Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ebisuya Grocery Store: A Little Slice of Japan in Medford

Ebisuya: My favorite Japanese grocery store
I completely understand that there is some intimidation in stepping foot into an internationally-focused grocery store, you know, one of those places where all the labels are in another alphabet, there are heads on the poultry, and you don't recognize any of the vegetables. But there are any number of great reasons why you've found yourself there. You may need an ingredient that you can't get at the local Stop and Shop, or you're just bored and need to feel bewildered for a while, or maybe you're finally taking the plunge because you've always wanted to see what all the fuss is about. With Ebisuya in Medford, MA, you're certainly in for a treat. This Japanese-specific grocery store certainly has some of the intimidation factor that I describe above, but the super friendly staff and family-friendly atmosphere, not to mention superb products, make it a complete delight. For someone like me, who is constantly searching for ingredients for some of the Japanese recipes that my mom made growing up and is always looking forward to her next trip to Japan (usually years in the future), Ebisuya fills a deep, dark void. I can get anything I need, and my budget goes out the window, as I prowl the snack aisle like a jungle cat.
So, I'm here today to give you a little tour, point out some of what they have, and why you should take a little trip to Medford. 

Let's start out with some of the non-food items. If you're seeking Japanese cookware, chop sticks, or bentos, you'll all find them here in all sorts of shapes and colors.
Bowls, dishes, teapots, sake bottles
Kitchen tools, and cooking utensils
Depressed at not being able to get access to Japanese TV in this area? Ebisuya has you covered with a large selection of cheap DVDs, featuring the latest news specials, dramas, travel programs and the wonderfully weird Japanese variety shows.
Japanese DVDs
A little display right out front usually has a vast array of specials, including sweets, toys, holiday and bakery items straight from Japan.
Hodgepodge of great specials
A frozen section out front contains all sorts of sweets, from mochi ice cream, to sponge cakes, to dango (sweet sticky grilled mochi with a soy/sugar sauce on a stick - so hard to get in New England), to warabimochi (one of my favorite desserts, with slippery, chewy mochi covered with a kind of earthy, beige-colored sweet powder).
Mochi ice creams

Other varieties of Japanese sweets, including dango and
Freezer full of treats like warabimochi,
and other baked goods that are common
even in little convenience stores in Japan
Further into the aisles, you'll encounter great toppings for rice, including my favorite, furikake. Furikake usually comes in a little cylinder or packet, and has a bunch of dry ingredients, from egg to nori to dried bonito. If you see the bonito flavor in the clear glass bottle, grab it. It's awesome.
Rice toppings
In the world of Japanese cooking, there are so many essential sauces. Soy sauce, or shoyu, is the king of these sauces, and if you can't find the variety of soy you're looking for at Ebisuya, either get on a plane to Japan or stop looking. The grocery store also stocks other Asian sauces, like Sriracha and curry sauces.
More sauces... all those at the end are soy sauce.
There are also different cooking wines, vinegars, and mirin.
Soy-based sauces, vinegars, cooking wines, other sauces
Canned fishes or mochi flour? Once again, they are present and accounted for.
Canned seafood and mochi flour
Boxes and boxes of the gravy-like Japanese "ka-re" or curry? You will find them all here. And while the Bigger Half thinks they're weird, I think they're delicious. And an easy dinner.
Japanese Curry
In addition to the expected aisle of instant ramen (of which Ebisuya has a great variety of the good stuff), they also carry some of the finest noodles around. You can get fantastic bunches of udon, somen, and soba here... the kind that makes a memorable dish of cold noodles on hot summer days.
Oodles of noodles!
At the back of the store, there is a refrigerated section with pickles, umeboshi (sour pickled plums that make you make the silliest pucker faces ever - I love them), kimchi, and various iced teas, iced coffees, and vitamin beverages.
Juices, ice teas and coffee on the left,
eggs and umeboshi in the middle, pickles
on the right
Look upon those pretty umeboshi varieties!
The freezer cases have everything from fish cakes to gyoza skins, frozen gyoza, frozen noodles, shumai, and even takoyaki.
Freezer section with noodles, gyoza, takoyaki,
other essentials
Turn the corner and the freezer section continues, with a wall of that one thing that every Westerner seems to absolutely despise: natto. I have told you before that I really love these slippery fermented beans. They're wonderful on top of rice, are earthy and savory, and have a great mouth feel. The Bigger Half says they smell like feet. Therefore I usually stare longingly at the huge variety of natto for a few minutes before resigning myself to spend my budget on other items.
That's a lot of natto
The rice section! Rice is the big show in terms of Japanese meal time. Dinner feels complete without rice, although noodles can serve as the occasional substitute. But basically, you're eating rice several times per week, and I have to tell you that I drill through massive quantities of the stuff. Someone was telling me the other day about the Paleo diet. They mentioned that you can't eat rice. I think that's bananas. All of Asia basically just shed a tear and turned away. Anyway, you'll find wonderful rice, brown and white, imported from Japan, or special varieties out of California. To give you a hint of what is a great one to buy, I usually go for the Tamaki Gold brand with the green label (third from the left in the picture). But any of these are great.
Rice is so nice.

And let's end our little tour with some of the more interesting aisles to peruse, and some of the most deadly in terms of temptation. The snacks!
All sorts of hard candies and tea flavored goodies
A wall of rice crackers and senbei
And finally! A wall of Pocky and Pretz. We're
set for the choco apocalypse
So that's our little tour of Ebisuya. Of course, there were some things that I didn't snap pictures of. They do have a little produce counter of cabbages, myoga, ginger, daikon, and burdock root, which is nice. Also, if you bang a left as soon as you enter the store, you'll see the fantastic sushi counter, and a whole bunch of packaged sushi grade fish that you can purchase. They also have bentos and onigiri (rice balls) for sale. But if I spent two days snapping every inch of the store, it wouldn't really matter, because there are always improvements to be had, new products arriving, and specialty holiday items coming in. 
I hope you feel either more comfortable to take a trip to Ebisuya, or perhaps you had never heard of the place, and now I've whet your appetite a little bit. Or maybe you've at some point in life made your home in Japan, and are feeling a touch reminiscent or even as bad as home sick, and need a little dip back into what you remember. This little grocery store is ready and willing to bring a smile to you, whatever the reason. I am so glad that they have made their home in Medford.

65 Riverside Ave,
Medford MA

No comments:

Post a Comment