What foods remind you of home? A homemade meal? Favorite snack food? A particular brand of coffee?
For me, it’s dishes like fish tacos with my favorite spice blend from Whole Foods or my mom’s pasta sauce. I’ve never lived in a place where ingredients for these sorts of dishes weren’t available at every grocery store.
I was certain I was going spend the next two years stocking my pantry with cheap ramen (what ramen isn’t cheap?) after a few exhausting games of “I Don’t Know What I’m Eating.”
Then, I visited an amazing international market: Nissin World Delicatessen.
Located just an eight-minute walk from my temporary apartment, Nissin is an amazing expat resource for foods you’re familiar with and signs you can read. This market is two floors of grocery paradise (well, one floor food paradise and another floor booze paradise).
I was tipped off about Nissin by a fellow yankee wife who was also hell bent on keeping Mexican food in her weekly diet while living in Asia. As soon as I walked in, I felt like every Westerner living in Tokyo had decided Monday was the day to head to Nissin. I wasn’t the only wife in the building killing time or splurging, although I couldn’t bring myself to spend $17 for Greek yogurt or $40 for a case of mini Perrier cans. A girl can dream…
My family owns a gourmet food store back in the states, so I love checking out markets, and Nissin didn’t disappoint. When you first climb the escalator to the main shopping floor, the first thing you see is a produce department that is literally overflowing. Fruits, vegetables, herbs — thank god I’m not claustrophobic because every table and cooler was surrounded by baskets and buckets of everything you could want. I picked up some gorgeous basil for tomato soup and Brussels sprouts (recipes below) along with my favorite, avocados.
Beyond this area is a well-stocked meat and seafood department with products from throughout Japan as well as the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, all perfectly prepped and ready for a number of cooking styles and recipes. I went for some ground beef and pork for tacos.
Next, I made my way through the aisles and was quickly reassured no matter the hometown craving, I could probably find a remedy. Everything from Ritz crackers to Hershey kisses along with plenty of supplies for Mexican dishes. I snagged a packet of seasoning (all my spices are still making their way across the ocean), some shredded cheese and corn tortillas for those tacos later this week.
Unfortunately, a taste of home doesn’t come cheap. I spent more than $75 on two bags of groceries, so I can’t say this will be my weekly grocery haunt. But it’s nice to know I can still create our favorite recipes from back home.
Super Easy, Better-Than-Canned Tomato Basil Soup
- 1 14-oz can of chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup water or stock
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 4 to 5 large basil leaves, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Heat olive oil in a medium pot. Add garlic and saute for one to two minutes, until aromatic.
- Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Serve with crusty, whole-grain baguette.
You-Won’t-Believe-You-Like-Them Brussels Sprouts
- 1 bundle Brussels sprouts, cleaned, ends trimmed and halved
- 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
- 2 tbsp crumbled blue cheese
- Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts.
- Add garlic powder and toss to coat.
- Continue cooking until sprouts are tender and browned.
- Add soy sauce or substitute and toss to combine.
- Remove from heat, plate and top with blue cheese crumbles.