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Jul 3, 2006 02:50 AM

some japanese supermarket questions

here are some questions that i have compiled after a day in my local mitsuwa and nijiya marketplaces.

I consider myself 'somewhat' educated in japanaese cuisine -- as it is a passion and a personal obsession of mine. yet every time i venture into these markets, i see so much wonderful things that i wish i had some clue as how to prepare or pair.

i hope someone out there can help me with these more in-depth japanese food related questions.

1.) Are any of the the tinned japanese products (ie inarisushi no moto, fukujinzuke) and fish (various "-kabayaki" etc) worthwhile? if so --which?

2.) has anyone tried the seaweed tea kombucha? please describe

3.) One particular sub area of japanese cuisine that is the most mysterious and intriguing to me is tsukemono / tsukidani. If anyone can give me an introduction to the various types and their traditional parings (such as rakkyo) it would be much appreciated.

4.) Anyone have tasted any winner among the packaged spaghetti sauces such as the spicy cod roe? mabo tofu?

5.) Yakisoba sandwiches? huh?

i am very grateful - in advance - for any assistance in helping me understand these topics.

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  1. I'm not sure if you are talking about seaweed flavored kombucha or if you think kombucha is made out of seaweed. Kombucha sounds like it's made of seaweed (kombu=seaweed, cha=tea in Japanese, after all), but it's actually a fermented tea (regular caffeinated green or black tea). The fermentation is caused by a culture that's a yeast/bacteria "creature." There's no seaweed involved. Some people call it mushroom juice, but there's actually no fungus involved either.

    The resulting drink is tangy, with a hint of whatever tea they used. The tea is sometimes flavored with fruit or flowers, and sometimes just plain green or black tea.

    I've been brewing my own kombucha for awhile now, so for a full report of what it looks/tastes like, go to my site:

    I would say you give it a try. The versions made for commercial consumption are very toned down. Imagine adding a teaspoon of vinegar to your favorite tea. If that sounds remotely pleasant to you, go for it.

    (Pei, formerly nooodles)

    1. I lived in Japan a long time and never really got into the packaged or tinned stuff. Even my wife, who is Japanese and misses stuff from home, avoids it. We usually stick to furikake type stuff, dried wakame, nori, curry rue, noodles, etc.- though I spotted some Cook-Do she picked up recently. Maybe other posters have their favorites. The most disappointing thing about Mitsuwa in NJ and the Japanese groceries around NYC is the lack of tofu products. Outside of the HOUSE brand of tofu blocks, there's not much else offered.

      Regarding tsukemono, I found this enlighting page on google- My favorites are kabu radish and smoked daikon, though any type of kyuri (Japanese cucumber) is a pleaser with me. Tsukemono is usually part of every Japanese (wa-shoku, not you-shoku) meal at home, with the exception of curry rice- which you probably are an expert on.

      Yakisoba sandwhiches aren't uncommon at Japanese bakeries and convenient stores. Japanese don't seem to be afraid of sticking anything in a bun. You can also find potato croquet sandwhiches as well. Go figure...

      One thing I can recommend from the typical fish section at Japanese supers are the miso marinated filets, usually found in branded packaging. These are frozen, but cook up nicely- depending on the type of fish.

      Happy eating...

      1. Actually, Japanese 昆布茶 kobucha is really made out of konbu seaweed. It is full of konbu glutamine and asparagine umami deliciousness. It is often a wee bit salty. Be ware, though, since there is a lot of fake kobucha out there, full of MSG and other chemicals.

        Konbucha seems to be the yeast culture, which has nothing to do with the Japanese Kobucha.

        I make my own seaweed tsukudani by cooking down tons of dried nori with copious amounts of sake. I then season it with soy sauce and mirin and sprinkle in some sesame. This stuff is so easy to make and a billion times better than most commercial stuff. But I do have a weakness for "Gohan-desuyo" - that probably has more to do with childhood memories than flavor itself. Gohandesuyo on a thick-cut toast with some butter is surprisingly tasty too.

        As far as the o-tsukemono combos, I like Kyuri no Kyu-chan over hot rice. Japanese curry without Fukushin-zuke is like sushi without soy sauce. But these o-tsukemono are classicaly enjoyed just with tea at the end of the meal or rice for growing kids. I've mixed takuwan into an omelette and it's pretty good, though.

        5 Replies
        1. re: yamada3

          So kobucha is seaweed, and koMbucha is yeast/bacteria?

          Or is it konbucha (with an N, as in the seaweed)?

          1. re: Pei

            konbucha and kombucha are the same thing. whether it's spelled with an "n" or an "m" depends on the romanization system you're using (hepburn or modified hepburn).

            i always thought konbucha and kobucha were the same as well. an abbreviation?

            this is what the dictionary says:
            昆布茶 【こぶちゃ; こんぶちゃ】 (n) kelp tea

            1. re: Pei

              Kombucha/konbucha is the yeast, and it has nothing to do with the Japanese seaweed tea. There was some confusion when Kombucha the fermented tea was first introduced. That tea is called Tea Mushroom in Japanese.

              Kobucha is sometimes called Kombucha, although not where I am from - kind of like a tomato/tomato thing in English...

              1. re: yamada3

                ah, wikipedia knows all.

                The name Kombucha is derived from the name of a Korean physician, Kom-bu, who introduced the drink to the Japanese Emperor Ingyō in the year 414 AD as a healing drink. The drink became known as Tsche of Kom-bu (Kombu cha).

                To add confusion, Kombucha is a Japanese word denoting a tea-like infusion (cha) made from brown kelp (kombu). This Japanese Kombucha is not fermented and does not contain parts of the tea plant. It is not sweet, but sometimes it is salted. It tastes like a thin soup and it is a favourite food for convalescense of sick persons who cannot yet eat stronger food. The Japanese name for the drink made from the tea plant is koucha-kinoko, which means black tea mushroom.

            2. re: yamada3

              the gohan desuyo atop of toast and butter sounds intriguing...i'll have to try it out. thanks for the idea