This afternoon, I finally got together with my friend Stacey for a trip to the Japanese grocery store. Stacey and her husband spent 18 months in Tokyo, only returning to Paris in January of this year. So they were ready for some Japanese food and I was eager to benefit from the fruits of their culinary experiences there.
Walking through the store with Stacey was a real lesson, and I wish I had brought a tape recorder to keep a record of all she told me. We spent some 20 minutes at the first refrigerated section alone, as she took me over the various produce available.
Some were, of course, already known to me: soy bean sprouts, lemon grass shoots (not strictly Japanese, but the store stocks other Asian specialties too), tofu. She also pointed out the daikon, a sort of Japanese radish that is as common as potatoes to a European in Japan. (I bought some pickled daikon and will report back later as to the taste!) She was also familiar with the lotus root, which to me always looks like it's from a Star Trek episode. ("Captain, it's a rare delicacy from the Haliburton galaxy, prized for it's distinctive shape...") She wasn't too enthusiastic about the taste or texture, though, so I decided to give it a miss.
Stacey also advised me on the purchase of mirin, a sweet rice wine, and some rice wine vinegar. In fact, as you can see in the photo, I went wild: all of the above, plus gyozo dumplings, sake, the dried fish (katsuo-bushi) and seaweed (konbu) and miso essential to a good miso soup, as well as these fascinating mushrooms and some decorative, edible shiso leaves.
You will certainly be hearing more about these lovely ingredients and how I use them in the next few days! For the moment, though, I am busy preparing for the Is My Blog Burning: Cake Walk Edition, and the aftermath of baking and cooking at once looked like this.
Not looking forward to cleaning the kitchen...
Address of the Japanese store:
I have no idea what the name is and cannot find it in the yellow pages on-line. If you live in Paris and want to visit, the store is in the rue Linois in the 15th, between the quai de Grenelle and the rue Robert. It's right near the Darty, across the river from the Maison Radio France. Next time I'm there, I'll ask if they have a card!