Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Japan: Tsukiji Market

Tokyo
May 2005

I've always wanted to see Tsukiji Market (the world's largest wholesale and retail seafood market), so when Bob's friend offered to take us there I almost kissed his feet. There were two conditions though: no kids allowed and we have to be ready by 4.45 am. I was disappointed for Ming, but understood the restriction was due to safety reasons (all those hooks) and the fact that it was serious business, bidding for the bluefin tuna, and they didn't like tourists there. Thing about going to Tsukiji is, it opens so early you can't get there without a car because the subway service would not have started yet.

It was dark when we started out. The rest of Tokyo hadn't woken up yet but the Tsukiji area was busy and active. It felt like we were on some important mission.

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Tokyo is so big even residents of 20 years still need to drive with their GPS on.

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Bidding in action

Contrary to what I have been told, it wasn't noisy, with the winning bidder nodding his head to seal the deal. We missed the fresh tuna auction, which took place earlier.

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Checking for quality

See what I mean? Serious business because the tuna can sell for US$10,000 each.

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The place is huge and so busy that the people move around in these little powered carts.

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Cutting the first tuna of the day

This sushi restaurant is in the market and we immediately went in for breakfast.

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The freshest and tastiest maguro sushi.


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Heavenly piece of uni sushi.


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Sushi Poster

I was told the best sushi is toro, the tender, fatty belly of the bluefin tuna (see that pink and white oversized sushi, upper right). That morning I made one of the biggest culinary mistakes of my life: I declined toro because I felt queasy eating raw fish so early in the morning. I went off with my camera to take more pictures. By the time I got back, my friends were on uni (sea urchins roe) and maguro (tuna). The maguro was tender, fresh and delicious. And then I had the uni sushi... The sea urchin roe was unlike any I've ever eaten, totally different in flavor from what I've eaten till then. It's not just the creaminess, but the flavor! So utterly fresh and sweet, without that weird briny taste I'd always thought was normal. Even the color was different. Oh, it was one moment to remember forever! To this day I dream about it...In fact, after Tsukiji, all sushi, even those in Tokyo restaurants, were never as good again.

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Bonito fillets

This is dried bonito (tuna) before they shave it into paper-thin flakes to be sold as dashi which is the basic flavoring for soup, stock etc.

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Bonito flakes

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At a yakitori stall

Straight out of the sushi restaurant and I was going for the yakitori. My stomach had woken up.

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Sea urchin and fish roe

We bought some cod roe which we pan-fried at home and it's one of the food we still talk about. Definitely have to go back to Japan.

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Scallop?

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Japanese pickles

The purplish pickle was excellent with plain congee.

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Japanese ceramics

I'd buy my ceramics in China, thank you (its much, much cheaper!). In Tsukiji Market, you can buy that super-sharp sushi knife (around US$170 ea) and all kinds of kitchen utensils and ingredients.

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Legumes store

The Japanese are the cleanest and tidiest people in the world. Tsukiji Market, besides having the tuna bidding section, also has a seafood market and it is so clean, totally unstinky and so well-arranged that its a joy to visit. So was this store. I mean would you find a legumes store interesting?? I did.

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Tsukiji food stall

As you leave the market, you'll get to a row of small restaurants (some so small there's no seats; customers just stand and slurp their noodles) selling udon, tempura and all food Japanese. The aroma just makes you giddy with hunger.


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Onigiri

Ming's daily needs.

3 comments:

hongyi :o) said...

the scallop looks ginormous! so big it's gross!

Terri Hong said...

u work in Japan next year n i'll visit?

Gene said...

Awesome pictures! I believe those giant scallops are actually giant mussels.

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