It’s been over a week since I’ve been back home. Why haven’t I updated, you ask?
Well, there really hasn’t been any reason to. As in, I haven’t done ANYTHING exciting.
Ok, that’s a lie. Christmas was celebrated, gifts were exchanged, cookies were baked, and now stuff is being packed for a church retreat that I’m helping out at. But my time at home has mostly consisted of eating, sleeping, Food Networking, more eating… I’ve pretty much been bumming around my entire time here.
Not to say that that’s a bad thing. I’ve been reveling in my sloth-like laziness, actually. And it’s also given me a reason to eat more of my mom’s food than EVER.
Yes. I have been eating much delicious food – and there’s still more to come in the next post. Unlike most college students, I’ll probably get the freshman 15 while I’m at home.
Other stuff I’ve been doing include going to the mall, soaking at King Sauna, reuniting with high school friends, and spending hours marveling at the wonders of Whole Foods.
On Christmas Eve, my mom and I also headed over to Edgewater for a Mitsuwa trip. It was SUPER crowded, probably because everyone was doing some last minute Christmas/New Year’s shopping. My mom and I on the other hand, were there just to eat and chillax, you know just because we’re that cool.
For those of you guys who don’t know what Mitsuwa is, it is a wonderful, wonderful place filled with all foodstuffs Japanese. It’s pretty much a Japanese grocery store and a food court smooshed together with some smaller stores thrown into the mix, selling everything from fish to sake, mochi to vegetables, cooking utensils and rice with everything in between.
It’s absolutely magical.
My mom and I just have fun browsing through the aisles because there’s so much cool stuff. Now, photographs weren’t allowed in the grocery section of Mitsuwa, but I managed to ninja some pictures for you guys.
That’s right. I am a photographer ninja. HOOO-AHH HEAR MY CAMERA CLICK!
You guys know wasabi peas, right? Little green nubs of sinus-clearling, spicy crunchiness.
Well, Mitsuwa has SRIRACHA PEAS.
I know. It’s awe-inspiring.
Some GENIUS had the crazy idea to take those delicious, dehydrated, vegetal orbs and coat them with the mouth-wateringly spicy chile sauce (a condiment that’s always a staple in the Choi house).
I wanted it. Badly. But I didn’t get it. I think I may have been distracted by an aisle entirely dedicated to rows and rows of Japanese rice crackers. Next time… I WILL BE BACK FOR YOU SRIRACHA AND WASABI PEAS!!
After oohing and aahing at all the sushi, produce, rice, and other wondrous stuffs, my mom and I headed to the food court to grab lunch. The Mitsuwa food court is set up like any other food court – a bunch of different food vendors situated in a U-shaped formation around a huge sitting/dining area. Each stall specializes in one type of food, like ramen, soba, rice dishes, pasta, desserts, etc. so you get a choice of a huge variety of mostly Japanese foods. Because it was around 1 o’clockish on a weekday, my mom and I both got lunch sets (cheaper and more variety = win!).
My mom got her set from the one Western restaurant in the food court:
The noodles were blah and undercooked, but the sauce was good – tomatoey with a spicy kick, and a good amount of clams. Towards the bottom of the bowl, my mom kind of shoved the last of the noodles to the side and sopped up the sauce with the bread.
I went with a more traditional dish from the soba restaurant:
Like the pasta, the soba noodles were subpar, but I think the broth more than made up for it. It tasted mushroomy and vegetabley in an earthy, rich, clean way. I suck at describing these things with my limited vocabulary, but… IS THIS WHAT THEY CALL UMAMI???
The triangularly-smooshed salmon rice things were kind of dry, but they were good with the broth. THE BROTH. IT MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER.
After eating, my mom and I decided to explore the other vendors a bit – these guys have cool looking glass displays set up in between the grocery store and the food court, and they sell higher-quality mochis and teas than you would find in the Mitsuwa supermarket.
I zoomed right for the Ito-En tea stall (with all of its tea leaves and strainers and teapots) and bought a $10 tea sampler pack. It was a good deal, and besides, I couldn’t choose just one – I needs variety in my life.
While I was paying the cashier, I scanned their tea/soft serve menu for anything interesting.
AND THEN I SAW IT.
A RARE BEAST, EVEN IN THE WILDERNESS OF THE ASIAN MARKET, BUT TRULY THE MOST DELICIOUSEST OF ALL ICE CREAMS:
BLACK. SESAME. ICE CREAAAMMMMM.
Yes, I have a black sesame addiction. And even with its rising popularity among Asian restaurants/stores (think of it as the next green tea or red bean), it’s still rare enough that I can only get my black sesame fix once every few months. BUT I CRAVE IT SO.
Black sesame’s not a traditional dessert flavor, but it’s SO FLIPPIN’ GOOD. And this soft serve did black sesame proud. It was nutty and creamy and roasty and cold and sweet and everything wonderful that a black sesame ice cream is supposed to be. The moment I stuck that first spoonful in my mouth, I could’ve sworn rainbows and unicorns came out of my ears. It was THAT GOOD.
So do yourself a favor and go to Ito-En in Mitsuwa and get this ice cream. Even in the dead of winter. C’mon, don’t be hatin’ before you try it kids.
I wobbled around Mitsuwa in a black sesame-induced euphoria for a while, and once I had finished it (IT WAS GONE TOO SOON) my mom and I headed to THE vendor.
You know which one I’m talking about. The one with the delicious aromas of toasting breads and red bean that waft your way whenever you walk in front of it.
The one that sells 붕어빵. Also known as taiyaki. Also known as the best Asian pastry God has put on this earth, and the one thing my body CRAVES during the winter.
Mitsuwa, without doubt, has the best red bean cakes around. They’re just slightly crispy on the outside, but the dough on the inside is soft and pillowy, embracing a blob of sweet red bean paste.
The ladies running the stall give the taiyaki to you piping-hot and straight from cooking them in the molded griddles. There’s also an oval red bean variety, and a custard-filled circle “creamyaki,” but I’m a purist and the taiyaki are definitely the best. I mean, come on, how can you beat the fish?
Now do you see why Mitsuwa is such a wunnerful place? I’m already planning trip #2 while I’m still in Jersey. I need deliciousness in the form of peas… Black sesame… And red bean-filled fish..
So, anyways… This is kind of late, but Merry Christmas! We’re kind of at that awkward time now between Christmas and New Year’s when no one really knows what to do with themselves, but IT’S OK. LET’S REVEL IN THE FESTIVIES WITHOUT A CARE IN THE WORLD.
Yes, that sounds excellent.
Anyways, I hope you guys all have a great holiday! We just got a foot of snow here in NJ, so I hope everyone stays safe on the roads. I’m off to help at a church retreat for the next few days, but when I come back I’ll try to take advantage of all this free time and post more often.
Until then, stay warm guys!