Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ofuna Market

A mini typhoon blew through last week, but that didn't stop us from getting out and going to the street market at Ofuna Station. When we first moved to Shonan, friends in Tokyo mentioned that this area was famous for its cheap produce. Every week, on Saturdays, Peter works at Ofuna station, and his co-workers confirmed that the market there was just the place for good deals on vegetables and fruit. So, rain and wind notwithstanding, we packed our market bags up and went.

Street markets like this one were common when we lived in Vietnam, of course - supermarkets being the exception to the rule there- but even most neighborhoods in Korea still had a local market. Not so here in the Tokyo area - at least as far as I've seen. Going to the market is a great chance to practice basic speaking in Japanese as well, so we thought it would be fun.

I had some recipes I was dying to try out from "Harumi's Japanese Cooking", so we stopped at the sakanaya (fishmonger's) first. I bought some beautiful plump sea scallops for 500 yen, to eventually turn into "Scallops with Miso Cream Sauce". I can't recommend this dish enough - although it's meant to be served on watercress, I used lettuce instead, and turned it into a kind of warm scallop salad. Served with bread, it was fantastic, and I even talked Peter into trying some. Drench seafood in enough cream and garlic, and you can convince anyone to eat it, I guess.

We went through a few of the vegetable stands, where they were offering a much wider range of vegetables than the local supermarket - zucchini, for example, which I hardly ever see. The prices were unbelievable - a half kilo of garlic for 200 yen; red and green peppers for 100 yen each - easily half the price of the supermarket.

The flower stand - people take their flowers seriously here, and flower-arranging is a popular hobby. If my Japanese ever gets good enough, I'd love to take a class. I bought some beautiful pink peonies.

Fruit, which is usually so expensive that I hardly ever buy it - for example, one apple can cost 200 yen; melons 1,000 yen; strawberries 500 yen. Usually each week the supermarket will run a special on something, like 100 yen bananas, and I'll get some, but the days of having three or four kinds of fruit in one day are over for us. Sometimes I really miss Vietnam! The market, however, had these lovely champagne grapes for 300 yen, so I indulged.

We also found an incredible wine shop in the back alleys, with a full range of Japanese microbrews that we love - the Hitachino series. I love their owls, what can I say? We've had the white beer on tap in pubs in Tokyo, but this was our first chance to sample their weizen - I was lovely, warm and spicy, reminding me of Leffe Blonde, but with a fuller, richer taste. We had gone into the shop to get some Chinese wine for cooking, but when I asked after it, the clerk suggested we sample some aged sake - some discussion with his mother yielded the information that it was from 1984. It was a golden amber colour, and was heavy without being sweet. In retrospect, I wonder if it wasn't mirin - the conversation was in Japanese, and he called it "nihonshu", which I usually interpret as sake, but now I wonder.

It was a heavy slog, getting everything back from the market, but it was worth it. I've been cooking from Harumi's book all week, and I can see that her fame in Japan is justified. Every recipe I've tried has been well received by my food critic, and has been easy to make. I'm looking forward to cooking my way through the book.


Canadian Bento said...

Markets rule. I should go to one soon.

the_hfx99 said...

We just purchased some Mirin to use in cooking, we're going to Bento it up, Renee downloaded a meal planner it should be good!