Back in April, Mitsuwa Marketplace — a Japanese supermarket and food court — opened on Legacy in Plano, much to the delight of North Texas lovers of Japanese food.
Take a spin through its aisles, and temptations are everywhere; that is, if you know what you're looking at. What are those tiny golden mushrooms and greens suspended in clear liquid in a plastic pouch? Why that's sansai — Japanese mountain vegetables. They make a delightful garnish for a bowl of soba or udon. Those beautifully packaged pale pink pastries? White peach and sweet white bean cakes, topped with salted cherry blossoms.
I filled a small shopping cart with delicious-looking treats, took them home and tasted all. From an ahi poke bowl to fresh ramen from a famous New York ramen shop to mochi wrapped in an oak leaf, here's what I found. (Note: Click through the slides if you'd like to see how the foods were packaged.)
Pickled sardines, $5.99
In the case adjacent to the fresh seafood counter, with its gorgeous premium fish, I found these delicious pickled sardines, dressed with red pepper, shredded carrot and some kind of roe — tiny eggs with great pop. Herring roe perhaps? (The full ingredients list was in Japanese.) $5.99 for about 6.5 ounces.
Ahi poke, $3.85
Just as you enter the supermarket part of Mitsuwa there's a refrigerated case of sushi. That's where I found this ahi poke. When I brought it home and tasted it, I had a sort of "eureka" moment: This tasted like the poke I first tasted decades ago in Hawaii. Diced tuna, wakame and tosaka seaweeds, and sesame seeds were lightly dressed in shoyu and sesame oil with a touch of sugar. It seemed as though it also had bean threads in it, though bean threads weren’t listed in the ingredients. $3.85 for 4.4 ounces.
Ippudo aka-miso ramen with sansai, $5.29
I was excited to find packages of fresh ramen noodles from Ippudo — the famous ramen shop in New York and Japan. At $6.59 per package of two servings (including aka-miso soup base), it's much more expense that typical dried ramen, but wow — I loved its springy texture, and it was just as easy to make. I dressed it up with half a package of sansai — Japanese mountain vegetables — I found on a refrigerator shelf, near the Japanese pickles. The sansai, already cooked, were sold suspended in water in a sealed plastic bag. It reminded me of how pet shops used to sell goldfish. Ippudo aka-miso ramen $6.59 for two servings; kinoko sansai $3.99 for two or three servings.
Shrimp shumai, $3.99
All I had to do to these shrimp shumai dumplings, which I also found in the sushi case, was pop them in the microwave. Plump and tender, each starring a nicely cooked whole shrimp, they were so tasty they didn't need any of the soy sauce that came with them. I might not have bought them if I had first read the ingredients, which included surimi (imitation crab) and a slew of chemicals. $3.99 for 5 dumplings.
Shibazuke – pickled eggplant and cucumber with shiso, $6.99
I love tsukemono, Japanese pickles (also known as oshinko), and the purply, squeaky-crunchy, intensely bright-flavored pickle made from Japanese eggplant, cucumber and shiso is one of my favorites. These hit the spot. $6.99 for about 5 ounces.
Seaweed salad, $4.09
Sold in the same seafood case where I found the sardines, this seaweed salad is the same type you find in many Japanese restaurants and Chinese dim sum parlors. $4.09 for about 5 ounces.
Mochis and other sweets from J Sweets, $3.50 to $4.50 apiece
Between the food court (where you find Santouka, the ramen place I'm excited to try) and the entrance to the supermarket is J Sweets, a boutique bakery displaying beautiful mochi and other pastries in and atop its cases. I chose five, and they were all pretty terrific. Mochi, if you're not familiar with it, is glutinous rice cake. Click through the slide show for full descriptions, prices and photos of each, inside its package and then unwrapped.
If it hadn't been about a thousand degrees outside, I would have picked up some mochi ice cream from J Sweets, as well. Next time!