Bingeing in Tsukiji
Chit U. Juan (The Philippine Star) - October 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — I could eat here every single day. Tsukiji Fish market is more than just fish now. The food stalls have expanded to include Japan favorites like wagyu beef and even the Japanese way of making omelets.

With deep sea fish being scarce now and fat crabs and lobsters hard to come by, a stop at Tsukiji market on a visit to Tokyo is a must. Here you will find even Alaskan king crabs, snow crabs, lobsters and the different cuts of tuna, flounder and mackerel, among others.

Yes, it is indulgent – but one should have a little indulgence once in a long while. Just to make a mental memory of the flavors of the sea. The oysters were sweet and salty, the scallops divine. And the recent trend of “torching” seafood has made many non-fish eaters change their minds about fish.

A friend who is not a fish eater had three days of torched tuna belly called “o-toro,” while the others feasted on sea urchin or uni and unagi or eel. Omega 3 and 6 abounds in these catch of the day, all fresh from the sea.

Day One. You can start with the tuna cuts over rice, as I had Chu-toro and O-toro. You can ask for sushi rice (seasoned with some rice wine I think) or steamed rice. Sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds and strips of dried nori or seaweed, the rice alone is good enough to eat on its own. Finish it off with a cup of cold tea (gratis) and you’re on your way to other market delights. There are cups of plump green seedless grapes or the purplish kyoho grapes. The fruits can be your palate cleanser or alis umay in the vernacular.

Day Two. You can have another version of the rice bowl, maybe this time topped with slices of salmon sashimi, ikura or salmon fish roe and negitoro (minced tuna belly). Order a grilled half mackerel (saba) and slices of tamago or egg made into a sweetish cold omelet served with or without rice. Sprinkle everything with the Japanese mixed spice called tongarashi. This time order a ginger ale to cleanse the palate.

Stop by the smallest roastery and cafe stand called Mejicafe. I had an Ethiopian Sidamo over ice – freshly ground and  hand dripped slowly and then poured over lots of ice. That served as my alis umay drink while having my sushi.

Day Three. Make it sashimi this time. Slices of two kinds of toro – Chu toro and O-toro and grilled eel. Order a bowl of rice for only 200 yen. Stop by the crab and lobster grill and order a serving of Alaskan king crab legs just torched a little. While at that stand, taste a serving of oysters. And a scallop topped with uni. I had only the grilled scallop, as the uni is very rich.

Should you come on a Sunday though, the café is closed as well as some stalls serving what looked like a beef stew, which I said I would try the next day. To my surprise the beef place was also closed on Sundays. It still is a bit crowded on a Sunday so it’s best to start early and yes, have a different type of Japanese breakfast.

Ah Tsukiji – you never disappoint. The choices are many and the food is ever fresh. And for a real market it is very clean and quite orderly. Leave it to the Japanese to be forever cleaning their place. Whether in their home or business, the culture of clean is something they can really be proud of.

And this must be good, clean and fair food. Or Slow Fish. The wagyu beef also comes with its guarantees of origin or traceability. My friends topped the wagyu with uni; I passed on. I could not eat so much beef overladen with rich sea urchin. But it’s a good treat for some.

Next time you’re in Tokyo, make a trip to this market for good, clean and fair food. I know the prices are fair as I would not be able to buy them in Manila for the same fair deal. That’s fair enough.

Tsukiji is open everyday, though some stalls are closed on Sundays.

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