Sunday, September 1, 2013

Japanese Grocery Stores - The Basics Part 1

Hmmm.....I probably should have written this one before I started writing the one on sauces. Anyone who knows me though, knows that my brain is all over the place and doesn't function the way normal brains do (what is "normal" anyway???), so I'm sure my friends are not surprised by this at all. Ha!

So, you've moved to Iwakuni (Welcome to Iwakuni!!) and you've checked out the commissary. Hey. It's not as bad as it used to be. I think our commissary does very well with the limited amount of space they have. With that being said, I do buy almost all of my fruits and veggies out in town. I also definitely buy all of my chicken and eggs out in town. I prefer fresh chicken and have had issues with freezer burn in the past. I also love ground chicken and I can get fresh ground chicken out in town too. As for the eggs..... I think once you try it you will see why I only buy Japanese eggs.

One thing you should definitely know before venturing out to the Japanese grocery stores. Carry cash with you just in case. Some of them (especially little stands and smaller stores you might happen upon as you explore the area) do not accept credit cards. I've also heard from some people that they had problems when using their credit card so I try to make sure I have some cash on me when I go.

Be sure to take a shopping bag with you too. Almost every grocery I have been in does not offer free plastic bags anymore. You will have to ask for one and you will have to pay for it. It's usually 5yen or less, but if you take your own you won't have to ask for one AND you'll be helping the environment. Not the end of the world if you do forget though. I'll be the first to admit that I have a lot of shopping bags that never seem to make it back into my purse or back into my car. If you're like me and forget to bring one, just ask for a "fukuro" (bag) when you are checking out.

Do you want to buy some fresh fish, but don't want to cut the head off and gut it? Yuk. Me neither. Many grocery stores offer these services for free.

I took a picture of this sign that is posted in Fresta. You can just point at what you would like them to do for you and they'll take care of it. For free!

I know there are quite a few lactose intolerant people out there who drink soy milk so I checked out the soy milk section at Fresta and I was impressed by the many different flavors! They have banana soy milk!!
Some of the flavors in this photo are grape, yuzu (a Japanese citrus that is delicious), mango, and vanilla ice cream.

They also have organic soy milk -

If you're in a pinch and need some cottage cheese, you can find it out in town. It is pretty pricey though. This one in the picture was 378yen and it was a pretty small container of it.

I hope that this helps you feel more comfortable as you navigate your way around the grocery stores off base. In part 2 of my grocery store series I'll talk about point cards, sale days, and more! Let me know if there is something in particular that you want more information about.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Shin Ou - Amazing Taiwanese food!

My brother, Pat, had been telling me about this "amazing Chinese restaurant in Otake" for a while now. I finally got to check it out with him for dinner a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say that he was absolutely right. It is amazing!

While they don't have an english menu and they don't really speak english, they do have pictures on the menu. This is one of those places where you will have to be a little adventurous. Just a little. It is well worth a little adventure though.

I left the ordering up to my brother and I was not disappointed at all with what we got. He ordered some peking duck, a delicious chicken dish (I can't remember the name of this dish....yikes), lettuce fried rice (my request), and some sholompo (juicy pork dumplings).

The first thing they brought out was the peking duck -
I have to say that I am not a huge duck fan, but this was pretty delicious.

Just in case anyone wanted to see it from a different angle....
Doesn't that look delicious????

The next dish they brought out was the chicken dish. It's fried chicken with onions and red pepper flakes on it, and it had a tangy sauce all over it -
It was a little spicy and a lot yummy.

Then came the lettuce fried rice -
I've never had lettuce in my fried rice, but I really liked it! I also have to say that they are pretty generous with the servings. Definitely enough fried rice for a few people to share.

Finally. The moment I had been waiting for..... they brought the sholompo to our table -
Wow! These were delicious! According to my brother, the best way to eat them is to pour some soy sauce into your little plate and add just a few drops of the clear sauce (I think it's a little vinegar and something else...). Gently grab one sholompo with your chopsticks and place it in the sauce. Let it sit there for a couple of minutes to allow it to cool down (it will be VERY hot when they bring it to you), and then put the whole thing in your mouth. I could have just eaten these all night long. Pat was right. It was the best way to eat them.

This restaurant also offers some great lunch sets. The sets start at 780yen, but they also offer a "Higawari" lunch special that changes every day for 600yen. The higawari special also included coffee. Not a bad deal at all.

They are open from 1100-1430 for lunch and then from 1700-2400 for dinner. They also offer take out on most of the items on their menu.

To get to this amazing Taiwanese restaurant -
Go out main gate and turn right at the very first light. Follow that road all the way to Route 2. Turn right onto Route 2. You're going to stay on Route 2 for a little while. You're going to cross a bridge and then you should see a Yellow Hat car accessory store on your right. I believe it's either the light right after Yellow Hat or the second light after... you'll see a yakiniku restaurant on the right corner. At this light, you will want to turn left. As soon as you turn left, you will see the Taiwanese restaurant on your right. You can't miss it. It has red lanterns hanging in the front. The restaurant is located in Otake if that helps at all.

I thought the prices were pretty reasonable for the amount of food you get. I love to order a few different dishes and share everything with whoever I'm dining with. When I went with my brother, our bill was about 3600yen and he had also had a couple of beers. Not bad at all.

Check out Shin Ou and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Japanese Grocery Stores - Sauces Part 1

So, I posted on my Facebook page about doing a grocery store post and I received quite a few comments and requests. A couple of people wanted to know more about the many sauces sold in Japan so I thought I would do a series of posts about shopping on the local economy. Starting with this post on sauces. I am certainly not an expert on Japanese sauces, nor do I claim to be. I am just a foodie who grew up in Iwakuni and also grew up eating foods prepared with some of these yummy sauces. I hope this helps you as you go out and explore the many grocery stores in Iwakuni, and I hope you will pick up a new sauce or two and give it a try!

I think that the most important sauce of all in any Japanese home is soy sauce, or "shoyu" as we call it. My mother always cooks with shoyu, but when I was little there was just a small selection of shoyu at the store. The biggest and most popular brand (and quite possibly the only brand carried at most majoy grocery stores) at the time was Kikkoman. When I moved to the states for the first time as an adult, I bought a bottle of Kikkoman shoyu and I was so excited to be able to find Japanese shoyu! Then I tried it and ..... I spit it out. It was disgusting. I didn't realize it was made in the U.S. and "geared to American taste". I don't know who thought of that, but I think they were way off base! That bottle of shoyu went right down the drain and I called my mother to see if she could send me a care package with a bottle of the "real Kikkoman shoyu" as I put it. Fast forward a few years (okay...maybe a little more than just a few), and it's amazing to me how many different types of shoyu there are now. Grocery stores in Japan have a huge section of an aisle that is just shoyu. There's regular shoyu, usukuchi (lighter flavor) shoyu, sashimi shoyo (which seems a little thicker and smoother), and on and on. I could probably do an entire post on the different types of shoyu, but I know a lot of people are wondering more about the other sauces they sell in Japanese grocery stores. Before I get to those sauces though, I do want to post a picture or two of some organic shoyu that is sold at Fresta. I know there are quite a few people out there who are very interested in organic products.

The shoyu in these two photos are all organic.

Let's check out the other sauces....


Yakiniku means "cooked meat" or "grilled meat" and it's what you usually eat when you go to JanJaka. You can make something similar at home. There are so many different types and brands of yakiniku sauce that I can't tell you which one is the best. I think I buy a different kind each time so I can see what the difference is. The problem is that I forget to take notes and remember which ones I really like. You can also get different levels of spiciness. Please keep in mind that sometimes when it says "spicy" it doesn't necessarily mean hot spicy. Sometimes it means "salty" or spices spicy. So, they have "Amakuchi" which is not spicy at all and means "sweet taste", "Chyukara" which is "medium spicy", and then "Karakuchi" which is "spicy taste". I personally like to mix the amakuchi with the chyukara because I don't like my sauce sweet, but I don't like it too spicy either. Mixing the two usually balances it all out for me. There are different ways to cook with yakiniku sauce. You can marinate some thin slices of meat in it and then grill the meat. Another way to do it is to grill the meat first and then just dip it in the sauce or pour some sauce over the meat. I have also taken thinly sliced beef (thickness is really up to you, but I like mine to be sliced pretty thin), sliced onions and sliced green bell peppers and stir fried it all in a little bit of oil. Right before you take the pan off of the stove, pour some yakiniku sauce on it, stir it around to get it on everything and then remove from heat and serve with some rice. Make sure you don't put the sauce in too soon because sometimes the sauce will burn if it cooks too long in a hot pan.


One of my favorite dishes is Shoga Yaki. Shoga is ginger and yaki is cooked. In this case, it is pork and cabbage that is sauteed with this delicious sauce. Some restaurants serve "Shoga Yaki" and a lot of times it is just thin strips of pork sauteed and covered in this sauce. I am a huge fan of pork and cabbage together (may have something to do with always eating tonkatsu and cabbage together....don't know what tonkatsu is?? Hmm..I feel another blog post coming..) so I usually take thin slices of pork and some cabbage, saute them together and when it's almost done put some of this sauce on it. Remove from heat right away so the sauce doesn't burn. Personally, I don't think this is super heavy on the ginger flavor so even if you aren't a big fan of ginger you should give this a try.
I know some of you are looking at the photo for this sauce and thinking the main bottle in the front is slightly out of focus, but the one behind it on the left is in perfect focus. I meant to do that. Uh huh.... yup... sure did. Wanted to see if anyone would notice.


Yakitori is the little pieces of chicken on a stick. You all know what "yaki" means now so I'll just let you know that "tori" means "bird"...which in this case means chicken. Yakitori are mostly found at izakayas and you can get yakitori at just about any festival in Japan. You can make yakitori at home with this sauce and some chicken and some sticks. You can buy the sticks just about anywhere (they just look like super long toothpicks). If you are grilling these, I highly recommend you soak the sticks in water for a little while. It keeps them from burning. Cut chicken into chunks big enough to put on the stick. Don't make them too big or too small. I had to play around with it because I kept making them too big. It's fine, but it takes longer to cook. Place about 4 pieces of chicken on each stick. Lightly (very lightly) salt both sides and throw on a hot (medium heat) grill. You really have to watch these so don't walk away too much. When they are almost done, dip them into some yakitori sauce and throw them back on the grill for a few mimutes... maybe 1-2 minutes on each side. Are you like me and don't own a grill? No problem. I take a chicken breast or thigh and cut it into chunks and because I like the fat green onions (I'm not sure what they are called in the US... but they are like big green onions... and I believe they are in season in the winter months), I'll cut up one or two of those also. Saute the chicken and green onions in a pan and right before it is done, cover everything with a little bit of the yakitori sauce. Stir it around for a minute, remove from heat, and serve over a bowl of rice.

Am I starting to sound like a broken record with my statements on making sure you don't add the sauce too soon because it may burn? I think that because a lot of sauces have soy sauce, they tends to burn a little easily. Burnt sauce does not taste good. At all. How do I know you ask? Well..... I maaay have had an accident or two when cooking with yakiniku sauce.

To be continued....

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Trattoria Ruzzo

I am not on the classifieds page very often, but I happened to look on there a week or so ago and someone had posted a link to the Facebook page of this restaurant that looked amazing. As soon as I checked out their Facebook page, I knew I had to go. The food looked delicious! So I texted my friend, Tani, to see if she wanted to go check it out with me and she was just as excited as I was after she saw their page.

We headed to Trattoria Ruzzo yesterday for lunch and while it was a very easy drive, it took us about an hour to get there. I want to say that a good 20-30 minutes of that was spent in really heavy traffic getting from Iwakuni to the expressway entrance in Otake. I'll give directions at the end though. Right now I just want to talk about the restaurant!!

It's a cute little restaurant as you can see from this picture of the outside -

I love the location! It's a little bit in the mountains and there is a little river that runs behind it. There is also a camping park behind it. We decided to sit on the terrace and I'm glad we did. There was a slight breeze and we were entertained by the happy squeals of the children playing in the river.

They do have an English menu, but I only took a picture of the Japanese menu. I don't remember why I didn't take a picture of the English menu.... may have something to do with the fact that I am a flake and just plain forgot. Here is a picture of the Japanese menu -

After looking over the menu for a few minutes, I realized I was going to have a very hard time narrowing it down to one dish. I wanted to try everything. Then I told myself that I would just have to come back, and that helped me decide on the Fresh Mushroom pasta. Tani chose the Eggplant Mozzarella pasta, and we decided to order a Margherita pizza to share. We also opted for the fresh pasta for 50yen more each. When he asked if we wanted regular pasta or fresh pasta, my jaw almost dropped to the floor. My brain was going a little crazy. FRESH pasta?? Yes, please! I was a little bit worried that we ordered too much food.... because we also added desserts to our lunch. Granted, we were both starving and we got a little bit of a late start in heading to the restaurant so it was past our usual lunch time.

Within minutes of placing our order, the wonderful smell of garlic being sauteed found its way onto the terrace. My nose was in heaven. Now I really couldn't wait! I was also still very excited about the fresh pasta.

The first item to come out was the pizza -

Wow! It tasted as good as it looks here. Maybe even a little bit better!

A little while later, they brought out the pastas. They looked so delicious!

This is the Fresh Mushroom pasta -

I was trying to get a good shot of the fresh pasta noodles -

Here is the Eggplant Mozzarella pasta -

The pasta was just as delicious as it looked and smelled!! The sauce was very light with a slight kick. He puts red peppers in the sauce, but you can request it without the red peppers. The fresh pasta noodles were perfect!

After all of that, we still had dessert coming!

I ordered the Wild Cherry Tart -

Tani ordered the Apple Tart -

I highly recommend Trattoria Ruzzo. Great location with really wonderful food. Prices are very reasonable. Our bill was about 3,800yen for two pastas, a pizza, and two desserts. Make sure you order the fresh pasta. Well worth the extra 50yen!

To get to Trattoria Ruzzo -

Get on Route 2 and head towards Hiroshima. Jump on the expressway in Otake and head north towards Hiroshima. Get off at the Hatsukaichi exit (500 yen). You want to stay to the left and when the left side splits, make sure you take the Route 2 option. Once you are back on Route 2, you are going to make the very first left which should put you on Route 30. You will stay on Route 30 for 20 kilometers or more (I can't remember the exact number, but you're on it for a while). Trattoria Ruzzo will be on the left. If you're going on a weekend, you might want to make reservations as they get pretty busy. The telephone number is (0829) 72-2272. There is a gentleman there who speaks English pretty well. You can also use Google maps to find your way there. That's how I got there yesterday.

I should also mention that they are closed on Thursdays.

If you go, let me know what your experience was like. I love hearing from other foodies!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

RUSH - Teppanyaki Restaurant

The first two times I tried to go to this restaurant, I could not get in because they were full. I guess it's true when they say "third time's a charm" though, because I got the last few seats left when I went the third time. It probably had something to do with the fact that it was a brand new restaurant in Iwakuni and I was trying to go right after it opened, but I think it also might have had something to do with the super nice staff and the yummy food!

One of the first things you might notice about RUSH is that it is not like the teppanyaki restaurants you find in the U.S. You can watch them cook if you sit at the end of the counter where the "teppan" is located. "Teppan" is the grill that they cook on. I believe the restaurants in the States put on a show when they cook in front of you. At RUSH you will only get a show if someone orders a steak. If that happens while you are there, you will get to see this -

What you will definitely get though is great service and really good food! I have eaten here many times now and I have never been disappointed with anything I've ordered. The only thing I will say is that the steak is kind of fatty. Too fatty for me so I will not order it anymore, but if you like it that way then go for it. It does taste good. I just prefer a leaner cut of steak. One dish that I do always get when I go for dinner is the grilled vegetable plate. I like it so much that I really don't want to share.....but I do because I prefer to order a few different dishes and share. It's very hard though....

Look at these vegetables.....can you blame me for not wanting to share?

They have a pork wrapped asparagus dish that is pretty tasty. They sprinkle some kind of curry powder on them and I think I would prefer them without the curry powder. I'm sure you can ask them to make them without the curry powder. I am a big fan of curry, but not so much on these. Don't they look delicious?

Another dish I always get is the garlic rice. Anything with garlic is usually great in my book!

I do recommend that you try RUSH for lunch and for dinner. They have a different menu for lunch so it's a different experience. I like their lunch menu and their dinner menu so I have gone for both quite a few times now. For lunch, I really like the pork ginger and the hamburger steak. They do have English menus with pictures so ordering will not be a problem.

To get to this yummy teppanyaki restaurant, head towards the local train station in downtown Iwakuni and when you get to the rotary intersection (Andersen Bakery should be on the right corner), you will turn left. Then turn left again almost right away. RUSH is located on your left and there is a pay parking lot to the right of it that you can park in.

RUSH is closed on Mondays and their phone number is (0827)22-8339. It has been a little over a year since they opened, but they can still get pretty busy so you might want to call ahead and make reservations.