When we arrived in Japan four months ago, I knew that I would of course continue to cook Western food (洋食, youshoku) but wanted to dive right into Japanese food as well (和食, washoku—和/wa is the oldest Japanese word for “Japan” and still appears in words like wagyu, i.e. super expensive artisal Japanese beef).
However, this ferverous intention was thwarted first of all by the delayed arrival of our kitchen equipment, then the approximately seven typhoons that struck the island in our first six weeks, and finally by my abject illiteracy in the local grocery stores.
But even as weather and language lessons began to cooperate with my culinary ambitions, I was checked by the unexpected unavailability, or extreme price, of certain ingredients. For instance, celery is crazy expensive in Japan, which may explain why it tends to be packaged one stalk at a time! And though milk, butter, and yogurt are available and not too pricy—though sour cream and buttermilk appear to be nonexistent—they cost so much more than, say, tofu (29¥ a box, which is about a quarter) or beansprouts (19¥), that said dairy products got mentally transferred from the category of “daily necessity” to “luxury items.
What particularly afflicted me, though, was the matter of cauliflower and yuzu…Read More