Do you find yourself sometimes missing the tastes from your country? Or some foreign cuisine you really like? Sometimes going to eat out at a foreign restaurant helps your nostalgia, but hurts your wallet, takes a lot of time to plan and find, and very often it wouldn’t be what you had in mind at all. Of course, you think “I’ll cook it!”, even if you are not a stellar cook, at least you think you can chop some vegetables you’ve been craving. And then you realize they are nowhere to be found.
I’ve been cherishing the 2 or 3 times when my beloved Brussels sprouts appeared magically at the corner store next door, and there’s been one sighting of Romanesco broccoli, so I would suggest not losing hope and checking the vegetable aisles of your local shops as often as you can – things tend to magically pop up at random times. I even found green tomatoes in a basement supermarket in Atre in Kichijouji, and they are paramount to a really nostalgic family recipe.
But by far the biggest shocker for me was beetroot. Surely they have it here, I thought. And why not? It is a root vegetable as the name suggests, I’d put it in the same category with carrots or daikon, so I though Japan must have it. It is not an exotic plant, it’s easy to grow and cheap to buy. Above all, it has strong dark pink color and can make food very pretty, and I thought Japanese cuisine must love it as they love making their dishes look as pretty as a dream. But no, there’s a total war on beets, and I still don’t know the reason. So, I started my search, but beets were nowhere to be found. One time in a nice restaurant in Idabashi I got something pinky in a salad, got really excited for a moment and then realized it was pink daikon – 紅芯大根.
Not bad actually, so I thought I’d buy that instead. Funny thing – I found it only once in an expensive French supermarket! The closest I got to beetroot was when Russian friends took me to a Russian restaurant for dinner and I tried ‘borsht’ for the first time. I immediately interrogated the waiter, but he had no idea where do they get their beets from, and I didn’t feel it was appropriate to push further for answers. I decided to give up on beetroot for the time being. And only then I found it! The Farmers’ Market in Aoyama, just opposite Aoyama Gakuin and in front of United Nations University. http://farmersmarkets.jp/ It is open every Sunday and it has fresh and organic produce at really affordable prices. I bought my bag of beetroots for merely 300 yen! I wasn’t even there to shop, I just passed it by and peeked in while waiting for my friend. This market has a lot of rare vegetables, but also fresh herbs for just 100 yen a pack, organic jams, honey, tea etc. Very often the producers themselves are selling it, or they know the producers directly, and they gladly provide tasting samples of everything.