Thursday, July 18, 2013

Shopping and Chopping for Thai Quinoa Salad.

When certain foods are so good I want to jump up and celebrate I, instead, do a little happy dance in my chair. This sometimes happens at a restaurant but more frequently occurs right at home where, now that I think about it, I really could get up and express my delight. Nonetheless, Wednesday's dinner induced the happy chair dance.

Ever since I found the recipe for Thai Quinoa Salad it has been holding a tab on my browser. I even made a separate shopping list for it on my favorite list app so I wouldn't accidentally skip over an ingredient. (Mental note: I should make a folder for lists of my favorite recipe ingredients.)


Tuesday I went back to explore the area around the Sagami-Ono train stop because during my only other prior time there it was raining and we had a limited time frame. This time I dressed to sweat in a white tank top, the heat and humidity here is extraordinary, and sporting my red Levi's backpack and favorite oxfords. The walk to my local train stop is one mile, half a mile to exit my neighborhood and then another half mile to the station; it takes about 15-20 minutes.

I don't mind going out by myself as a foreigner in Japan which is a very safe and respectful environment. I am a minority as a white woman with light eyes and tattoos so when I stop and look around in wonder, fascination and confusion I don't worry about sticking out because I know I already am. Finding a like-minded person to explore with during the week while the spouses work would be nice, but I realisticly don't expect that to happen. So with my Pasmo card charged up I forge ahead solo.

In addition to discovering a fantastic100 yen store in Sagami-Ono Corridor I also found a real supermarket, not an OX. Pretty much every train station I've been to contains an Odakyu OX grocery store because the local train line is owned by Odakyu. The markets are very nice, well-organized and clean but are limited in size and the prices are a bit high, even considering cost-of-living inflation. They also use the same font as Whole Foods Market so I always make that comparison, even though the OX is not all natural and organic products.

At this large supermarket I found almost everything for the Thai Salad, but really I just wanted to walk around and get acquainted. The fresh seafood area was well-stocked with fish for sushi as well as cooking. I picked up two packages of fish marked at 20% off, I presume due to the sell-by date. Meat and fish portions here are significantly smaller than in the US, I should document and write about it in a future post – remind me.

Something I really like about the grocery stores I've seen here are the self-bag stations located just after the checkout stands. If you let the cashier know you wish to bag your own items (at OX stores there is a laminated card you put in your shopping basket to notify them) then after they scan your items from your basket they put them in another basket. You pay, setting your form of payment in a money tray, and then take the basket to a bagging station and bag your items how you like. I love this option! There are small plastic bags on a roll (like produce bags) and adhesive tape to use if needed. Since I walk everywhere with my backpack this self-bag option lets me arrange my load to my liking. It's also wonderful for those of us who have worked retail (especially grocery) and know the best practices for bagging merchandise. Genius! I love Japan.

(I really need a separate post about grocery shopping in Japan.)


Back to tonight's dinner. My main focus was the Thai Salad, even though it was a side dish, due to the extensive preparation, i.e. chopping. I actually got a blister on my right index finger from the borrowed, cheap, un-sharp knife I'm using. (We must get a better knife if I am to continue cooking until my real knives arrive. And a bigger cutting board.) There was a lot of chopping – red cabbage, red bell pepper, red onion, and cilantro. Since I don't have my microplane grater I needed to mince the ginger as well. I bought the carrots and green onion pre-cut.

Following the Thai Salad recipe very closely because all the reviews raved about it, I stirred the sauce into the quinoa and added the vegetables; the combined salad was tasty and crunchy but not saucy enough. I ended up making more of the sauce and next time will probably double it at the start to leave some leftover for another use, maybe a pork marinade. I also held back on the cilantro because my husband isn't crazy about the amounts I usually add. I can't get enough of it though and will add more before I dig into the leftovers.

I had no plan for the fish (swordfish, I think) so I pulled the three small fillets out and sprinkled them with paprika and gomaiso (sesame salt, yum!) and set them aside to reach room temperature until I finished salad assembly. Then I tossed the fish in a fry pan at medium/med.-high heat with a splash of Smart Balance oil and slapped a lid on it to save the steam. After about five minutes I peeked in and the fillets looked cooked through halfway so I flipped them, reduced the heat to med.-low, and put the lid back on while they finished the last 5-10 minutes of cooking/steaming.

When the fish was done I took them out of the pan and covered them with foil to stay warm. Using the same pan with most (but not all) of the oil wiped out I threw in a healthy handful of small spinach leaves and quickly cooked them until just wilted. Since moving here I have done this for every meal I cook in pan because I wasn't eating enough greens during transitional housing and felt it in my body.

Turns out everything was delicious. The salad was crunchy and flavorful of course, but I wasn't expecting the incredible fish. With very little preparation the natural flavors jumped forward and the texture and density were divine. I knew the seafood in Japan would be good but experiencing it is fantastic and I love it.

(This photo was taken with an iPhone and is by no means intended to be a "real" photo, just a snapshot of where I was and what I saw.)

The original recipe here:

1 comment:

  1. I also love the self bagging Japanese markets. I feel obligated to point out that the card that you're putting into your basket tells them you don't want actual grocery bags (they charge you for them, like 2 or 3 yen I think). The little bags at the station are just for meats or things that might leak, not all of your groceries =} It took me quite a while to figure that one out. Finally I realized they weren't looking at me funny because I was a foreigner but because I was doing something they'd probably never seen before.

    Hope you're settling in well. Our unaccompanied baggage pick up is tomorrow! It's all happening so fast! Wish you guys would have arrived sooner so we could spent some more time together!

    Oh, and that salad looks divine! I might have to make it to go along with the salmon I'm grilling tonight!