Food stop 2 – Hasshoku Center

Succulent babies aren’t they?

These are what I had at Hasshoku Center, Hachinohe on our second food stop for the day.

This nondescript building in Hachinohe, Aomori is the cleanest wet market I’ve seen anywhere. But then again, this IS Japan. Hasshoku Center, like markets anywhere, houses dried food stuff, sundries, vegetables, flowers and fresh seafood. Restaurants and food stalls ensure that shoppers are well-fed. That alone marks Hasshoku Center with a big star in my book.

This is where I had a taste of otoro sold at a fresh seafood stall:

This was originally priced at 1500yen but the lady gave it to me for 750yen. Was it because I was a journo? Was it because it was late afternoon and she’d rather clear stock? Who cares?

Check out the thick veins of white running through the pale pink.

The grilled oysters came from this guy (below):

Each shell is actually 250yen but he gave me two for the price of one because he explained that one shell was actually on the smaller side. Isn’t he sweet?

The other journos ordered grilled squid, grilled scallops and we all sat there munching, sharing some with the tourism officials who came with us. Great break from all that sight-seeing. Okay, hate me already?

I didn’t just eat you know. I also found these pretty trays of eggplant. Who knew eggplant came in pink? And look at the uni!

I could just eat the uni out of its thorny shell with a tiny ice-cream spoon!And look at the price! In Singapore, that sliver of orange flesh is pricey expensive stuff. Hasshoku Center’s seafood and prices made me want to just decamp from Singapore and live in Hachinohe.

This humble bakery may churn out simple bread staples which from the looks of it, are priced higher than their Singaporean counterparts. But then, only in Japan is a certain famous cat represented even in bread! For 120yen a piece, seems reasonable to take a bite out of Kitty.

Kitty-chan, you look just too cute to eat!

My best buy at Hasshoku Center though, was not the oysters, nor the otoro – lovely though those were.

My best buy came from the ubiquitous drinks vending machine.

Since that starry night in Ogimachi, Shirakawago in April this year where I first tasted and fell in love with bottled commercial yuzu, I diligently checked every vending machine I came across – from the highlands of the central alps to the southern kansai coast, to deep in the hills of Kumano and back to Osaka – only to come up disappointed each time. I left Japan in April not knowing if I would ever see my beloved bottle of yuzu again.

And then, here, in the most unexpected place, so far north, I found it.

My fellow journos had known of my quest since I was always busy checking out every vending machine on the trip. So when some of us paused outside Hasshoku Center to get a drink before boarding the bus, one of them casually said: “Hey you’re looking for yuzu, check this one out.”

And there it was! Throw in the slow-mo, glittery lights, lasers and dramatic score! I found it! I could have hugged the machine. Imagine searching in so many places and finding it here. What are the odds? Both times I found it in unlikely places – the first in a gassho zukuri village in Central Japan and now all the way up north, near the very end of Honshu, in Hachinohe!

I bought four bottles. I should have bought more but then I had noble intentions of actually carting them all home to share with the kids and with KH. As the trip wore on, it became clear that I had grossly underestimated my sense of restraint. In my fridge now, only one bottle remains. Precious bottle, I will not drink this until I find the right occasion.

But back in Hasshoku Center, who was I kidding? Since I belong to the generation of instant gratification, I finished one bottle on the spot. The cool sweet liquid flowed down in a deeply satisfying stream. Felt sooo good. Ranks up there with the first bites of otoro, uni, and wagyu as a real moan-inducing moment. Okay, too much information. Still, undeniably one of those moments when I could just close my eyes and swig deeply from the bottle, chugging it down with joy. It wasn’t only because of the taste but the fact that I had found it again after searching so long and far.

By the way, the sister bottle of ume next to it? Tastes like cough medicine. We tried it in Ogimachi and hated it – bleah!

Yuzu for the win!

anything that lives under the sea, good bet you'd find it here.

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