A shopping expedition to the Lucky supermarket in Kutchan is a multi-sensory experience and an adventure. The large supermarket space is akin to any other such store across the world. So what differentiates this one? A few distinctive ingredients.
Ingredient one: Japanese kitsch
Canned music, with several different tunes running concurrently alongside advertising jingles in different parts of the supermarket creates quite a din to westerners’ ears. The garishness of the tunes and sounds is tolerated because of its “Japanese-ness”. I haven’t yet found myself humming the melodies outside this retail experience but … time will tell!
Ingredient two: Japanese labels
The Lucky supermarket has both Japanese and English labels on the shopping aisles and the sections of shelves. Some products have some English on them, but these are mostly imported Western products.
Our experience with pretzels is a case in point. These pretzels were on display near the deli-foods area.
We examined the boxes carefully discarding strawberry and chocolate flavours, in search of something salty. We thought we had it when we found tomato flavoured pretzels and chose a box of plain-looking pretzels near that, hoping we were right. Alas – no! As we ripped off the wrapper later, aromas of caramel met us. Sweet!? Not.
Ingredient three: the variety and freshness of the seafood
The seafood section at Lucky is about as large as the whole fruit and vegetable section of the store. Beautifully laid out, this section boasts all manner of seafood delights. Octopus, prawns, salmon, mackerel, flounder … the list goes on. Packed in ice, it looks really fresh and will be tempting in the weeks ahead when I master cooking with limited facilities.
Trying something new …
I am determined to eat like the locals do, and take advantage of the food that is readily available here but perhaps not so readily at home. So I have chosen three recipes to master initially:
- Ramen – a Japanese soup dish. Ramen is made in a meat or fish-based broth, with noodles and a variety of toppings. It is not a hard one, but a dish I want to make tasty and from first principles
- Tamagoyaki – a Japanese rolled omelette. Apparently it is served as a part of Japanese style breakfast or as a side dish in a bento (lunch box).
- Okonomiyaki – is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients.
That means I am going to have new ingredients to find: nori, dashi, benito flakes, mirin … The list goes on. Hopefully I will be able to discern the right things to buy … but it’s all part of the adventure!
Look out for these dishes and more in the coming weeks. Have you ever tried them – to eat and/or cook?