All my friends have been wondering “where are the market pictures?” Well here they are. This is the retail market ( as opposed to the wholesale fish market that is more famous and is moving soon.) I’ll add an occasional caption, but the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy a quick walk through the market. This is a small fraction of the sites. It is huge!
Half the time I didn’t know what I was eating, but food was always presented beautifully. We did get a lot of seaweed and raw fish which was sometimes challenging. (I like variety in food everywhere except breakfast!) Still, even those meals were beautiful and usually delicious once I got over my cultural dissonance. Here are some of my beautiful meals.
We dined at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant where chefs placed small dishes with a wide range of sushi on a conveyor belt that circled the counter around which customers sat. We could inspect the continuous flow of dishes and grab ones that suited us. Pricing was based on the patterns on the plates. The waitress entered the number of empty dishes on our pile and gave us a total to take to the cashier. Ours added up to a mere $10 for two people, so it was a good budget meal and tasty.
Afterwards, on the street, Brenda eyed pictures of ice cream cones in store windows and muttered “I’m craving chocolate.” After two weeks of fishy meals and no chocolate, that wasn’t really surprising. Fortunately, just a few steps further was a Godiva chocolate shop.
She purchased a couple of truffles, and we returned on two later days for icy drinks. Clearly, some of us can’t survive on fish alone.
The Daio wasabi farm followed the business template pioneered by Knott’s Berry Farm — supplement a viable farm operation with a high steady cash flow destination for tourists. Add outdoor cafes, gift shops, and a wide array of wasabi based or flavored products for sale.
Wasabi flavored ice cream, croquettes, etc. for immediate consumption (the wasabi ice cream was a bit bland, but the Fuji apple ice cream was sweeter) and wasabi paste, slivers, leaves, etc. for taking home to mix into dishes.
Wasabi flourishes in a bed of gravel that is flushed by a flowing stream of fresh cool (10-15 degrees Celsius) spring water. Farmers scrape the gravel into a grid of ridges that resembles a waffle iron. Wasabi sets are planted on the ridges.
The plant emits toxins to protect it from pests, but if the toxins are not flushed, then the accumulation can destroy it.
The wasabi tuber resembles a potato. However, while the potato tuber grows down, the wasabi grows up. At harvest, the entire plant is plucked. In processing, the leaves are trimmed from their stalks, and then the stalks cut from the tuber.
The leaves and stalks are processed to create a wasabi green food coloring. The tuber is sliced and processed into a paste.
In the Matsumoto region and gourmet Tokyo restaurants, some sushi chefs garnish their sushi dishes with the 100% wasabi paste.
Elsewhere, the “wasabi” on your sushi is a blend horseradish, spices, additives, food coloring, and maybe, just maybe, dash of wasabi paste.