NYC Japanese Restaurants

To start off, if you are ever hungry and craving for some Japanese cuisine go to St.Marks.  The ramen/sushi restaurants are delicious, cheap, friendly, and completely authentic.   They are satisfying to the taste buds of any person wanting Japan’s well-known dishes.  With St.Marks already being popular for their clothing stores and tattoo/piercing parlors; Japanese food is another reason for that.


30 St Marks PL (between Cooper Sq & Astor Pl) New York, NY 10003


The Japanese restaurants are more or less the same in St.Marks but Japadog is worth highlighting because it is not your typical Japanese food in New York City.  Instead of ramen, udon, or sushi they serve hot dogs. Yes, hot dogs.  What makes it so special and oh so mouth watering is that they top it off with yakisoba, teriyaki sauce, kimchi, or have edamame inside the hot dog.  They have various combinations on their menu that will make you want to try each one.  Along with it you can order fries as well but then, once again, you will have to make a difficult decision of what flavor you want.  Butter & shoyu flavored fries are amazing but they also have more “daring” flavors like shichimi and garlic, curry, or wasabi.  And if you are in the mood for something sweet after the meal you can order the “Ice Age” which is a deep fried bun filled with ice cream with many different flavors.   Your stomach should be growling by now so go and head to Japadog.


236 E 9th St (between 2nd Ave & Stuyvesant St) New York, NY 10003


It looks like a typical Japanese storefront.  Everyone has to eat outside because of it’s small size.  They are most popular for their takoyaki.  It’s freshly made all day long and is an absolute treat when I stop by.  They are perfectly chewy and savory and for all I know Otafuku makes the best takoyaki in the city.  Not to mention that the food is cheap so you can buy a lot of takoyaki and drink some Ramune as well.

Sushi Park

121 E 2nd Ave (between 7th St & St Marks Pl) New York, NY 10003

212. 533.8448

50% off sushi.  Yes, this restaurant is a favorite for me and my friends because we don’t have to pay a lot but we still get quality sushi.  Their sushi selection is huge, so do expect discovering new flavors that will make you come back for more.  I always tend to order Godzilla sushi roll because it’s fried and have a bunch of things rolled in to it.  Everything is delicious and I recommend it if you ever stop by.  Plus during lunch time they have $1 appetizers which I always take advantage.  For example, I get edamame or dumplings.  Right next to the restaurant, there is also a good spot for 50% ramen.  It just depends what you’re in the mood for.  Both restaurants will not disappoint any Japanese cuisine lover.

Japan Town in New York? Why, it’s St. Marks Place

A lot of our readers and students of the Japanese language have all been to “Japan Town” in New York City. However, if you look on a map or read a guidebook, there’s no official listing of Japan Town in New York. There’s definitely a Chinatown and Koreatown (Koreatown is actually written on 32nd street) so where’s the Japan Town? And why has it been called that?

The “where” is easy to explain. St. Marks Place is actually another term for East 8th Street. The “Japan Town” location is centered between 2nd ave and 3rd ave, if you’re going to take the subway, take the 6 to Astor Place or the R or W to 8th Ave NYU. Then walk east along East 8th Street or St. Marks Place and you’ll come across a street loaded with Japanese goodness.

Although not nearly as conspicuous as Chinatown or Koreatown, Japan Town does have it’s own charm and feel. Every sign might not be in Japanese, but there are plenty of good yakitori, izakaya, sushi, ramen, and other Japanese restaurants to lure in the passerby.  Before you get to 2nd avenue on the north side of the street don’t forget to stop and take a look inside the JAS Mart, a small little convenience store that sells foods and other articles that are uniquely Japanese.

The ambiance of  St. Marks Place though is not really reflective of Japan. Although Japanese are lured to the area due to Izakaya’s, Yakitori Places, and of course the ever famous and popular Setagaya Ramen, the area’s main demographics seem to have more of an NYU feel. Lots of young close to graduation college students mix with asians of all backgrounds to make you feel like you’re more in Roppongi than Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Despite the contradictions, anyone interested in Japanese language or culture in New York should visit Japan Town at least once. The food might not be Tokyo quality, and the karaoke (the popular Sing-Sing) might not be the best price around, but it does feel like a New York version of Japan. And who knows, 日本語で話しかけたら誰か答えてもらうかもしれない!

WIT Life #93: サンフランシスコの日本町

WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.

My interpreting travels bring me to San Francisco this time, and I couldn’t leave without paying a visit to Japantown.  I hadn’t been there in a couple of years, but I clearly remembered  the array of restaurants, souvenir shops and an onsen-like spa I once had a soak in.  I went with a friend who was craving something sweet and wanted a recommendation, so I suggested we get 白玉汁粉 (shiratama shiruko), one of my favorite Japanese desserts following ぜんざい (zenzai).  We went to Kissako Tea where we were served by Hiro and Koji, pretending to be a charming couple. .

Kissako also had a nice selection of mochi  (pictured left), including strawberry, orange and lima bean, but I wasn’t blown away so didn’t sample any.  I had heard of Benkyodo, a mochi specialty shop where it is handmade and there is more variety, but they are not open on Sundays.  Something to be tried on another trip…

After we satisfied our sweet tooth with the shiratama shiruko washed down by green tea, we took a walk around the mall which is a mix of places with yukatas and other Japanese clothing, a fairly large Kinokuniya, purikura booths, and stores selling Sanrio products.

Speaking of Sanrio, there was an interesting article in the NYT the other day called “In Search of Adorable,” regarding the company’s strategy in finding a character to replace the legendary Hello Kitty who has dwindled in popularity at age 36.  The article cites that “Hello Kitty lost her long-held spot as Japan’s top-grossing character in 2002 and has never recovered,” something surprising considering how you see her plastered everywhere both here and at home (she is beaten out by Anpanman!).  However, the article discusses that part of her problem might have been this very overexposure.

Somehow replacement candidates such as the pink dalmation Spottie Dottie and the baby panda Pandapple have not been able to capture the same kind of merchandising magic as Hello Kitty, so it is back to the drawing board for Sanrio.  Who will be their next character to take the world by storm?

The Vocabulary of Japanese Food – Sweet Potatoes

(For more information on where these recipes came from and more Japanese cooking vocabulary, check out my previous posts for Yellowtail Teriyaki, Cashew Chicken, Roast Chinjao, and Tonkatsu!)

Did you read about Fall foods in Japan yet? If you have, you’ll notice that the first food listed is sweet potatoes. Have you ever wondered how to make them into a dessert, Japanese style? Read on and learn how!

スイートポテト – Sweet Potatoes

Yield: 4 servings


English Japanese
400 g sweet potatoes (0.88 lb or 14.1 oz) さつまいも 400g
32 g butter (about 2.5 Tbsp) バター 32g
60 g granulated sugar (about 1/3 cup) グラニュー糖 60g
4 Tbsp whole milk 牛乳 大さじ4
Dash of salt 塩 少々
2 egg yolks (divided) 卵黄 1個分+1個分
1 Tbsp dark rum ラム酒 大さじ1
A little bit of water 水 少々


Preheat oven to 180°C (356°F). Peel the sweet potatoes, then cut into rounds 3 cm in width. Place the sliced potatoes into a bowl of water as you cut them, then drain when ready to proceed to the next step.

Fill a saucepan with plenty of water, then put in the potatoes and heat until the water is boiling. When they can be easily pierced with a chopstick or fork, remove from heat and drain the hot water.

While the potatoes are still hot in the drained saucepan, quickly crush them until they are broken up into small pieces. Add the 32 g of butter and mix well. Then add the 4 Tbsp of milk, 60 g granulated sugar, and salt, then heat on low heat. While stirring constantly, let the moisture evaporate, and mash until the potatoes become smooth.

Quickly cool the potatoes by placing the hot saucepan into a bowl of ice water. When they have cooled a bit, add one of the egg yolks and 1 Tbsp rum, then mix well.

Lay down some parchment paper on a flat surface like a counter or table. Divide the sweet potato dough into four equal sections and place on the paper. Form each into a football-like shape by wrapping them in the parchment, then using a dish towel on the outside of the wrapper to manipulate the hot dough.

In a small bowl, put in the other egg yolk and add a little water, then mix. Place the football-shaped sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then lightly brush the tops with the egg mixture.

Put the baking sheet on the top rack in the oven, which should be between 180-200°C (356-392°F). For two potato shapes, bake for 15-20 minutes. For 4, bake for 20-25 minutes. When the tops dry out after baking, take the potatoes out of the oven and brush with the egg mixture once more. Then put them back in the oven for 2-3 minutes. When the tops have browned, they are ready to be taken out of the oven and served.

(Note: Japanese dessert sweet potatoes are often served with a bit of honey on top.)


Japanese Romaji Meaning
はかり hakari Scale (ie. Cooking scale)
ピーラー piiraa Vegetable peeler
オーブン oobun Oven
オーブンシート oobun shiito Parchment paper
ふきん fukin Dish towel; dish rag
ハケ hake Brush (here, refers to a cooking or pastry brush)
バター bataa Butter
牛乳 gyuunyuu Milk
卵黄 ranou Egg yolk(s)
たっぷり tappuri Fully; amply; generously
細かい komakai Small; fine
つぶす tsubusu To crush; smash; mash
氷水 koori mizu Ice water
敷く shiku To spread; lay out
生地 kiji Dough
溶きほぐす toki-hogusu To scramble (an egg)
表面 hyoumen The surface; face; ouside; exterior
上段 joudan The upper row, tier, step, or rack

Sakura Mochi – Japanese Sweets – TOKYO Style

Hi All, I promised to have this entry ready a few weeks ago. I’m so sorry for the delay. You know how some things don’t go as planned. But, without further ado…

Sakura (桜), cherry blossom trees, are the true sign of spring in Japan and their beauty has been revered by the Japanese for centuries. Each year, when the trees blossom, millions sit under their shade to eat, drink and make merry. The blossoms and leaves themselves are edible and are used in some traditional Japanese dishes.

Last week, I made Kantou style (Tokyo style) sakura mochi, a light pink, mochi pancake filled with sweet red beans, anko (あんこ), and traditionally wrapped in a preserved sakura leaf. Not being in Japan, I couldn’t find the sakura leaf, so I got a little inventive and tried a shiso leaf, or ohba, the green leaf with a light refreshing minty, herbal taste that you usually find in sushi. I loved it! But not everyone else did. Try this recipe yourself, and let me know if you like the ohba taste 😉

1/3 cup of mochiko (rice flour)
1 cup of water
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of sugar
red food coloring
about a cup of anko (sweet red bean paste)
cooking oil spray
pack of ohba

1) Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.
2) Stir in water.
3) Add a couple of drops of food coloring to turn the mixture pink.
4) Heat pan over a medium heat, and spray lightly with the cooking oil spray.
5) Add a couple of spoonfuls of the mixture to the pan. You can either make oval-shaped pancakes or more round pancakes. This will determine the final shape of the mochi treat.
6) Cook for a few minutes on both sides. The mochi pancake will start to turn slightly translucent as it cooks. This recipe makes about 15 pancakes.
7) As you finish the pancakes, set them aside on a plate to cool.
8) Portion out small balls of anko on a separate plate.
9) Roll the anko balls into the mochi pancakes. There are two ways to roll the anko into the mochi.

  • ONE: Using an oval-shaped pancake, you can roll the anko ball into the pancake so that it looks like a tube.
  • TWO: Using a round-shaped pancake, you can fold the pancake in half over the anko ball so that it looks like a little taco.

10) Roll the ohba, shiso leaf, around the tube or taco. You may have to pinch the leaf to break the stem so that the leaf will stay folded over.

Then, ENJOY!


Konbini – Convenience Stores in Japan

Oh, how I love the konbini (コンビニ: it’s short for “convenience store” in English). Whether it’s Lawson, 7 Eleven, AM/PM, or Family Mart, they’re a reliable place in Japan for late night snacks, booze, and even a full meal. Plus you can also pay your bills there! Items are packed just so, and potentially embarasing hygiene items are double and even triple-bagged using opaque brown paper so that no one will be the wiser. I now present to you a brief rundown of some of my favorite konbini foods. There are tons more, but these are some of the first things that popped into my head.

Nikuman (肉まん)
Often translated as “pork buns” in English, these are kept warm in a special heated box, usually located by the register. Other varieties include pizza-man (filled with marinara sauce and cheese), anman (filled with red bean paste), and karee-man (curry pork buns).
Onigiri (おにぎり)
Rice balls stuffed with a variety of items and wrapped in crispy nori seaweed. Fillings include fish, umeboshi (sour pickled plums), fish eggs, miso, and more. My personal favorite is the tuna filling mixed with mayonnaise. The triangular ones are usually packaged in a double layer of plastic so as to keep the nori fresh and dry until just before eating.
Purin (プリン)
Very similar to packaged Spanish flan, this thick yellow custard comes packed with a caramel-flavored brown layer at the bottom. They’re sometimes topped with whipped cream.
Milk tea (ミルク ティー)
Well, it’s just as the name implies. Sweet tea mixed with milk, and usually served chilled. I’m partial to the Royal Milk Tea variety (why is it called “royal?” I don’t know. Maybe because it’s English tea?).
Calpis (カルピス)
This unfortunately named drink is marketed as “Calpico” in the US, though I’ve never actually seen it sold anywhere except in Asian markets. It’s a kind of yogurt soda drink, but the taste is hard to describe. I also remember it fondly since I won a contest the company was holding last time I was in Japan. The prize was just a pair of t-shirts spouting nonsensical German (which roughly translated to “I am the eternal Milky Way”), but as it’s one of the few contests I’ve ever won, Calpis gets an “A” in my book.
Korokke (コロッケ)
A Japanese version of the French croquette, these are served warm or chilled, and stuffed with a diverse array of meats and vegetables. My favorites include mashed potato and curry korokke, and they’re usually served with worcestershire or tonkatsu sauce.
Cup Noodle (カップヌードル)
Basically just instant ramen in a styrofoam cup, but the huge number of flavors in Japan keeps boredom from setting in. My favorite is the Curry Noodle by far, with hunks of meat and spicy yellow curry broth.
Chuuhai (チューハイ)
A super-sweet canned drink with alcohol contents ranging from 5-8%. The liquor used is shouchuu (焼酎), which is made from barley, sweet potatoes, or rice. There are tons of flavors from the original lemon to lime, grapefruit, pineapple, kiwi, peach, and more. Since there’s no English on the can labeling it as alcohol, I’ve seen several hapless foreigners accidentally drink this, thinking that it’s regular soda. Last time I was in Japan, prices were around 100-150 yen per can ($1-2).
Jagariko (じゃがりこ)
Little hollow, crispy potato straws flavored like consumme, pizza, butter, nori, cheese, and more. My favorite though is the “salad” flavor, which tastes nothing like salad. Though that is probably a good thing.

Osechi – New Year’s Food in Japan

Special dishes known as osechi-ryouri (御節料理 or お節料理) are served on New Year’s in Japan. Large stackable boxes known as juubako (重箱) hold the food, and the dishes can stay good for several days since osechi are traditionally eaten through January 3rd. Cooking was finished by New Year’s Eve since long ago it was forbidden to cook during the first three days of the new year. These days, many people purchase osechi in stores since the cooking process is long and difficult, and waiting lists for some of the most popular or well-made kinds begin in October. Each osechi dish has a special meaning for the new year, whether it be for long life or a good harvest. More information can be found here.

Common Osechi:

Konbumaki (昆布巻)
Rolled kelp seaweed, often stuffed with salmon and tied with strips of kanpyou (干瓢 – dried shavings of the calabash gourd).
Kuro-mame (黒豆)
Black beans simmered in a sweet sauce of sugar, soy sauce, and salt. Mame also means “health” in Japanese, so these represent a wish for good health in the coming year.
Datemaki (伊達巻 or 伊達巻き)
A kind of rolled, sweet omelet containing white hanpen (半片) fish paste or mashed shrimp.
Kurikinton (栗きんとん)
Mashed sweet potatoes with chestnuts, often formed back into a chestnut shape.
Kinpira gobou (金平牛蒡)
Burdock root braised with sugar, sake, soy sauce, and mirin. It is often served with carrots and sesame seeds.
Tazukuri (田作り)
Candied dry-roasted sardines which you eat whole (head and all). The kanji in Japanese literally means “rice paddy maker” since tazukuri were used historically to fertilize rice fields. The symbolism is of an abundant harvest.
Namasu (膾)
Raw vegetables and sometimes seafood slightly pickled in rice vinegar. Often features daikon radish and carrot.
Nimono (煮物)
Simmered vegetables that often include gobou (burdock root), taro, renkon (lotus root), carrots, shiitake mushrooms, and pea pods.
Kazunoko (数の子)
Herring roe. It clumps naturally, giving it its long shape. Kazunoko literally means “many children,” and it symbolizes fertility and family prosperity.
Ebi-no-saka mushi (えびのさかむし)
Sake steamed shrimp, served whole. You eat everything – head, legs, and all. In this photo, it is being served with edamame.
Kamaboko (蒲鉾)
Processed fish cakes made from varieties of whitefish and additives like MSG. Spiral-shaped loaves are often called “naruto” after the Japanese city which has a well-known whirlpool. The white fish paste is called surimi (擂り身), and is also present in fake crab in the US. Red/pink and white cakes are often layered or arranged in a pattern on New Year’s. The half-circle shape is similar to that of the rising sun, and the food has a celebratory, festive meaning.
Tai-no-shioyaki (鯛の塩焼き)
Sea bream grilled with salt, and served whole. I’ve seen people eat the head, though it’s not required. But the fins and tail are fair game. The word tai (sea bream) is associated with the Japanese word medetai, indicating an auspicious event and present in the phrase omedetai gozaimasu (congratulations).
Daidai (橙)
A Japanese bitter orange. Daidai written in a different kanji is 代々, meaning “from generation to generation.” It symbolizes a wish for children in the new year.
Zouni (雑煮)
A soup made with mochi rice cakes either in a clear broth (mostly in eastern Japan, with rectangular mochi) or miso broth (in western Japan, with round mochi). Sometimes taro or tofu is used instead of mochi, usually in areas where rice isn’t abundant. Other ingredients include meatballs (often chicken or fish), komatsuna (コマツナ) or spinach greens, mitsuba (similar to parsley), kamaboko, carrot, and yuzu citrus peel (similar to grapefruit).
Toshi-koshi soba (年越し蕎麦)
“Year-crossing soba.” A traditional dish, but also a practical one in kitchens where special foods have been cooking for days. Soba is an easy meal during the hectic holidays, but it is considered unlucky by many to leave any toshi-koshi soba uneaten.

American Fast Food In Japan

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for junk food. Since living in New York, my consumption of fast food has gone up dramatically, despite the wide array of quality food here. Now I’m not advocating that you visit McDonald’s or any of these other restaurants while in Japan, but sometimes you just gotta eat. Here is a list of some of the major differences you’ll find between your US fast food place and that same burger joint in Japan.

McDonald’s – マクドナルド

One of the most obvious differences between American and Japanese fast food is the size of the portions. Burgers tend to be much smaller, and though you can still order a quarter-pounder or Big Mac in Japan, they aren’t first and foremost on the menu.

Pictured on the left here is my favorite type of fast food burger in Japan – the teriyaki burger (here, the Teriyaki Mac Burger – てりやきマックバーガー). The sweet sauce works well with the meat, though I could do without the huge blob of mayonnaise on top. Japanese mayonnaise, made with apple cider or rice vinegar instead of distilled vinegar, will become a common theme in this post. It’s an extremely popular condiment in Japan, appearing on everything from salad (as a dressing all by itself) to french fries to pizza. On the right is the Filet-o-Shrimp (えびフィレオ), which is shrimp formed into a breaded patty, then fried.

Here we have a concept similar to the McSalad Shaker, but in chicken nugget form. It’s called Shaka-Shaka Chicken (シャカシャカチキン), and the idea is you pour the flavoring packet into a bag with the large nugget, shake, and then eat. Flavors include lemon (pictured here), black pepper, and cheese.

McDonald’s in Japan used to have the Mega Mac, which was a Big Mac with 4 patties. Also included in the promotion was the Mega Tamago (3 patties, 1 fried egg) and the Mega Tomato (3 patties, 1 large tomato slice). Though popular, they don’t seem to be on the menu at the moment. In addition to fries, you can also order a side of sweet corn or a bacon and potato pie (which sounds pretty tasty, actually). I also got a kick out of a little listing at the very bottom of the menu that says, “Smile: Free of charge.” While reading the menu in Japanese in Kyoto, I muttered that out loud to myself, and the cashier flashed me a HUGE smile as a demonstration. Somehow I can’t imagine that happening in NYC.

Burger King – バーガーキング

Burger King in Japan honestly seems pretty similar to the US version, though they do have a Teriyaki Whopper. Well, and there’s also the alcohol prominently advertised on their website.

Fries, onion rings, or chicken fingers with a Heineken for 500 yen? Well, okay then! You can also substitute any soft drink included with a meal with a Heineken for 150 yen. I know that beer at fast food places isn’t a big deal in most of the world, but it’s still pretty unusual for America (well, except for Chipotle and their Coronas).

MOS Burger – モスバーガー

Ah, and here is my favorite fast food burger place in Japan, though it isn’t American in the slightest. MOS Burger has slightly smaller portions and is more expensive, but the higher-quality ingredients make their food taste much better. Not only do they have teriyaki burgers, but you can also get them topped with sauteed vegetables, mushrooms, and melted cheese. Their milkshakes are also really good, though some of their more unusual items are the MOS Rice Burgers.

Pictured here is the MOS Rice Seafood Burger (海鮮かきあげ) which has a thick, taco-like shell made from a grilled rice patty. The filling is a mixture of shrimp, squid, scallops, onions, carrots, and edamame.

And this here is Melon Soda, which can be found at any fast food restaurant in Japan, including MOS Burger. It is bright green, insanely sweet, and 100% delicious.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) – ケンタッキーフライドチキン

KFC is the place to be in Japan on Christmas. No, seriously. Christmas has few if any religious connotations in Japan, and it’s often a time to celebrate with your friends rather than family. For one reason or another, perhaps because of the Colonel’s resemblance to Santa, a bucket of fried chicken has become the preferred holiday meal for families nation-wide. In fact, you probably need to make reservations to eat there. In front of every Japanese KFC is a life-sized statue of the Colonel which is frequently dressed up depending on the season, including Christmas. Menu items are fairly similar to the US version, though there is also a selection of fried fish such as the new Pink Salmon Sandwich.

Pizza Hut – ピザハット

Well, I could frankly have a post just on Japanese pizza alone. Common toppings include mayo (in place of tomato sauce), corn, shrimp, squid, and even seaweed. At Pizza Hut in Japan, crusts stuffed with cheese are still all the rage, though they’ve upped the ante by making crusts out of hot dogs. Seen above is a particularly crazy one with hamburgers as toppings, and a half hot dog, half cheese-stuffed roll crust.

Subway – サブウェイ

Subway in Japan has some of the familiar sandwiches, but also some interesting ones like shrimp and avocado, and hot dog subs. Sandwich toppings also include basil mayonnaise and a kind of wasabi dressing. I see no evidence of 500 yen footlongs on their website, though.

Ryouri o tsukurimashou! Miso Soup with Tofu and Mushrooms

(For more information on where these recipes came from and more Japanese cooking vocabulary, check out my previous posts for Yellowtail Teriyaki, Cashew Chicken, Roast Chinjao, Tonkatsu, and Sweet Potatoes!)

The last recipe featured a dish you could make with ingredients found in any American grocery store, but this one would probably require a trip to a Japanese grocery store or other specialty Asian market. But it might be worth it to make your own homemade, nutritious miso soup! The Nintendo DS game this was translated from had a few varieties of miso soup, but this seemed like one of the most classic. Enjoy!

豆腐となめこのもそ汁 – Miso Soup with Tofu and Mushrooms

Yield: 4 servings


English Japanese
120 g momen tofu (coarse-grained tofu) (4.23 oz) 木綿どうふ 120g
100 g nameko mushrooms (3.53 oz) なめこ 100g
1 bunch scallions 細ねぎ 1本
4 cups dashi-jiru (bonito and kelp stock, sold in pouches in Japanese food stores) だし汁 4カップ
2 and 2/3 Tbsp shinshu miso (yellow miso paste) 信州みそ 大さじ2と2/3


Mince the scallions finely, then set aside. Drain the tofu, then cut into 1.5 cm cubes.

Boil some water in a small saucepan, then add the nameko mushrooms. Allow them to steam for only a short time (the Japanese recipe says “until moistened with steam”), then quickly drain the water in a collander. Divide the mushrooms among four soup bowls and set aside.

In a large pot, add 4 cups dashi-jiru and the cubed tofu, then turn on the heat and boil until the tofu cubes begin to float and bob on the surface. Add the shinshu miso, then lower the heat to a simmer. Add the scallions, then remove from heat.

Pour the dashi and tofu soup over the mushrooms in each bowl, then serve.


Japanese Romaji Meaning
なめこ nameko Japanese nameko mushrooms. Can be found in specialty Asian grocery stores.
細ねぎ hosonegi Scallions (literally “thin onions”). I’ve also seen this translated as “thin leeks.” The images on the recipe show mostly the green parts being used.
もそ汁 miso-shiru Miso soup
だし汁 dashi-jiru Concentrated kelp and bonito stock that can be bought as a powder, or as a paste in a pouch in Japanese grocery stores. The recipe is referring to 4 cups of the broth made from this mix.
信州みそ shinshu miso Shinshu miso paste, also known as yellow miso paste. It is light brown in color and salty, and is usually sold in small plastic tubs.
ふっとうする futtou suru To boil
沸く waku To boil; grow hot
さっと satto Suddenly; quickly
湯通しする yudooshi suru To moisten with steam
浮く uku To float; rise to the surface

Fugu: A (Sometimes) Deadly Delicacy

After 11 people were poisoned by pufferfish in Toyama last week, I thought I would take some time to talk about the full fugu (河豚 – blowfish, pufferfish) dinner in Japan.

My host mother just recently returned from such a meal, thankfully unharmed. What can you expect at such a pricey dinner? The full fugu experience can cost upwards of $200, so here is a guide to make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Tessa (てっさ): Fugu sashimi
Raw fugu sashimi (刺身) is a delicacy, and is displayed like a work of art. The meat is sliced so thin that you can see the plate underneath.
Karaage (空揚げ): Fried
Karaage is a term for all manner of fried foods, but here we have fried fugu. The taste of fugu has been compared to frog’s legs, so frying doesn’t seem like a bad match!
Yaki-fugu (焼き河豚): Grilled fugu
Nothing like fugu over an open flame. As long as it isn’t full of deadly neurotoxin.
Nabe (なべ): Stew or hotpot
As covered in my nabemono post, many different kinds of foods can be served in a hotpot, and fugu is no exception. This is the dish that did people in last week, by the way. At the end when there is only broth left, you can add cooked rice (gohan – ご飯) and egg (tamago – 卵) to make a kind of fugu risotto. Tasty!
Hire (ひれ): Fin
In one of the more bizarre ways to eat fugu, you can make a flavored sake known as hire-zake (ひれ酒) with the grilled fin of a fugu. It is all served hot, and after drinking the sake, eating the fin is optional.
Shirako (白子): Fish sperm
And here we have the only kind of fugu that I have personally sampled. Shirako (literally, “white children”) is the soft roe or milt of various fish, though pictured here is that of fugu. I’ve also seen it translated as “sperm sack.” Charming. The taste was actually not terrible, though I had no idea what I was eating at the time. I can still hear my host father trying to explain to me what it was in English while dining at a very fancy restaurant. His cries of “It’s SPERM!” echoed off the walls. Slightly embarassing.