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Okazu Fest Round Two

Before we get to the selections of the day, let me begin by saying that this “Okazu Fest” series is going to be a LLLLLLLLLLLONG ONE. In and adjacent to Ala Moana Center, I was just in Shirokiya and Nijiya Market the other day scoping out their selection, where between just those two stores, there’s A LOT. Some of course are the same as what they have at Don Quijote, which I’m not going to repeat review ones I’ve already done, regardless of brand. But those two stores alone have their own unique varieties not available at Don Quijote. And I haven’t even checked Marukai yet!


An extensive Tsukemono and Banchan selection at – of all places – Safeway!

While not all these Okazu, a.k.a. Souzai (side dishes) may have been designed to be eaten by itself with rice, that’s simply how I’m serving and presenting it in this series, as I’m just going over each one’s taste. Not how to use it, which I’m in no way an expert at. I do however consider myself pretty darned good by now in explaining how things taste, which is all we’re doing here.

Hopefully this will also bring an awareness to you “Gaijin” folks, who may not be familiar with how incredibly DELICIOUS these complex pickled Japanese side dishes really are. Not to mention, aside of its high salt content – it’s pickled – very healthy for you. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THE STUFF!

So here we are continuing on in Round Two (see Round One here) with not four, not six, but EIGHT new Souzai varieties to explore, imported from Japan under the Don Quijote Label.

First up we have Katsuo Daizu…

Open it up…

Since Don Quijote doesn’t include ingredients or nutritional facts on their imported Souzai, I’ll have to depend on “GooglePedia” for the info’, where as it turns out, this is essentially soybeans that are simmered in Katsuoboshi (bonito) along with Hijiki seaweed (the black stuff) and chunks of salt-preserved tuna.

Hai, itadakimasu! Let’s try it..

Dude. DUDE! This stuff is TOTALLY AWESOME! It’s like taking the flavor of konbu, tuna and bonito and concentrating it x 1000, along with a slightly sweet twist. Kinda’ like a konbu/bonito-based teriyaki thing goin’ on. Then you add the starchy, slightly nutty legumeness element from the soybeans for a complete savory and robust experience on the palate. In fact so oishii, I ended up whacking that whole tray of Katsuo Daizu in one sitting after taking the first bite. It’s that addicting!

Katsuo Daizu

(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)

Next up, Hari Hari Yama Kurage…

Open it up…

If you’re wondering what the heck this is, it’s pickled Jellyfish, mixed with Konbu, ferns and chili peppers.

Let’s try it…

It has a quite spicy-hot, very pronounced strong ginger flavor, almost having you think the Jellyfish is actually slivers of julliened Ginger. It’s also somewhat crunchy in a Takuwan kinda’ way. In fact, that’s what it sort of reminds me of in flavor profile, except not as pungent as that.

Eaten plain by itself or with rice, it’s not that satisfying or “complete”, but I can see if you were to have this as a side dish along with a more hearty entree (which is really what I think this is meant for anyway), it would be great.

Hari Hari Yama Kurage

(2) Good. I’m glad I tried it. (Ono)

Next up we have the Sansai Mix…

Open it up…

Let’s try it…

Everything being “dragged through the garden” in a “Woodsy”, meaty kind of way is the best way I can describe it. Medium salty, while not being acidic or sweet at all. As it appears, it’s also full of textural character. Overall, it’s absolutely DELICIOUS, especially when mixed with rice.

Next to the Katsuo Daizu and Nameko from round one, the Sansai Mix is definitely up there as my favorite yet of all the souzai I’ve so far tried.

Sansai Mix

(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)

Next up, Konasu Kasrahi Zuke…

Open it up…

Let’s try it…

OK, now this is just flat-out WEIRD TASTING. Imagine the taste of Namasu, which are pickled cucumbers, except in this case it’s zake zasu-pickled eggplant and coating it heavily with the weirdest-tasting mustard you’ve ever had. Like, imagine the taste of French’s brand yellow hot dog mustard and adding a heap-load of onion powder to, and that’s kinda’ what the mustard on this tastes like. I don’t know. Perhaps this might actually taste good in a hot dog, but eaten straight up with just rice, so NOT GOOD.

Konasu Kasrahi Zuke

(to the minus degree)

Next up, Sanma Tsukudani…

Open it up…

Let’s try it…

The sauce tastes the same as the Iwashi Tsukudani from round one, having a very deep Katsuobushi and shoyu type flavor with a decent amount of sweet going on. The sauce is also quite thick. The sauce flavor reminds me of the same type used for Unagi Eel, although Sanma is in fact a long, skinny fish also known as Mackerel Pike. There’s also a hint of char-grilled flavor going on underneath all that sauce. Texture-wise, the fish meat is quite-dried out and jerky-like, just like the Iwashi Tsukudani, however there’s much more meat-to-bones in this larger cut of fish fillet. Once you get over the initial fishy taste, it actually becomes very addicting, like a really good piece of fish jerky. Oishii! Just make sure you brush your teeth after eating this, as that fishy factor is very strong.

Sanma Tsukudani

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Next up we have Nozawana Konbu…

Open it up…

Let’s try it…

Dude, this is another WINNER! Nom nom nom nom! Nozawana are turnip stems and leaves that are salted quite heavily and mixed with konbu (seaweed), where the konbu again gives it an earthy, almost meaty dimension. It tastes very “pickled”, albeit with just a slight hint of acidity and sweetness going on. It’s mostly robust in a “green” way. Being that it’s turnip stems and leaves, there’s also a slight takuwan flavor profile going on. Very slight though.

Nozawana Konbu

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Next up, Iso Wakame…

Open it up…

Let’s try it…

Tastes like salty seaweed. That’s about it. But in a good way! It’s also kinda’ nutty tasting, although I can’t tell what that’s from. It kinda’ reminds me of Taegu (Korean seasoned Codfish) in a more seaweed-ish, “greener” way. While not fulfilling in and of itself, I can totally see this complimenting a heavy entree, like say Tonkatsu.

Iso Wakame

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)

Rounding up today’s Souzai Fest Round Two, we have Sanshoku Mame…

Open it up…

Let’s try it…

I’m pretty sure “Sanshoku Mame” translates something to the sense of “Three types of beans”, as is the case here, where it’s a trio of beans including Edamame (green), Azuke (brown) and I don’t know what the third one is (Lupini?), which is the larger white-colored bean. Overall, it’s very sweet, where I could totally see this tasting AWESOME on some Vanilla Ice Cream. In fact, I’ll try that later and blog it when I do so. With rice, it’s kinda’ weird. I don’t know, sweet things and rice don’t work for me. However, this might also work with Tonkatsu, with that whole savory-sweet thing goin’ on. As it stands, I give it a 2. With ice cream or shave ice it might be a 5, but we’ll have to wait and see on that.

Sanshoku Mame

(2) Good. I’m glad I tried it. (Ono)

Oh, the rice featured in this round is the same as last, being the premium brown-meets-white Gen Ji Mai brand…

And there you have it. I’ve now tried and shared with you 12 of the 20 varieties Don Quijiote carries (more or less around there). I’ll complete the remainder of whatever they carry in my next round, then I’m off to feature the local Souzai/Tsukemono/Banchan selections Don Quijote carries. Then we’ll move on to what Nijiya Market and Shirokiya carries, finishing it off with the king of all that is Japanese food grocery stores here on Oahu over at Marukai.

I will say this much, trying all these exciting Japanese delicacies is really opening up my window of possibilities in the meals I serve, especially with my new vegetarian-oriented lifestyle. For the most part, they’re all absolutely OISHII!!! Next time you’re in Don Quijote, I highly recommend you pick up some of the ones I gave high ratings to. Winner!

If you haven’t read it already, don’t miss Okazu Fest Round One here.

P.S. Especially after that really fishy Sanma Tsukudani, I needed something refreshingly sweet ‘n juicy for “dessert”, so went with some summer-fresh watermelon…

Hit da’ spot!

I’m not going to give a weigh-in on this entry, as I haven’t gone up or down from my last weigh-in, still at 187.5 lbs.. If I can get down to 185 by this Sunday, I’ll be happy with that. We’ll see.

Speaking weight loss, since beginning this Journey over 2 months ago, I’ve probably consumed enough green tea to fill a swimming pool, drinking mostly brands where the tea is harvested and processed in Japan. In fact, if you go to a Japanese grocery store such as the ones I mention, you’ll find an entire aisle dedicated to Tea, just as you find Coffee varieties and brands in any western supermarket.

As it turned out, while I was grabbing a cup of coffee for the road (I don’t drink coffee that often unless I’m really tired) at the local Seven Eleven (yeah, we’re going boutique gourmet now! lol), they had this Hawaiian Islands Tea Company “pure” organic Green Tea in the bin with all the coffee condiments. So I grabbed one to try it out. Let’s give it a shot…

Certainly not as green in color as the Ito En/Kirkland Japanese Green Tea I got from Costco. Mainly I think because this doesn’t have the Matcha (ground green tea leaves) powder in it.

As advertised, it’s certainly more “fruity” than Japanese Green Tea with Matcha and/or Genmaicha (roasted brown rice) in it. I don’t know though. Not my style. If you like Chamomile Tea, you’ll like this. I much prefer the nutty flavor profile of Genmaicha Green Tea, which I also find to be much more fragrant than this tea.

11 thoughts on “Okazu Fest Round Two

  • July 9, 2012 at 7:15 pm
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    Great post! One of my long gone faves was the yatsumi-zuke from Tropics (made by a retired long-time employee who probably passed on long before Tropics folded). Mostly head cabbage with some mustard cabbage, shoyu, vinegar, chili pepper and a touch of fish sauce (flavoring) piled over steaming rice and a raw egg, it made the perfect tamago meshi! And I still love that pink pickled garlic!

    Reply
    • July 9, 2012 at 8:01 pm
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      Tropic Fish & Vegetable still operates a wholesale distribution business out of a warehouse behind Ward Farmers Market. They’re a regular vendor at the KCC Farmers Market, where I buy some of my produce and dry fish from on a weekly basis. Really good prices! There you can also find some of their own branded tsukemono products, however I don’t remember seeing Yatsumi-zuke, but then again, I wasn’t looking for it. I’ll check next time.

      Tropics was one of favorite stores when then they were around. I was really bummed when it closed. Now the whole Ward Farmers Market is occupied by Marukai and its sister “Dollar” store. However, Tropics still operates its restaurant next door on the Diamond Head end.

      My favorite local brand Takuwan is the one from Maui in the glass jar. It has the perfect balance of sweet and spicy hot. I usually have a jar of the stuff in my fridge.

      I’d love to try the Yatsumi-zuke on hot rice with raw egg you mentioned. Sounds oishii!!!

      Reply
  • July 9, 2012 at 8:23 pm
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    Oh yum. Having home made Sanbai Zuki with my roast pork, rice, and shitake and onion gravy tonight.

    Reply
    • July 11, 2012 at 6:07 am
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      Shiitake or any mushroom are now my go-to substitute “meat”. Always been a “shroom” fan. Take a grilled Portobello and drown that bad boy in onion gravy, it’s as good as Hamburger Steak.

      Reply
  • July 10, 2012 at 11:44 am
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    Wow. Have other items ever received a negative musubi rating? I am picturing the musubi icon as clear or black or something.

    Reply
    • July 11, 2012 at 5:44 am
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      Nope. Only the Konasu Kasrahi Zuke. That mustard’s flavor was just plain WEIRD. I’m still curious how it’d taste in a Hot Dog though (or even better, a “Tonkrazy Dog“!). Oh, but that’s right, I don’t that kinda’ stuff anymore.

      Reply
  • July 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm
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    I look forward to these okaza fest posts! I’m new to the island and want to eat EVERYTHING, so reading your descriptions of food lets me narrow down my search, lol.

    Keep posting!

    Reply
    • July 11, 2012 at 5:30 am
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      Being new to the island (or any locale you move to), you NEED to head on over to your nearest Farmers Market. Of course if you’re in or near Honolulu, and have free time on Saturday morning, I’d highly, HIGHLY recommend KCC Farmers Market. ;-)

      Reply
      • July 11, 2012 at 11:20 am
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        Will do! Thanks, Pomai :)

        Reply
  • July 11, 2012 at 12:44 am
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    Pomai, now you okazu are you going try learn to make some? Takuwa one is easy and some other vegetable types too.

    Reply
    • July 11, 2012 at 5:57 am
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      Nah, too much hassle. The store-bought stuff is just fine with me. Mighty fine.

      Reply

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