When Westerners think of Japanese cuisine, they typically think of sushi. With that thought in mind, Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater, New Jersey, held its seventh Umaimono Gourmet Food Fair from June 21 through June 24.
Hoping to increase awareness of Japanese regional food among Americans and to help us deepen our knowledge about Japanese cuisine and culture, the food fair gave people the opportunity to experience authentic Japanese dishes prepared by professional chefs who traveled from Japan for the event. The fair promoted the regional diversity of Japanese food culture by providing a wide variety of Japanese food from different regions in Japan, including Hokkaido, Kobe, Tottori, Tokyo, and Fukuyama City in Hiroshima Prefecture.
Probably the most popular item in this year’s fair was the special miso ramen from Ichimonji Ramen in Hakodate, Hokkaido. Described as “a rich and powerful soup made by boiling pork bones and fully aged miso paste for ten hours,” the ramen was sold out by the time I arrived at Mitsuwa on Sunday afternoon.
“Today it’s not as crowded,” the cashier told me as I purchased one of the last remaining corn croquettes from Ikameshi Croquette. “It was much busier Saturday, and that’s when a lot of things sold out.”
Still, there was a substantial crowd standing in organized lines. Visitors purchased a unique inari sushi (fried tofu curd pocket stuffed with sushi rice) from Shiki restaurant in Tottori Prefecture. In addition to sushi rice, Shiki stuffs the tofu skin with Red Queen Crab meat from the Sea of Japan.
The best smells came from the sweets. Kobe Fugetsudo prepared waffles and cream puffs, and Marion Crepes from the Harajuku neighborhood in Tokyo made crepes on site. I enjoyed the tremendous flavor of pumpkin- and red bean-filled sweets from Amo-Chinmi, and there were plenty of flavors of ohagi (sweet rice balls), too.
Mitsuwa’s Umaimono Gourmet Food Fair was a great way to explore regional cuisine that we can’t find every day in the city, and it was also the perfect opportunity to shop for Japanese food.
The first Mitsuwa store opened in 1998, and there are now nine stores in the US that offer a variety of Japanese groceries and products that represent the many flavors of Japan. The market carries Japanese vegetables from Suzuki Farms in Delaware as well as authentic household goods, home appliances, and cosmetics.
Mitsuwa’s New Jersey store is located at 595 River Road in Edgewater and is accessible from Manhattan with a convenient shuttle bus available every half hour from Port Authority Bus Terminal. The shuttle is free on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
To see more pictures from Mitsuwa’s Umaimono Gourmet Food Fair, visit JapanCulture•NYC’s Flickr stream.