Shopping for Japanese Food

In Food, Glorious Food on February 18, 2020 at 11:04 am
Pictured from L to R: gobo, sato emo, daikon, napa.

Pictured from back, L to R: gobo, sato emo, daikon and napa.

Whenever I get the chance, I like to go shopping for Japanese groceries with my friend and neighbour Nori.

As a person of mixed Japanese Canadian (JC) heritage, I’ve had a more traditional upbringing in terms of exposure to the foods, language and culture of Japan–but that’s not the case for many JCs.

Although I like to eat and cook Japanese food, I know the two aren’t necessarily interchangeable for others. In our family, not everyone knows how to prepare certain traditional dishes, those long-time staples we grew up on.

And don’t worry, if you don’t recognize specific ingredients in their raw states. For example, you may have eaten some of my favourite vegetables before: from gobosato emo to the mainstream daikon (white radish) and napa (Chinese cabbage). You may have simply walked right by them in the grocery store and not known what they were or how to cook them.

Napa (Chinese cabbage) and daikon (white radish) can be found in almost any grocery store these days, and often are actually called by their Japanese names. Great in stir-fries and salads, they make for hearty fare year-round.

Gobo, also known as burdock, is a fantastic root vegetable – after you peel off the woody skin, it’s amazing sliced into small sticks and fried with sesame chilli oil. As kids, we used to call sato emo “hairy potatoes” since they’re a type of starchy potato sometimes referred to as eddo root or eddoes, and are from the same family as taro. Easy-to-find in Asian supermarkets, they’re a bit tougher to locate elsewhere but worth grabbing if you happen to stumble upon them. Delicious in stews, they’re also a mainstay in savoury Japanese cabbage pancakes known as okonomiyaki. 

Happy shopping!


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