Depato

It seems as everyone in Tokyo is as food obsessed as me – now that is really saying something! 

Let’s start with some basics:

Depato = Department Store

Every department store has food/groceries.  I don’t know why all stores in the whole world don’t subscribe to this philosophy.  After all, a girl gets hungry when shopping.  And sometimes loses track of time.  It is so convenient to be able to eat a snack, buy a few ingredients for dinner or even the whole dinner right in the store.  There are two major Depato’s in my neighborhood. 

Mark City is owned by the Shibuya Mark City Company.  It is made up of two buildings and opened in 2000.  This Depato is conveniently located right at Shibuya Station.  You might have seen Scarlett Johansson in the Shibuya crossing in Lost in Translation.  Facebook reports Shibuya is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world – so I guess there is need for food.  Tokyo Food Show also has a website, which I can’t read full of daily specials, hot topics etc.  Eventually I will conquer enough of this language to read websites!

Tokyo Food show includes lots of stalls selling so many things.  In fact it is basically three stories, top or main level including high-end products and some really excellent tuna.  B1 including a small International Grocery store, large vegetable section and stalls selling lots of stuff and lots of sweets. This was where I found Godiva Chocolate for Dean for Valentine’s Day.  The floor below is additional restuarants. 

Siebo is a Japanese department store which opened in 1949.  There are 16 stores in Japan.  Siebo also owns Muji.  So fall all I have to say about Siebo is that this is the first place I had an impulse food buy in Tokyo.  For about $12 I bought a bottle of unknown sauce just because I tasted it, on tofu.  It was delicious.  Lightly soy, thin in texture and a faint citrus scent/flavor.  So amazing, I did not let a little thing like having no idea what it was stop me from buying it.  Instead I brought it home with great pride and searched my dictionary for at least an hour before giving up about the $12 soy-ish sauce.  I now know it is Ponzu Sauce and I eat it with great regularity myself.  Generally on small pieces of tofu. 

Siebo also has a terrific bakery – as pretty much every depato does, with delicious bread for making grill cheese sandwiches or sending a sandwich to work with a busy husband.

Depato – this is a topic I will be revisiting.   There are more to explore throughout Tokyo and I suspect, in two years I can visit them all.  In fact there is even a website Depacjika.com which is all about department store food halls.  Unfortunately it is in Japanese and I can’t read yet.

 

Tonkatsu

I don’t really recall eating pork chops growing up, and am pretty convinced the first time I ate one was at the sorority house around 1989. They were hard and gray. Therefore I did not like pork chops.

My husband adores pork chops and always wants to cook them or better yet have me cook them. I stuck to my position until he made a delicious, perfectly cooked chop with fresh rosemary. It was life changing as pork chops go.

After a few meals of that amazing chop, he introduced me to another favorite of his – Shake n’ Bake pork chops. Kraft owns this brand, which was apparently created by General Foods in 1963. It was introduced to my life around 1997. Shake n’ Bake, both pork and chicken are some of Dean’s favorites so we eat them at home with regularity.

While living in Shanghai, Dean would get a craving for Shake n’ Bake, I remembered this and brought a couple packages with me to Tokyo.

But while learning about food in Tokyo I came across something interesting, Tonkatsu. Tonkatsu is a deep fried pork cutlet. Fried in the Japanese style it is not as greasy as it sounds, and is breaded in panko. Apparently Tonkatsu is the single most popular type of restaurant in the Tokyo area.

According to Wikipedia, Tonkatsu or Katsu as it was originally called came to Japan in the late 19th century from the European culinary tradition, which was very popular at that time. Probably more like schnitzel or cutlet than Shake n’Bake. It is served on a bed of shredded lettuce/cabbage, with a bowl of rice, miso soup on the side and some Tonkatsu sauce if you want some. Tonkatsu sauce is basically Worcester sauce mixed with ketchup, though it is very popular here and comes bottled on its own.

We ate our first Tonkatsu in a restaurant near the Shibuya train station. It was in Vending Machine restaurant. It was my second time to a vending machine restaurant – I am getting closer and closer to the Jetson’s experience.

This time we did not need as much support as there was a menu with pictures and numbers on the window outside. We looked at the pictures, decided what numbers we wanted, added some yen to the machine and printed out tickets. Then we put the tickets on the counter and waited.

Tea arrived instantly. We both agree that Tonkatsu should be eaten with beer, but we don’t think this restaurant had beer, or any drinks other than tea. No one was drinking anything else, and there was nothing cheap enough to be a drink on the push-button menu.

After about five minutes the Tonkatsu arrived. We should have ordered one, not two. It was two large cutlets on a bed of lettuce/cabbage. Each of us got a bowl of miso soup and a bowl of rice. The pork was delicious, not at all greasy and not like any cutlet or schnitzel I have eaten before.

I still have three packets of Shake n’ Bake in my apartment, but when we run out or maybe even sooner this will be a great solution.

And you thought there was only raw fish in Japan!

Setsubun Day in Tokyo

Setsubun is the day before spring per the Japanese lunar calendar.  This year it took place on February 3.  I went to the Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa to watch the Mame make ceremony. 

Setsubun is a day of ceremonial bean throwing.  Seriously.  It started with a parade led by priests and ministers followed by toshioko and toshionna or people born in the year of the rabbit.

Then a ceremony reciting a sutra and finally the bean ceremony.   The bean ceremony includes filling small boxes with beans, and then a throwing of the beans while yelling “oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi!” or basically, “demons out good luck/happiness come in!”, according to my festival book.  Traditionally the idea what that the beans and yelling would drive away the demon of misfortune.  Then prosperity could enter one’s life.   

Dried soy-beans are the most common type of bean used for Setsubun.  There were so many bags of soy beans available in the stores I am certain there are many acres grown to support this holiday.  There is also a tradition of eating the number beans corresponding to your age – especially if you are 12, 24, 36, 48, 60 or even 72 years old.  All these were born in ox and this year’s festival is especially lucky for them.  If you are an rabbit, maybe you should eat some dried soy beans too. 

Apparently some people, especially children wear masks of either good fortune or demons.  Conceptually this is like “spring-cleaning” your home or New Year’s resolutions.  There are other ceremonies and performances through Japan, some featuring demons or Continue reading