Roasted chestnuts are a popular Japanese snack, especially in wintertime. The warm, starchy meat within is hearty and filling.
Most pickles are made by placing vegetables in a mixture of vinegar, salt, sugar, and water. These cucumbers, however, are pickled in rice bran (nuka).
Eggplant, daikon radish, cabbage, and cucumber are most commonly pickled in this manner; the process makes them crisp with a tangy, salty, at times sour taste. In northern Japan, fish nukazuke are also available.
Pickled Salmon and Mackerel
Pickled fish abound at Nishiki, and two of the most popular varieties are salmon and saba (mackerel). When pickled, the fish retain their moisture and gain a hint of sourness. We spotted more than a few visitors snacking on them as they wandered the market.
Dried shrimp are a popular a snack food in Japan, filling a niche similar to potato chips in the US. They're crunchy, salty, and powerfully fishy—what some might consider an acquired taste.
Unagi and Tamago
It's easy to fill up on samples and small bites as you peruse the market; two of the most popular are pictured here. The unagi (eel), is cooked and then coated in kabayaki sauce: a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. The combination of the eel and sauce makes for a delicious umami flavor.
The tamago, pictured right, is a Japanese omelet made by rolling together layers of egg combined with rice vinegar, and sometimes sugar and soy sauce. It's commonly served as sushi, though it's also consumed as a breakfast food.
Eggplant in Miso
Miso eggplant is a pretty popular dish in the US these days. Usually, the eggplant is cooked and coated in a miso mixture with sugar, mirin, and sometimes sake and ginger. At Nishiki, however, the uncooked eggplant marinates in a miso paste, gradually absorbing its flavors.
It goes without saying that the Japanese consume a whole lot of fish. It's their primary source of protein, and the sheer variety of species they eat is staggering. Almost all fresh seafood stores will have fish locally caught that same morning.
Aritsugu Knife Shop
The Aritsugu knife shop collection. Eighteen generations of the Aritsugu family have managed the store since it opened in 1560. Originally, they made swords for the ruling Shoguns before switching over to cooking knives. Their carbon steel blades are notoriously sharp.
Inscribing Names onto Knives
After buying a knife, the fine folks at Aritsugu will inscribe your name onto your new blade using a chisel.
Japanese pickles are ubiquitous throughout the country. They're often eaten during meals as palate cleansers, but it's common to snack on them, as well. Daikon, cucumber, eggplant, carrot, cabbage, water lily root, ginger, shallots, and plums are the most common vegetable tsukemono.
Sake, made of fermented rice, is easily Japan's most iconic alcoholic beverage. While many purveyors sell mass-produced brands of the drink, a fair number brew their own. This shop in Nishiki sold only the sake it produced. (They also gave out free samples!)
Though the Japanese do indeed eat raw oysters, many prefer these bivalves fried. kaki furai, or fried oysters, are a widespread appetizer and are also served with okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake.
It's said that more tea is consumed than water in Japan, so it's no wonder that they have hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties of tea. This contraption is used to roast tea—roasted green tea has a smokier, heartier flavor than the regular version.
Assorted Fish Balls and Vegetable Pancakes
Boldly flavorful and pleasantly salty, these fried fish balls and veggie pancakes are addictively satisfying cheap eats.
If you couldn't tell by now, the Japanese enjoy serving food on sticks. These grilled squid are glazed with soy and, though on the chewy side, are quite popular.
Eel spines are yet another beloved snack food. They're slightly salty and very crunchy.
Black Sesame and Sesame Balls
A sweet, nutty dessert. The sesame and other ingredients are rolled into spheres that aren't too dense but have some definite body.