't have the guts to drink it, although I'd imagine it's pretty inoffensive.

    I'm more worried about the blasphemy angle.


    I pick up GOD coffee all the time from Mitsuwa because they are pretty good. A little blasphemy is good for you. I see that $tarbucks is introducing canned iced coffee next month, only 14 years after Suntory first introduced Boss canned coffee. Way to go!
    When I grow up, I'm going to Bovine University!
  • Post #23 - February 13th, 2006, 10:57 am
    Post #23 - February 13th, 2006, 10:57 am Post #23 - February 13th, 2006, 10:57 am
    My favorite candy name at Mitsuwa is "Crunky" ("crunk" = drunk + chronic).
  • Post #24 - February 13th, 2006, 11:35 am
    Post #24 - February 13th, 2006, 11:35 am Post #24 - February 13th, 2006, 11:35 am
    gleam wrote:The apple gummies are really tasty.


    I make a point of picking up some of that brand of gummies every time I go to Mitsuwa -- we tend toward the Concord grape and kiwi, though I have liked all the varieties I have had. If you enjoy gummies (and I know there are some of us here who do) these are probably best in class: full fruity flavor, very delicate texture, and not so adhesive that you fear ripping out a filling.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #25 - February 13th, 2006, 11:44 am
    Post #25 - February 13th, 2006, 11:44 am Post #25 - February 13th, 2006, 11:44 am
    and for a more psychedelic candy experience, go here:

    http://www.kasugai.co.jp/top/index.htm

    oh those gummies!
    CONNOISSEUR, n. A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.
    -Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

    www.cakeandcommerce.com
  • Post #26 - February 14th, 2006, 1:39 am
    Post #26 - February 14th, 2006, 1:39 am Post #26 - February 14th, 2006, 1:39 am
    David Hammond wrote:
    gleam wrote:The apple gummies are really tasty.


    I make a point of picking up some of that brand of gummies every time I go to Mitsuwa -- we tend toward the Concord grape and kiwi, though I have liked all the varieties I have had. If you enjoy gummies (and I know there are some of us here who do) these are probably best in class: full fruity flavor, very delicate texture, and not so adhesive that you fear ripping out a filling.

    Hammond


    I love the Muscat Gummys myself. :)
    Akane
    A goin' out type of foodie gal
  • Post #27 - February 14th, 2006, 8:39 am
    Post #27 - February 14th, 2006, 8:39 am Post #27 - February 14th, 2006, 8:39 am
    Akane wrote:
    I love the Muscat Gummys myself. :)


    Those are my favorite ones too!
  • Post #28 - February 14th, 2006, 8:57 am
    Post #28 - February 14th, 2006, 8:57 am Post #28 - February 14th, 2006, 8:57 am
    Erzsi wrote:
    Akane wrote:
    I love the Muscat Gummys myself. :)


    Those are my favorite ones too!


    Me three. And they have the best copy in my opinion.

    Muscat Gummy
    "Its translucent color so alluring
    and taste and aroma so gentle and mellow
    offer admiring feelings of a graceful lady.
    Enjoy soft and juicy Kasugai Muscat Gummy."
  • Post #29 - February 14th, 2006, 9:25 am
    Post #29 - February 14th, 2006, 9:25 am Post #29 - February 14th, 2006, 9:25 am
    Alas, no muscat that day. I looked.
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