shopping

As anyone who has been to Japan knows, Japanese convenience stores, aka konbini, are nothing like convenience stores elsewhere. Insted of being rather sad places with ersatz food and overpriced groceries, they are like small fun palaces for foodies with loads of interesting goodies, many services, and so on. It's a very competitive area of retail.

Seven Eleven recently made a splash by making over 12 of its stores (11 in the U.S., one in Canada) to Kwik-E Marts a la The Simpsons. Here's a list of all the U.S. remade stores; the Canadian one is in Vancouver. Judging from the photos of one of them, the attention to detail is terrific. As a matter of fact, it's about as much as is lavished on a typical konbini in Japan. Seven Eleven Japan actually owns Seven Eleven U.S. (there was an NHK docudrama a while back that showed how this happened...it was quite dramatic in a payback kind of way, since originally Seven Eleven had rejected the Japanese request for franchise rights.) Anyway, they recently announced that they are planning to spend $2.4 billion in a big U.S. expansion. I can't help but wonder if they'd make at least some of those new stores konbini-like in terms of selection, attention to detail, and just the 'fun' factor. I'm sure that Americans would love it.

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One of the (many) food obsessions I have is nut brittles. Peanut brittle, macademia nut brittle, almond brittle (which, when pulverized, turns into praline). I love that combination of caramel and nut flavor. Peanut brittle is the most handy kind to get a hold of, and make. I make it as often as my teeth and waistline allow.

But, I realized yesterday that I have never had truly good peanut brittle.

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Update: Want to make okonomiyaki from scratch? Try this detailed recipe!

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For Food Destinations No. 5, the theme of which is "Where Everybody Knows Your Name", our first inclination was to pick a restaurant we go to often. But while we have some favorites, we don't really go to any one restaurant more than once or twice a month on average, since we like variety when eating out. On the other hand, there are a couple of food stores that we shop in almost every day, where they truly know our names. One of our favorite haunts is our very typically Swiss local farm shop in the suburbs of Zürich.

A dozen Japanese herbs and vegetables to grow

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I am finally getting around to sowing some seeds for the vegetable garden. I really should have sown some things earlier, but I figure it's not too late yet.

If you are planning a vegetable garden, or even a few pots on your windowsill, and want to introduce some Japanese flavors, here's a list of some herbs and vegetables to consider growing, in order of importance and ease of growing in a temperate climate. (That's one with real winters...at least, before global warming.) The ones marked with an *asterisk can be grown in pots. A couple of my favorite seed sources are listed at the bottom.

Type:  feature Filed under:  japanese vegetables shopping gardening herbs

A question I get asked a lot is where to find the stainless steel tofu mold/press shown in action in my tofu making article. While I don't have a ready online source for something like that yet, I have seen plastic molds, which should be just as handy.

For example here's one sold as part of a tofu press kit on eBay. You can also search on "tofu kit" on eBay for other results.

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Since there seems to be interest in Japanese cookbook reviews, I will be posting some here periodically!

The question is, where is the best place to shop for Japanese books, magazines, DVDs and such? If you have a Japanese bookstore near you, that's the best place. One tip for buying magazines: the most recent issue of any magazine has been airmailed to the store, so the price you'll be charged is for the cost of the magazine plus that airmail cost. However, if there are any issues left after a month, the stores may sell them for a discount. (Kinokuniya in New York and San Francisco both do this.) Since most food magazines are not that timely, this works out well.

If you don't have a Japanese bookstore near you, the two biggest and most user-friendly online bookstores for Japanese language material are Yes Asia and Amazon Japan. I've bought stuff from both, and in terms of customer service and so on both are pretty good.

Shopping @ Just Hungry

When you shop via the Just Hungry affiliate stores, you help to support the site while getting stuff you want! It's a win-win situation!

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Not quite edible, but how can one resist an animated paper model of that august diety, The Flying Spaghetti Monster? This is the newest paper model by Rob Ives of Flying Pig, a UK company that makes paper animation and other fun paper model kits. This one is available for download/purchase. I have a few of their models and they are a bit fiddly to make, but once they're done they make adorable accessories for around the desk or cubicle. (Just be sure you put them in a place where someone won't sit on it...as happened to my Schoedinger's Cat.)

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I have always meant to post about this but haven't gotten around to it. This is not an in-depth report with pictures and everything, but just a quick post, since Julie asked :) If you don't live in the Zürich area go ahead and skip to other posts...

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