Shopping at the Japanese Grocery store is simply one of my favorite activities out there. There's just something about winding your way slowly through the aisles and squinting at the packaging to see if it will help you translate the Japanese characters into English. Everything here must taste good because the ecstatic cartoon character on the front looks extremely excited... so yes, you should be excited too.
I want to share a few of my favorite Japanese grocery store buys with you:
Momoya Seaweed Spread
A little jar packed with a LOT of flavor! Momoya Seaweed Spread is a seaweed jelly mixed with soy sauce. It is absolutely heavenly over rice.
Soba Buckwheat Noodles
This is a pantry staple of mine. I've seen restaurants charge $7 and more over "zaru soba", which is simply cold soba noodles accompanied by a soy-based dipping sauce. If you make it at home it'll cost you a little over $1, and super easy to make.
Tsuyu for the dipping soba noodles
You must get Tsuyu in addition to your soba noodles! I like to hack mine by mixing even ratios of tsuyu + water, then adding a few dashes of Maggi seasoning, garlic chili paste, and sesame oil. If you want to go all out, top your soba with shredded nori and sesame seeds.
Many of the Japanese grocery stores make their own brand of fresh ramen noodles and miso, tonkotsu, or shoyu broth flavoring. Keep your eyes out for tan tan men ramen broth at Nijiya-- it is just the right amount of spicy deliciousness!
Kewpie Deep Roasted Salad Dressing
Many years ago on my first trip to Japan, I was introduced to this amazing dressing at obachan's house. It's sesame flavor is rich, unique, and tasty on everything. This may just change your life.
Frozen udon noodles
Another great alternative in case you are graving something more glutinous than buckwheat soba noodles. Dipping udon in tsuyu is just as delicious. It's also easy just to whip up a chicken broth soup with veggies and udon noodles if you need a quick meal.
After I got back from Japan last year, I bought these two cookbooks: Japanese Soul Cooking and The Just Bento Cookbook. Reading though these two books never cease to inspire me into a mouth-watering, Japanese grocery-store-shopping frenzy. Now that I'm planning another trip back to Japan in two months, I've been thinking seriously about what I'll be eating first. My fiance suggested I document my ramen addiction with a new series called "The Noodle Diaries"... hm... the wheels are turning...