I haven’t done this lately, so I wanted to post a photo of what I brought back from the supermarket today. After living in Japan for 13 months, the grocery shopping has become fairly routine. Not always easy mind you, but we have figured out where to find most of the food items that we want or need to buy. As I have said before, we eat pretty simply here, so I am not stressing out over being able to find obscure ingredients. I have adapted my cooking to a small kitchen without an oven, and our diet is becoming a sort of meld between American and Japanese. I try to cook somewhat Japanese — and YouTube videos have been my teacher — but I am not very skilled with Japanese ingredients yet. This shopping trip didn’t really have too many unusual things in it… most things are pretty straight forward.
- Eggs — Most of the eggs sold in the stores are brown eggs. All the eggs here are delicious and rich-tasting, with orange (not yellow) yolks. Japanese eggs are safe to eat raw… yes… they actually are. Japanese people eat raw or just slightly cooked eggs in a lot of dishes. Oishii desu.
- Milk and juice are only sold in 1 liter containers in my supermarket… which is the main reason that I have to go to the store almost every day. They sell products in small containers to fit into small refrigerators in small houses and apartments. No supersize here.
- Yes… a box wine. We are still trying to find good options for inexpensive every day table wine. This is — right now — our favorite. Not that it is especially good, but it is drinkable. This one is from Australia, but a lot of wine is brought in from Chile and Argentina. I have seen some from California, but not much in the supermarkets. There are many wine stores that import from all over the world, but those wines are pretty pricey $$$.
- Chocolate and other sweets. Japanese people don’t eat as much sweet stuff as Americans do. The snack and candy aisles in Japanese supermarkets are much, much smaller. There are different snack foods… most made from rice flour, sesame and soy. You can buy American snack foods, but again… $$$. The little bag of pastel-colored “candy” is actually puffed and sweetened rice. The Japanese like to eat a small sweet with their tea. If you go to a traditional Japanese tea house, they always serve the green tea with two or three of these tiny sweets. You are supposed to eat the sweet, then drink the tea without any sugar or sweetener in it.
- Soba noodles. I have purchased soba (buckwheat) noodles back in the US. Nothing unusual. Next to rice, noodles are the most common starchy food in the Japanese diet. Bread is becoming more popular here, but I don’t like the grocery store bread. It has a very bland taste, and kitchen sponge-like texture. We go to an artisan bakery when we want bread. Soba noodles, though, are delicious. My favorite Japanese noodles. And in Japan, it is A-OK to slurp your noodles! In fact… they say by slurping the noodles you take in air that spreads the aroma of the soup and noodles, and makes them even more delicious. And yes… we eat noodles with chopsticks… much easier than twirling on a fork.
- Japanese Long Onion. Descriptive name for what looks like a very large green onion back home. Negi in Japanese. These are used more as a condiment here — and eaten thinly sliced and raw. I have used them in cooking though. Very tasty in noodle soups and sprinkled over curry. They are so long, I have to cut them in three pieces to get them to fit in my tiny refrigerator.
- Oranges — mikan in Japanese. These are wonderful, and grown here in Japan. They are actually little mandarin oranges, easy to peel, sweet, and seedless. They are in season here during the winter. A little sunshine for your mouth. Yummy.
- And last but not least… “Strong Zero.” Sold in the beer aisle, it is what they call a “highball” here. Kind of like a Sprite with a kick (9% alcohol.) Especially good in the summer when it is hot. Comes in different flavors… lemon, lime, grapefruit, and a few other fruits I am not familiar with. Kind of a strange name — whatever Japanese name they came up with for this product just didn’t translate well into English.
All this came to about 2700 yen (about $25) and fit into one reusable grocery bag. About all I can manage on the 1 kilometer walk to and from the store, but some people use little wheeled shopping carts to carry their groceries home, or carry them in bicycle baskets. Most everyone shops daily or nearly every day, and most stores prefer cash rather than credit.
See you next time…