This was a big grocery trip in anticipation of a boardgame day, because I promised to make ramen for our guests. More on that after the groceries...
Because I purchased so many items, I carried them home in this rolling bag, which we call the Nonny Cart. It is lovingly named for a similar cart that my husband's mother, who we call Nonny, used to carry her groceries when they lived in London. It opens to about 3 feet tall, is lightweight, and folds up so that I can carry to the grocery store in my shoulder bag. It's especially convenient for when I go buy a months worth of meat and dairy from Niku no Hanamasa.
農場直送 たまご L 2 X 単 270 - Farm direct delivery egg, Large, 2 X Single, 270 yen - ¥ 540
Eggs. So many eggs. We eat at least this many every week. Over easy on rice, maple syrup scrambled, and shoyu (soy sauce) marinated are the most common ways we eat them. So simple and awesome for any meal.
Notice that if you don't add a い after the 濃, it just means concentrated (says Google anyhow). It's a subtle difference in English, but I wonder if it is stronger in Japanese? Or if it was a mistake? Or maybe it's the same meaning but not uniform because it was entered into inventory on different occasions or by different people? (Seriously, I can't not consider this kind of stuff. Grocery nerd. Inventory brain. Too many years in retail.)
I couldn’t understand 濃 while I was at the store, but ツチューキャロット is pronounced “shi-chu-u-kya-ro-tto” (sound it out: stew carrot), so I had a good idea of what this was. It has been immeasurably helpful to know how to read the katakana alphabet, as many packages have a few key words written in katakana. The katakana alphabet is made up of the same sounds as the regular hiragana alphabet, but it is used for unusual words: non-Japanese, onomotopoeia, scientific terms, etc. Today I was able to read that the new free item on my phone bill is テザリング, pronounced "te-za-ri-n-gu" (sound it out: tethering) for my devices. (Further language lesson: tethering is geekspeak that refers to turning my phone into a wifi hotspot). If you like anime or if you ever shop at markets that carry Japanese ingredients, I recommend learning katakana. If you speak English, you already know most of the words, and now you will be able to read them!
2017/2/28 update: These gravy kits are decent. The blue one is cheesy, but it's the odd sweet cheesiness typical of the Japanese palate. It is my least favorite of the three (though not inedible). The brown one was unmemorable. I cannot even remember eating it, but it's not in the pantry, so I must have cooked it. And it must have been tasty enough, or I would recall how bad it was. The orange one was the winner. Carroty and creamy. I believe I added carrots, broccoli, potato and chicken. The leftovers were also good. I admit this is not gourmet food. More like mac and cheese from a cardboard box.
フラワー 粉 - Flour powder - ¥ 168
日清 Nissin (brand name) フラワー Flour (this is written in katakana, pronounced "fu-ra-waa") 薄力小麦粉 Cake Flour (薄 thin/weak/dilute; 力 power; 小 small; 麦 wheat; 粉 powder)
"Small wheat powder" is flour, and if it is "weak power", it is low gluten. Tada! Low-gluten flour. For cakes and stuff.
とんかつ ソース - Tonkatsu sauce - ¥ 308
Yuuuuuuuuuum. Bulldog makes a few sauces, but this “vegetable and fruit” sauce (that's what it's made with, not what you put it on) is their original bestseller. Tonkotsu is pork bone and Americans usually hear it in reference to pork bone broth; tonkatsu is pork katsu (fried cutlet). Tonkatsu sauce is a "Japanese Worcestershire-style sauce" marketed chiefly as a topping for pork katsu, but served with a variety of savory foods. I am not fond of pork, but this sauce is so so tasty that I will eat it on any breaded fried meat, drizzled on a soft boiled egg with rice, or mixed into Japanese curry for extra flavor.
万上芳醇本 みりん - something something Real Mirin - ¥ 227
The first part might be yoshi moshi, or maybe banjo houju? Neither seem to mean anything, so I bet it's the brand name.
Mirin is also known as rice wine or sweet sake for cooking. I often cook with this - it’s nice with soy sauce for seasoning chicken, thin beef strips or vegetables, and it is often used in teriyaki sauce. It’s kind of like simple syrup with an alcoholic kick. You could sip it, but it's seriously sweet, like a very thick moscat wine or sherry. Not a habit-forming substance, I think.
本みりん (honmirin, “real mirin”) is made mostly of rice with added sugars, and it tastes like liqueur. There are others (like mirinfuuchoumiryou, "mirin style seasoning") whose primary ingredient is syrup, and may include salt and various other things that would make it suitable only for cooking. Though if it’s not delicious, I don’t see the point in cooking with it anyhow.
The first time I bought mirin was at a chinese grocery in Louisiana, and it had the noxious-fume-death-scent of Super-Elastic-Bubble-Plastic. I only tried using it a few times before deciding I would really rather stay alive.
キャノーラ 油 - Canola oil - ¥ 298
This one was easy to pick off the shelf. キャノーラ is pronounced "kya-no-o-ra", canola; 油 is oil.
In the USA we are taught by alternative health gurus that canola oil equals death (toxic pesticides, ewwwwwww), but the quality of the groceries is so high here that I’m gonna go ahead and trust the canola oil.
Tangent: I also sometimes cook with a cheap teflon pan that I bought for ¥100, and that is /definitely/ deadly. But only to birds. And slightly toxic to humans, who may experience flu-like symptoms. And only at temperatures higher than I cook with. (I’ll have my food unblackened, thank you.) Plus, my stove top freaks out and turns off if it detects CO2, so I keep the windows open when I cook and am basically incapable of burning our meals. ★♫The more you know♫★
すり たて むきごま - Freshly picked Mugimoto ???? - ¥ 379
Let's try that Google translation one more time. Suritatemukigoma (すりたてむきごま) apparently means “freshly baked white sesame”. It is often eaten with tonkatsu, or over a delicious blanched spinach dish with sesame oil. This smells like peanut butter when I grind it.
大関 ワン カップ 上撰 - Ozeki One Cup Superstar - ¥ 216
Superstar?! Why yes, yes I am. Or maybe 上撰 (up, selection) should be translated as "superior". Anyhow, I love this stuff. I cook with it. I chill with it. I wonder how it is perceived by locals. (A nice standard? Or cheap swill, a la natty lite?)
ふっくら パン 強力粉 - Plump bread strong flour - ¥ 268
ふっくら (fukkura) means plump; パン is katakana "pa-n", which I assume is borrowed from Spanish or another romanic language; 強力粉 is strong (high gluten) flour.
You usually don’t find “all-purpose” flour here. Cake flour (low-gluten) and bread flour (high-gluten) are common, though, and you can blend them to get a good noodle flour (medium gluten).
ブロッコリー - Broccoli - ¥ 340
Katakana again, hooray! ブロッコリー is pronounced "bu-rok-ko-rii".
九条 ねぎ スライス ¥ 122 - Kujo noodles slice - ¥ 122
Another botched Google translation. (They tried so hard, though!) These are kujo leek slices.
九条 is kujo, a variety of leek specific to the Kyoto region; ねぎ is negi, the leek itself, like a welsh onion; スライス is katakana "su-ra-i-su", slice.
Machines have a heckuva time translating Japanese. Words spelled out in hiragana can have multiple meanings depending on the context. (Nori is seaweed... or glue. Negi can apparently mean leek or noodle. Kaeru means a million things.) Katakana spellings may refer to multiple things (fu ra wa - is that flour or flower? ko-o-to... coat or court? tu-rak-ku... truck or track? lo-su can mean either loss or los angeles)
And to make it even harder, the pronunciation of kanji characters completely changes depending on context. (Whhaaaaat?? Yes, really. Find out more in this amazing and highly entertaining writeup of the myths, facts, history, and stumbling blocks of Japanese language.)
玉葱 - Onion - ¥ 198
玉 - ball (tama); 葱 - onion (negi). Voila, round onion. Because if you just ask someone for negi, they'll probably give you a two-foot long behemoth of a leek.
See, this is funny. I usually see negi written out as ねぎ, but here it has its own kanji, 葱. If they used the kanji all the time, the meaning would not be ambiguous, and I wouldn't be wondering what those green onion slices have to do with noodles.
ゴールド ブレンド 替え - quiz time, you figure it out - ¥ 798
More katakana! Hooray! I'll spell the letters out in romaji (English letters), and you can try reading it for yourself this time. ゴールド ブレンド says "go-o-ru-do bu-re-n-do". Did you get it? There's a pretty big hint in the photo.
替え here means change, or refill. And check out the perfect way they engineered the containers for easy refilling!
Peel off the green paper, punch the perforated lines in the plastic, and push them down to reveal a funnel that fits snugly onto the glass jar.
Imagine my delight in learning that I'll never accidentally dump instant coffee granules on the floor again, only to find later that I didn't sweep all of them up, and the remaining bits have subsequently been humidified, transforming into brown dye on the edges of the floor tile. What, you don't have this problem too? Well, anyhow, these designers think of everything.
濃厚 にんにく 鶏白湯鍋 - Rich garlic chicken hot water hotpot - ¥ 248
Rich garlic chicken hot water hotpot. Pretty much sums it up. Garlic chicken broth for hot pot. Though I've just been using it for stove top soups.
とんこつ しょうゆ 鍋 - Tonkotsu shoyu hotpot - ¥ 278
If you've read the other items from this list, then by now you should know what tonkotsu, shoyu and hotpot mean.
S & B アンチョビ ボテト - S & B Anchovy Potato - ¥ 111 ポテト チーズカレー 味 - Potato cheese curry flavor - ¥ 111 きゅうりのソムタム - Cucumber Somutamu - ¥ 100
These S&B seasoning packets are cheap and handy. I buy a few every month and keep them in the cabinet for days when I have meat to cook but no inspiration. So a potato seasoning might end up on chicken or shrimp instead.
Som tam is a thai term, literally meaning papaya salad, but you can apparently call other salads "som tam" if you lightly beat the vegetables to release their juices.
Update: I definitely didn't follow the instructions for anchovy potato. I made home fries and sprinkled the seasoning on top. Still delicious.
ウーシャンフェン FAUCHON 五香粉 - Chinese Five Spice Powder - ¥ 324
I needed five spice for a broth recipe, so I had to rely on my almost nonexistent French to find this item. Cinq epices chinois was close enough to "cinco spices chineses" for me. ウーシャンフェン is "wu-u-shan-fen", definitely not English. The katakana is used here because 五香粉 is not Japanese, but Chinese: "wu xiang fen".
卓上 ゃきしお - Desk lamps ¥ 228
Hahaha, I love these translations. I can't really decipher this one, so I'm going to assume 卓上 ゃきしお means "table salt". (卓上 is "desktop," so that's close enough, and しお means "salt", but ゃきしお means "care"...? And I'm not sure why there is a lamp involved. Google Translate, bless your heart. I appreciate all of your other help.)
モラド にんにく - Morado garlic - ¥ 128
モラド is "mo-ra-do", Spanish for purple. にんにく is "ni-n-ni-ku" and means garlic. Easy.
緑豆 もやし 200g ¥ 46 - Mung bean sprouts 200 g ¥ 46
緑 and 豆 taken separately are "green" and "bean", but green bean means mung bean in Japanese. I think the mung bean is perhaps a more fitting bean to call the "green bean". もやし is "mo-ya-shi", "bean sprouts".
JA 長野 ぶなしめじ - JA Nagano Bunashimeji - ¥ 158
Buna shimeji mushrooms. Brown beech mushrooms. Brown clamshell mushrooms. I love to fry these up with ... um ... a green bok-choy-like vegetable that I don't know the name of ... and eat them with eggs. I eat mushrooms pretty much every day now that they are cheap and abundant.
I was pretty sick of American standard mushrooms, and it's probably because they're mostly the same species. I didn't understand why my tastebuds were so bored every time I tried a new mushroom. It turns out baby bella, portobello, crimini, champignon, and button mushrooms are all portobellos, harvested at various stages. Now I have access to actual variety, instead of marketing variety.
国産刻み紅しょうが - domestically produced knitting red ginger ¥ 170
Can you imagine knitting ginger? It's sure stringy enough. Someone please please do this.
I think the word translated as "knitting" actually means minced, grated, or shredded. The root word 刻 refers to notching and engraving - so imagine the resultant byproduct of shreds/mince.
きゅうり 2 コ X 単 78 - Cucumber 2 X Single 78 - ¥ 156
All of the cucumbers I have seen in Japan are almost exactly the same size, shape and color; unblemished; ready to eat; and weigh just about 100g each. In a waiting room, I watched a television playing a daytime talk show where the friendly hosts visited a grocery to investigate the exacting standards and careful attention that allow shoppers to find only impossibly perfect produce. I see this at every grocery, by the way. No bruises, no yellowing, and never a mushy abused avocado.
ほうれん草 - Spinach ¥ 298
Spinach is good, but fairly uninteresting. HOWEVER!
When I put this into Google Translate, it suggested "ほうれん草のおひたし" which may mean "occasion of spinach". What is this occasion, and why is it popular enough to be the first autofill suggestion? I'm a little sad to decide that it must be a recipe name, and not a spinach festival or a wacky anime about a cat who eats greens.
(Roughly $62.89 at time of purchase)
Bonus pic: The finished ramen. This is no glamour shot, but doesn't it look delicious? I guess I did bury it in toppings, but you can kind of see the handmade noodles and the cloudy broth between the eggs.
I made the noodles by hand. The noodle recipe I use is here. Most stores sell high gluten flours (for bread) and low gluten flours (for cake), so I mix them to get something more "all-purpose".
I purchased the broth. I usually make my own stock with bones and/or organs, and I think I have seen those at Niku no Hanamasa, but I still can't read most kanji, and I'm not very confident in my ability to identify chicken livers and gizzards by sight. I want to be certain of the ingredients when I'm buying those kinds of things. In America, I always used to buy them in plastic tubs with big English words on the side and try not to look at the frozen pink brick that came out. The broth is delicious and nutritious but the ingredients might never stop making me squeamish.
I made a little "flavor spike" sauce (concentrated dashi) by simmering dried shiitake mushrooms, konbu seaweed, and katsuoboshi (dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna). It's for adding flavor to homemade broth, but we didn't use it after all because the purchased broth was very flavorful.
For add-ins, I set out buna shimeji mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, chiffonade spinach, bean sprouts, green onion, pickled ginger, ground sesame seeds, ajitsuke nori (seasoned seaweed strips), and shoyu eggs.
I think of the shoyu egg as my flavorful prize that I save until the end of the meal. There are a ton of ways to make them, but the general idea is to soft boil eggs, then peel and marinate them in soy sauce (shoyu) mixed with other sweet and tangy liquids. I prefer a mix of shoyu, mirin, and a little water so that the result is not too intense if I make a big batch leave them marinating for several days as we get around to eating them all.
Extra Bonus pic: British Asian Indian Soccer Noodles?
Husband brings home all kinds of fun stuff. When any coworker goes on a work trip ("market visit"), they always bring back omiyage to show their appreciation for everyone else taking care of things while they were out of the office. Usually these gifts are small desserts, but sometimes they're packs of ramen noodles or salty snacks like kaki-pi.
This is a noodle flavor I have never seen before. I know very little about professional sports, so I assumed it was some kind of World Cup pun. It turns out Nissin (who make Cup Noodles) has teamed up with Manchester United (British soccer, no, sorry, football team) to teach soccer to kids in India. 13- to 17-year-old football enthusiasts will be selected from cities across India to participate in a soccer clinic given by Cup Noodles Manchester United Soccer School coaches. Odd product, cool story.