Let’s Talk Food: A foodie in Tokyo

  • Sushi at Sushi Zanmai. (Photo courtesy Audrey Wilson)

  • Aji, or opelu sashimi. (Photo courtesy Audrey Wilson)

  • A Japanese breakfast featuring a variety of items. (Photo courtesy Audrey Wilson)

  • Fishing for dinner at Zauo Japanese Style Fishing Restaurant. (Photo courtesy Audrey Wilson)

I can go to Japan at least twice a year and always find something interesting and new each time. So when my son Reid asked my sister, Myra, her husband James and I to go with him to Tokyo, we all said, ‘Yes, of course!’ There are the wonderful breakfasts at the hotel that we always look forward to. The ceramic trays with nine compartments can be easily filled with the many different dishes. There are a lot of pickled vegetables, tofu in broth, and of course, natto, fermented soy beans, a great probiotic. Once the compartments are filled, there was also white or brown rice, and miso soup to fill up your tray.

This year, the ‘Sushi King’ Kiyoshi Kimura, president of Kiyomura Company, and owner of Sushi Zanmai resturants purchased on Jan. 5 at Toyosu fish market a bluefin tuna for 193.2 million yen or $1.8 million. The massive tuna weighed in at 276 kilograms or 608 pounds. This translates to $2,958 per pound! Mr. Kimura said he was taking the fish to his main locations in Tokyo.

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We had lunch at the Sushi Zanmai in Asakusa several weeks later, knowing that the bluefin tuna purchased on Jan. 5 was already consumed. But that’s OK, because this sushi restaurant has a good selection of sushi and sashimi and they are all fresh.

The ‘aji’ or opelu’s fin was still quivering, even after it was cut into sashimi. We ordered platters of sushi with an assortment of different kinds of fish, squid, scallops, raw sweet shrimp and salmon fish roe or ‘ikura. We also ordered miso soup that had a lot of mini clams.

It is said that you should always order the ‘tamago’ or egg omelet sushi first to check if the cooks are spot on with the flavorings. The egg must be seasoned perfectly, sweet and balanced, and cooked in layers. The egg should be fresh and not been previously frozen. If frozen, you can taste the water crystals were but melted off. The tamago or egg at Sushi Zanmai passed the test.

Yesterday, Feb. 3, was the start of spring or ‘Setsubun.’ People went to temple and got roasted soybeans thrown at them while chanting “Oni wa soto” (out with the demons) and “fuku wa uchi” (in with good fortune!) The beans, wrapped in paper, often have 10 to 12 beans. You are supposed to eat as many beans as your age but even eating 10 beans because you are 10 years old could give you a tummy ache!

When we were there, we saw signs with “‘ehou-maki’ orders Taken Here.” The large sushi roll, or ‘futo-maki’ contains seven ingredients as seven is a lucky number. It must not be cut or you will cut off your good luck, you have to eat it whole while facing the lucky direction which changes every year and you must eat the whole roll in total silence.

The seven fillings may be dried shiitake mushrooms, kampyo or dried gourd, finely julienned carrots, tamagoyaki, a thin slice of cucumber, grilled and seasoned unagi or anago or ‘kabayaki’ cut into thin strips, and ‘denbu’ or pickled flaked cod. You can make a vegan sushi roll with the following seven fillings: shiitake mushroons, kampyo, carrots, aburage or thinly fried tofu, blanched and slivered green beans, blanched and will squeezed-out spinach, and a thin slice of cucumber.

Our friend Keiko, who lives in the Meguro area of Tokyo, took us to her son Leo’s favorite restaurant, Zauo Japanese Style Fishing Restaurant. We were given poles and had to catch our dinner, fish that were swimming in the pools in the center of the restaurant. There were different prices for ‘aji’ or opelu and sea bream, We caught a couple of sea breams, a couple of ‘aji’ and were asked how we would like to have it prepared. The opelu was cut into sashimi and when presented to us, the fins of the fish were still moving! Half of the sea bream was cut into sashimi, the other half fried and then the bones were used to season our miso soup.

It was a wonderful experience and we watched the children there having so much fun trying to catch their dinner! My brother-in-law, James, who has a boat and goes fishing all the time, especially enjoyed catching his own dinner. Good thing he was with us, otherwise we would have to eat just rice and pickled vegetables!

Foodie Bites

The Hawaii Community College’s Culinary Bamboo Hale is open today through Friday and features the menus of the Americas and Mexico. The hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with the last seating at 12:20 p.m. Please call 934-2591 for reservations.

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The Cafeteria is open from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Call 934-2559 for information on menus and take-out orders.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.

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