Revisiting Tsukiji Outer Market
I promised myself I would return to Tsukiji with my wife A and daughter L, and return I did, a week later. Perhaps fortuitously, my 19-month old fell asleep in her carrier after a long romp in one of Tokyo’s wonderful neighborhood playgrounds. She slept on the train to Tsukiji and didn’t wake up until we were already walking home from the station. More on that later.
We arrived at around eleven in the morning, with the market already in full swing, and therefore, much more crowded. After a quick walk-through to point out to A where the wholesale market itself was, and where I waited three hours before giving up on omakase and having a sushi set elsewhere, we went around pretty much the same route I took on my first visit. We started off with these free samples of bonito flakes, in various degrees of quality, and therefore price.
Another elderly shopkeeper/cook. Call me biased, but I would trust these old timers over young’uns with my freshly prepared, traditional Japanese seafood, anytime.
A found a shop that was selling tamago per slice, and she lovingly shared it with me. The egg was perfectly cooked, fluffy and moist. I could “chew” it by just rolling it around my tongue and palate.
My wife was excited to try the torched scallop I had the last time, but passed on the oysters. The same guy with a towel wrapped around his head was cooking it. The videos above are from my previous trip, but I forgot to add them to the original post, so I just inserted them here, for posterity.
Some fresh produce, including some boxed uni and whole slab of ikura, or salmon roe. I was quite tempted to buy a pack of one of the two, and just slurp them up then and there.
My wife tried the grilled eel and scallops from the 200-yen skewer store I previously visited. Across the alley, the same girl who was selling the grilled scallops with uni last time was now torching some crab miso. What was I saying about trusting only old people to prepare my seafood?
To be honest, the crab miso at Isomaru Suisan was much better. However, since the lady spoke English quite well, I decided to ask her if she could help me find some Kujira, which a friend tried during his visit to Tsukiji a few months prior. She consulted with an older woman who may have been her mother, and was the one grilling the hotate that day, and translated the directions for me. I followed them as best as I could, but no dice.
After walking around without any success, A had the brilliant idea of asking at the tourist center. Why I totally ignored that entire building the first time, I have no clue. They didn’t give me directions, though. They did even better and gave me a map, in English! Score! I followed the map and it turns out the blow-torched seafood ladies gave accurate directions. It was just that…
The store was closed. Whether for good or just for that day (I didn’t notice them on my first trip either), I have no idea. Well, eating kujira is unethical anyway. Kujira means whale, by the way. Sorry :(
A and L rested in the tourist center while I searched for Moby Dick. There were seats for tired tourists, glass displays of live seafood for sale such as those giant crabs above, and of course, more food stalls. We tried a trio of otoro nigiri from one of the stalls, but it was a far cry from the stuff that I had tasted from that first corner store on my first trip. It was also around half the price, perhaps less. You get what you pay for, I guess.
When I got back, I dropped by this store that was steaming some fresh seafood, but the real line was for their premium soft serve ice cream. It was the only place in Tsukiji that I tried where I had to pay using a vending machine.
One of the larger stalls at the market sold some fresh produce such as slabs of tuna, salmon roe and the like. It also had some dirt cheap nigiri for A and I to share. I also picked up a rice-style lager from Echigo, “Japan’s First Micro-Brewery.”
Not bad, and still fresher that what you would get here in the Philippines, I guess. And all for fifty pesos a piece. Sadly, out of eight pieces, only seven with unique, with what appears to be shime saba (but most likely isn’t) topped with some grated ginger, appearing twice.
I was tempted to buy something from this knife manufacturer, especially after all the eye candy I saw in Kappabashi Dori. This was the last chance, but I decided against it, on the basis that I needed to hone my knife skills more, first. That, and I’ve always been too lazy to give proper care and sharpening to the cheap knives I already have.
On our way in, we stopped at this store selling giant onigiri to get a rice ball for the little one’s lunch when she’d wake up. On our way out, I decided to join the lottery and get another onigiri for myself. The signs are all in Japanese, as they are in many konbini, so it’s really a game of chance. I was too shy to attempt to communicate with the shopkeeper, who was actually quite nice, because the store was quite busy with customers.
We stopped at a playground again on our walk back home from the train station, just as L woke up. She enjoyed her onigiri, and I enjoyed mine as well, having hit the jackpot… Ikura! In all, I probably covered around 60% of the Outer Market in my two trips. The second was definitely a delicious and successful trip to Tsukiji, and all within budget, unlike the first time when I went crazy and may have spent more in one morning than I did on a Wagyu Degustacion for two. Until next time, Tsukiji! Whatever Tokyo plans in the future, the Outer Market will always still be there.