Oyakodon Shio at Toritō

I cannot stress this enough. Oyakodon at Toritō in the Inner Market of Tsukiji is a Tokyo must. For 160 years, they have been distributing chicken and duck across Japan, opened two spots inside Tsukiji a decade ago and have a strong loyal following. Toritō is the only place I’ve ever eaten oyakodon shio (親子丼塩), a version where the soy sauce is held back. The seasoning is so subtle, the sweetness of the yolk, the flavor of the chicken are prominent and the melty, creamy egg with the juicy chicken over a piping hot bowl of rice is so good it always makes me want cry. Chicken soup is mandatory – it’s the best chicken soup that’ll ever meet your mouth. 🐓🥚🐣🐥 Tokyo favorite! 

…found this post in my drafts and decided to publish. RIP Tsukiji but don’t fret, Toritō is still operating.

Oden … and the most fucking amazing guide to Tokyo

Excuse the F-bomb in the headline (I know, so inappropriate but whatever. This is my fucking blog and I can fucking drop fucking F-bombs heeeeeeere… weeeeeeeee) but I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to contribute to a once in a fucking (another F-bomb!) lifetime comprehensive guide to Tokyo that nothing out there even fucking (and another one!) comes close to.

There is so much information about everything one requires when planning a Tokyo trip. Beyond that, though, the writing is high quality and puts my writing to shame. (Note to self: step your game up.)

The guide is here and everyone with even a remote interest in Japan and Tokyo needs to smash the bookmark button a bajillion times over and share with all.

…anddddddd somehow, I snuck in.

Still in disbelief I’m included and in no way am I posting this because I contributed. It’s a beautiful, informative, fascinating look into the complexity of Japan from various viewpoints and an excellent guide. My contributions are: decoding conbini (convenience stores), unraveling Tabelog (the most accurate dining compass of Japan) and share mid-range priced sushi; I eat at spots that aren’t expensive as shit and here’s the proof.

Hope you enjoy!

Bonus: you may or may not know this fact but massive editing takes place (of course). My pieces would be NOTHING without the editors. Seriously, they are all stars. But just for shits and giggles (loving the ability to freely curse, obviously) there are several parts of my conbini piece that were massively edited (and for good reason). I wasn’t attached to a lot of the parts the Eater editors vanquished but I just can’t let the oden part go so I’m side-barring here.

On Eater:

Oden

From September to mid-April, there are often large, heated metal trays or pots near the registers of most conbini. Inside the trays are different ingredients — tofu, daikon radish, boiled eggs, and fish cakes — floating in a hot, fragrant (almost pungent) dashi broth. This is oden, Japan’s winter comfort food. While the absolute best typically comes from chefs who have spent a lifetime perfecting their broth and curating the ingredients to pair with it, the conbini version is fun to try.

Butttttttt lemme tell you how I really feel:

From September to mid-April, there are huge pots with weird shaped ingredients floating in a funky broth near the registers. This is oden and a Japanese comfort food staple, delicious when properly prepared. Conbini oden is more symbolic. When we see oden set-up in conbinis, we immediately think: start of winter and once they are cleared, we know that summer is here. I have never seen anyone actually buy conbini oden but if you happen to be here while it is served, it may be fun to try. Oden is best home cooked or at oden specific restaurants where chefs are usually 70 year old men who have spent their lifetimes perfecting their broths and hunting for foods that pair perfectly with their broths.

Oden properly prepared is like this ↓ and I also wrote about it here

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Sushi

Almost a year has gone by since I ate my way through Tsukiji and it’s time to update — especially since revisiting some older posts, my face turned hot and red; I am extremely embarrassed at how little I knew about sushi.

So today, almost 12 months and many, many high-end sushi meals later, here are a few things I have learned. Warning: this will be a super long and ultra nerdy post with barely any photos…

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Super Mega Early Tsukiji


More visuals from backlog posts continue as I sort through photos from my old phone… Here are the photos I took from this post in which I finally went to the tuna auction at the butt crack of dawn. I don’t even remember taking the photo up top but, it came out pretty legit.

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Beautiful tuna sashimi pieces (that again, I do not recall taking) from the breakfast sushi. My defective phone camera worked perfectly whenever it felt like it I guess because this one isn’t blurry. I’m actually shocked by how it turned out!

And in case you’re interested, more photo dumps after the jump…

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200th Post and an Ode to the Tsukiji Fish Market

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200th post on this little blog of mine, thank you to those reading and especially those who leave a comment or two. It’s nice to know there are actually people out there interested in Japan and Japanese food. Updating this blog has been so much fun and I love sharing things about my culture, country, people and especially foods! Also, I’m such a food nerd and on occassion include things unrelated to Japan, so again, thank you to those who continuously read and check this site.

On this (self-proclaimed) special occasion, I am going to share something that I’ve been hesitating to share for quite some time; since May, to be precise. A huge part of the struggle is because I don’t want to ruin the magic for those who are visiting or planning to visit Tokyo and… Tsukiji.

Early this year, I started a pet project: Mission Daily Tsukiji in which I was determined to get to know the market inside-out before they move. What initiated this was a random solo visit after several extremely sour experiences. Going to the market alone felt like I was visiting some place completely different and fell head over heels in love.

After a week of research (googling, reading tons of blogs but in the end, I bought four Tsukiji guides in Japanese) gained enough confidence in my command of the market. Tsukiji is pretty overwhelming and once I’m standing inside of the market, everything I thought I knew or remember flies out of my head and I wander around lost, not knowing where to go or what to eat. So I built a plan.

Several months of daily visits to the stores and markets, eating at almost all the sushi places and non-sushi places including random food stands, getting to know the people of the market and asking them where their favorite places are and eating at those places, I got to know the market extremely well and realized something quickly.

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Tsukiji Tuna Auction

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Photo courtesy of Naveen

It’s an ungodly hour in Tokyo but the fish market is alive and buzzing. We get there at 3:30am but barely make the cut into the second group to view the tuna auction. We walk through the door and given vests. The first group is bright green. We, the second group, put on blue ones. The room looks like a pretty big storage room cleaned out and turned into a waiting room. Hard concrete floors, bright halogen lights and white walls makes the room more reminiscent of a looney bin. I am the only Japanese and almost feel like a refugee waiting for Japanese immigration to give me permission to enter the country. It is not a pleasant experience. 

The holding room.

Apparently, I texted a friend this photo who kindly sent it back to me. Sort of hilarious this is the only photo I have after my big, sad ordeal. We’ve been sitting around this room for hours and finally the first group goes out into the auction room. We stand around for a few more minutes and it’s our turn.

Being the only Japanese is a bit of a blessing and a curse. The workers are shocked a Japanese national is actually participating in the auction viewing but more so, I learn things I perhaps would rather not know. There are the things I learned.

Heads up: this may take the magic out of the experience if you are planning to go so I’m putting it behind a jump.

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Tsukiji Fail

I have a colossal problem.

Today I had a lunch at my scheduled place. I just… couldn’t enjoy my meal. I didn’t even take photos. Shutoku has basically ruined me; I can’t stop day dreaming about my experience there.

Every piece I eat, I’m comparing Aoki Chef’s knife skills to others. I wonder how he would garnish that particular piece – or if he would even garnish. Would he just sprinkle salt? Brush lightly with soy sauce? Or maybe top it with grated daikon radish. I stare down at the cut fish on top of rice and imagine how he would present it. My taste buds are craving the perfect balance of akazu vinegar rice with the freshest, highest quality fish. And I wonder what Aoki Chef would say, as he served the piece to me. He has set the bar and Shutoku is now hands down, my favorite place in The Market thus far.

How am I ever going to eat through the other places in Tsukiji?

I get that this is a good (spoiled?) problem to have. But I need to figure out a way to reset this meal so I quit complaining and give accolades to other establishments.

After all, every place is different.
Off to googling I go…

Daily Tsukiji: $200 Meal for $50

Shame on me for failing to immediately post these photos but I’m still processing the stunning omakase from Tuesday. (Today is Friday by the way.)

Every now and again, I have an unforgettable meal I can’t stop thinking about for days on end. My lunch at Shutoku 秀徳 was definitely one of them. I’m terribly concerned my photos and words won’t do this place justice…

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Such a sexy work station.

 

The citrus pictures is sudachi. Not pictured is kabosu. These two citruses are mainly used outside of Tokyo and in Tokyo when yuzu isn’t in season. Osaka, uses sudachi year round. Only a few sprinkles from the grated rinds releases an unbelievable, delicate citrus aroma.

Now on to the show – get ready for some major sushi porn.

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Daily Tsukiji: Tonkatsu Yachiyo, As the Locals Do

Sandwiched between inarguably the two most famous sushi spots in the market: Sushi Dai and Sushi Daiwa, is a teensy run down place named Yachiyo. There are two counters lining the wall and six shabby stools crammed side by side in front of the counter. The space is so narrow, only one person can walk through at a time. The interior looks as though it hasn’t been updated for decades.

Yachiyo was originally one of the go-to breakfast and lunch places for the Tsukiji workers. As tourism increased at Tsukiji, so did the customer base for this tiny spot and now, there is easily a two hour wait for their food.

I heard about this place from the people who work at the market. As keen as I am to get to know the market, I’m super interested in what and where the people of the market eat. They have been around for tens of years, why wouldn’t I ask?

Several people mentioned there is a shokudo (diner is the closest translation) that serves a three day stewed pork char siu with onsen tamago (Japanese poached eggs) only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. And that’s how Yachio became one of my priority non sushi spots.

They were originally a tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet) specialist but expanded their menu and now also serve out of this world deep fried seafoods, as seasonal fish, shrimps, scallop and oysters. I’m not sure when they started the char siu and I didn’t have a chance to ask as no one talks and shovels the food down as fast as they can because there is such a long line outside.

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See? The line is almost as bad as the next door neighbor, Sushi Dai.

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I ordered the char siu egg of course. But 1. since Yachiyo started out serving deep fried foods and 2. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stand in line for another two hours again (well fine. I’m just a pig) I treated myself to a side order of Kuruma Ebi (Japanese Tiger prawns).

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And I polished off both.

When I first sat down, I got in trouble for taking photos. I couldn’t help myself. There were cauldron like pots and aged pans that look as though they’ve been used so much, anything cooked in them would come out delicious. Four people man the kitchen and I want to say it’s family run but I don’t know for sure. The head honcho is this super old, super cute chef and I just had to take a photo.

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Especially, since Yachiyo is going to move, I wanted to capture and document the essence of the kitchen, its character and all the things I can only begin to imagine they have seen from that charming cubby hole.

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After I ate two servings, the people at Yachiyo laughed at me. As I was leaving, the old man even took his chef hat off, bowed, thanked me for my patronage and said he was so happy I enjoyed my lunch. My heart basically melted.

I don’t care if i have to stand in line again. I am definitely going back until they know my name. And once a rapport is built, I hope to hear stories from them I can right now, only imagine.

God I love everything about Tsukiji.

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Yachiyo 八千代
In the inner market between Sushi Dai and Daiwa.
Sorry there’s no map. The government only printed one for the outer market. Just look for the characters.

In case you’re wondering the char siu was out of control. The pork melted and combined with the creamy egg yolk, there were unspeakable things going on in my mouth at one time.

But the deep fried shrimp – OMG. It was seriously, the best deep fried shrimp I have ever had.

Just as a side-note, I only left the tail (meaning yes, I even ate the head) and of course the people at Yachiyo noticed. As of late, the younger generation of Japanese who leave the heads are increasing — which is okay, but people who do eat the head show they have a different outlook and respect for food. Which in turn, earns respect from the people preparing and serving our foods.