Japanese cuisine ingredients - where to buy in Toronto?
I just returned from a trip from Japan and want to explore Japanese cuisine in my kitchen. I was wondering where to go for the ingredients.. mirin, kombu, bonito flakes, tempura bits, etc.
As well, any tips on where to buy good soba and miso?
If you're in the Queen St. W area - Sanko's at Queen and Claremont (just west of Bathurst). Small Japanese owned general store - you'll find most things you're looking for. If they don't have it they'll be more than happy to redirect you.
If you're from the burbs than try J-Town in Markham, Steels/Vic. Park:
Larger variety of items.
P.A.T. has Japanese goods at lower prices than the specialty stores
P A T Central Market
675 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G, CA
Sanko and J-Town, as already mentioned and are accessible. Taro's Fish is also a great Japanese fishmonger. Many big Asian supermarkets will have a variety of Japanese food items for much cheaper than the smaller shops (like T&T). Korean groceries (like P.A.T.) will often have Japanese things, or at least a similar Korean version.
You won't find some things, and will have to substitute. Some items are fairly expensive and not really worth buying unless you need to. For instance, though I love Kewpie, it's pretty expensive to buy here and ridiculously unhealthy compared to Hellman's or whatever. The flavour is entirely different though.
As for quality of products, check the labels, and try a few different varieties of the items if possible. Also note that sometimes, as soon as you find a product you like, it will go missing of store shelves forever with no hope for a future return.
Another note: most of the better Japanese chefs in the city still fly in many or most things from Japan. We certainly have a lot of things available to us in Toronto, but sometimes the quality isn't stellar, the prices are absurd, or they disappear at random. If you're trying to make food at home, try making seasonal recipes with substitutions for seasonal ingredients available to you here. Eating here will never be quite the same as eating in Japan, just as with any country, but you can certainly make the best of it!
T&T and J-Town often have some Japanese vegetables like gobou (burdock root), yamaimo/nagaimo (mountain yam), Japanese cucumbers, and kabocha (which now shows up in many Chinese grocery stores), but the biggest problem (I find) is searching out herbs and leafy vegetables like shiso (the Japanese kind, not the Korean kind which is quite prevalent), mitsuba, and mizuna.