Coming to Tokyo, I did expect for the availability of the ingredients to be different compared to Malaysia, but some things are simply above expectations.
For example, some seafood are so fresh here and quite affordable (unless you want eel, which is of course available here but at about ¥1500 or around RM60). Crab meat could be bought at about ¥200 which is around RM8. The same could be said about avocado. And my most favourite of all, the spring onion which is fresh and lasts quite long here, maybe because of the weather.
However, some ingredients that I am so used to having in Malaysia are either not available or available at a high price. So far I have not been able to find thyme and shallots, the latter being an ingredient that is pretty staple to Malay cooking but luckily I don’t really cook Malay food so I don’t really feel the difference. I did, however, feel sad about not being able to find vermicelli when we were longing for our mother’s bihun goreng (fried noodles).
But nothing was as surprising as finding one medium-sized garlic bulb priced at about ¥200 (around RM8)! In Malaysia, a number of small garlic bulbs would cost you only about RM4. For someone who uses garlic a lot because I love Italian and Chinese food, I was rather devastated. Luckily we could find an alternative in the form of garlic seasoning and some time afterwards, I did find some garlic sold at about ¥160 for three small bulbs.
Some of my favourite Japanese ingredients that we always need to have now are Kewpie mayonnaise which makes almost everything tastes good when your cooking did not turn out as good as you hoped, and furikake (mixed seasonings for sprinkling on the rice) which makes your rice tasty if you have accidentally finished your meat or vegetables that were meant to be eaten with your rice.
In Japan, especially Tokyo, prices are high. The fruits sold here are often unbelievably expensive. However, we did manage to find this particular grocery that sells fruits at affordable prices (if you stay away from mango, that is). We found it only because it is situated near halal grocery stores that we frequent to get our halal meat. The halal stores and the grocer are located just a walk away from Shin-Okubo station. One of the halal stores also sells halal kebab, which was delicious, in our humble opinion.
All in all, I love grocery shopping, be it here or in Malaysia, but being here, I also cook so that makes it more fun, although a little tedious when calculating expenses. When talking to my mother about my cooking journey, she is often impressed because I like to try many different types of easy cooking. But one day she asked me why I seldom attempted Japanese cooking and it just occurred to me that she was right! Because my way of cooking is more of finding the easiest recipe to make of the available ingredients, the type of cuisine hardly ever comes across my mind. Now that I think about it, she was right. So as soon as I get my own place, daikon, bonito flakes, wasabi, miso and Japanese leek, I’m gonna come and getcha!