Tokyo Food Tour! Tsukiji Fish Market

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It’s hard to miss the main entrance to the Outer Market in Tsukiji!

Located in central Tokyo, Tsukiji Market is the largest fish market in the world. It’s so large, it’s actually one of the largest food markets of any kind in the world! The Inner Market is where tons (and tons and tons) of hundreds of varieties of fish and seafood are sold to wholesalers and restaurant owners during the early morning hours. The Outer Market is where the action is if you’re a tourist. It’s here, in the Outer Market, where people from all over the world can sample and purchase a seemingly endless variety of products, from fresh and dried fish to exotic spices to every ready-to-eat food imaginable.

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One of many shopping lanes in the Outer Market

Tsukiji Market is a must-see for anyone visiting Tokyo. It is truly a feast for the senses! While you need to taste and see and smell the kaleidoscope of offerings to fully appreciate Tsukiji Market, these photos will give you an idea of Continue reading

Tokyo Food Tour! Pizzaria Buono Buono

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Pizzaria Buono Buono

Nestled into the Asakusabachi neighborhood in Tokyo is Pizzaria Buono Buono, one of our dinner stops during our second week in Tokyo.

“Pizza? On a Tokyo Food Tour?”

Well, if someone visited New York City and raved about a Japanese restaurant, would that seem odd? Of course not. Likewise, Tokyo is a global city, and a hungry traveler can find just about any cuisine as long as they’re willing to venture beyond the narrow lanes of shops that line the immediate area surrounding most train stations. My crew was up for a walk and craving a dairy fix from cheesy pizza. Enter Pizzaria Buono Buono.

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The Menu!

It was a quiet evening, and the owners greeted us heartily, speaking English, before escorting us to a beautiful, rustic wood table. Being asked where we were from and how we were enjoying Japan was nice, as language barriers while traveling often impede such pleasantries. American Rock and Roll from the 1950s was piped throughout the restaurant, which was decorated with musical instruments and memorabilia from the same era. How unexpected and fun!

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Tuscany Pizza

Our pizzas were delicious – I highly recommend both the Genovese and the Tuscany. All in all, dinner at Pizzaria Buono Buono was thoroughly relaxing, not just because our pizzas were cheesy and our beers were cold, but because we spent a few hours reading and hearing our native language while eating familiar food. When traveling to distant places, especially with children, an occasional meal such as this is not a cop-out, it’s a recharge. The very next day, we resumed sampling delicious, traditional Japanese foods with gusto and navigating language barriers with care, our dairy cravings sated.  😉

Life is short and the world is small. Eat well.

 

 

Tokyo Food Tour! Octopus Senbei

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Crispy octopus chips for sale at Tokyo Solamachi

My travel companions and I spent a rainy day at Tokyo Solamachi, an enormous shopping mall/entertainment complex attached to the Tokyo Skytree. If you live in the US, think Mall of America but more of a feast for the senses!

There it was… a cheerful red and white storefront prominently advertising something called “Octopus Senbei.” My understanding was that senbei were rice crackers… but these were clearly, definitely, octopus! How Continue reading

Tokyo Food Tour! Matcha

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Matcha powder made into hot tea

Matcha tea is an important beverage in Japan, used in traditional tea ceremonies and favored as an everyday, relaxing beverage as well. Before arriving in Tokyo, I understood that matcha was a popular beverage. What I didn’t understand, but have come to appreciate, is that matcha is also a popular food ingredient!

Matcha tea is made from high quality green tea leaves. After the leaves are dried, they are ground into a fine powder (see photo above). Small quantities of matcha powder are whisked (or just stirred) into almost-boiling hot water to make tea. Note that there’s no “tea bag” here – there’s nothing to remove from your cup. Instead, matcha is whole tea, where the leaves themselves are consumed instead of merely steeped. Why is this significant? For starters, drinking matcha tea provides significantly more antioxidants per cup because you are consuming the entire leaf. Remember, antioxidants are powerful little cancer fighters and anti-aging weapons! Also, matcha tea contains more caffeine that steeped tea, making matcha tea a nice substitute for a cup of coffee.

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Barracuda tempura dusted with matcha and salt

Here in Tokyo, we’ve seen matcha powder used as a seasoning. In the photo to the left, a lovely slice of barracuda tempura has been dusted with salt and matcha. Absolutely delicious!

We’ve also seen matcha used to flavor Japanese interpretations of traditional French desserts. I’m reserving those photos, friends, because I plan to recreate a few sweet treats and bring you recipes here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. Stay tuned!

Finally, matcha ice cream is quite popular here. The matcha soft serve ice cream cone shown below is Half-Pint approved!

Want to try matcha for yourself? Here’s a link for you!

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Matcha ice cream – YUM!

Tokyo Food Tour! Plastic Food

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Plastic food on display at an indoor food court

Menu, schmenu. Who needs a written menu in Tokyo? Throughout Tokyo, thousands of restaurants and food vendors advertise their offerings with a display of plastic food. This isn’t the primary-colored plastic food that American children often keep in their toybox. No, this plastic food is so realistic you can stare at it closely and not be entirely sure if it’s the real thing!

Plastic food is surprisingly expensive… really expensive. A plastic nigiri sushi keychain costs around $10 (USD equivalent), and a plastic display of a full dinner platter can cost… wait for it… over $200.

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See for yourself how realistic looking plastic food can be!

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Tokyo Food Tour! Uni

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Raw uni (top) may be eaten directly from the shell

The fragile, edible portion of a sea urchin is referred to as uni, and is a Japanese delicacy. The appearance of uni in any form can be a bit intimidating for new tasters, as uni really doesn’t resemble anything at all in Western cuisine. It’s unique qualities, ranging from its bright orange color to its soft, almost liquid texture, are precisely what make uni such a high demand item for connoisseurs.

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Uni nigiri sushi (raw) with a dab of wasabi

When enjoyed raw over rice as nigiri sushi, uni has a buttery feel and a mildly sweet, briny taste. Fresh, raw uni is more expensive than many other sushi items, but the experience is worth purchasing a taste if the opportunity presents itself!

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Steamed uni vendors at the Vietnam Festival

Uni can also be enjoyed as part of many cooked preparations, as well. At a boisterous Vietnam Festival in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, vendors were selling steamed uni, shown below. When steamed, the color is more muted and the texture more crumbly. I found steamed uni to have a mildly smoky flavor, and enjoyed steamed uni more than raw.

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Steamed uni

When traveling to exciting, new destinations, don’t be afraid to sample locally popular foods. For those of us here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, tasting regional specialties is one of the most exciting parts of exploring our crowded earth!

Tokyo Food Tour! Kappabashi-dori

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Just outside of the Asakusa neighborhood lies Kappabashi-dori, Tokyo’s “Kitchen Town.” The hundreds of shops which line Kappabashi-dori sell everything, and I do mean everything, a serious home cook or restaurant owner could possibly need.

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Kitchen wares from floor to ceiling!

 

Some shops sell a bit of everything, with deals to be found for those willing to shimmy through narrow aisles, crouching low and reaching high. Some shops sell exactly one product, such as restaurant chairs or noodle strainers!

If you spend an afternoon on Kappabashi-dori, you’ll be sure to find something you never knew you needed but you surely can’t live without. It’s a must-see Tokyo attraction for a traveling foodie like me.  🙂

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This shop sells everything you need to open a Chinese restaurant. 

Happy traveling, and happy cooking!