Dalila Roglieri

At the supermarket in Japan

12/06/2017

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This month we enter into a Japanese supermarket with Dalila Roglieri, our nutritionist and traveler. This year the Yakult Wellness Magazine will describe the travelling experience in the original Japan and various off the beaten track places.

As a nutritionist and traveler, one thing I really love to do in new places is to learn something new about the local cultures by visiting local markets and supermarkets. Once arrived at Hakodate, after a bit of relaxation in a beautiful botanical garden I decide to enter into a supermarket situated across the street.
As I head towards the food department, I feel comfortable with the sheer height of the shelves that imply the minute stature of Japanese customers.

 

When I arrive at the department, I immediately come across the "Sushi & Sashimi Shop", which occupies a vast area with its wide and varied product range. Japanese delicacies - once consumed only on special occasions - are today part of the meals, especially among young people. I look curiously at various Nigiri, Maki and Sashimi, which are based on traditional ingredients such as rice, seaweed, wasabi, soy sauce and fresh, raw or cooked fish fillets.

 

The preparation of sushi rice is fundamental to the quality of the final product. The variety used is Japonica, also known as “sticky rice”: the starch of this rice is rich in amylopectin, which when cooked is sufficiently sticky to allow the sushi pieces to maintain a compact form.

 

The term "sushi" in Japanese means "sour": rice is flavored with rice vinegar: acidity of vinegar has the advantage of reducing the glycemic index of rice and promoting a slower release of energy. Japanese wasabi - or Japanese radish - belongs to the family of cruciferous plants, just like our radish or arugula that can be identified by their taste. From this Japanese vegetable you get the famous green sauce characterized by a strong and spicy flavor. Ancient tradition attributes antibacterial properties to the vegetable. These properties are now linked to particular molecules that make up the so- called isocyanates. In Maki they are spatially sprayed between rice and raw fish to inhibit the growth of bacteria without altering the flavor too much.


Nori alga with its savory taste completes the entire dish. It is an interesting source of mineral salts. I always remain fascinated by the ancient culinary tradition. The careful combination of ingredients gives these small tasty rice balls the ability to nourish generations.

 

There it is !Not far from here I can see a large "Tempura" counter: Eastern oriental food based on fish or vegetables covered with crispy fried pasta. A young man collects in the paper cone a generous portion of mixed fry and tastes a shrimp before he weighs the purchase: it does not withstand the captivating perfume of his warm tempura.


Far from this section, there is the meat station which is dominated by the precious Wagyu obtained from a few selected breeds of beef, peculiar to this country and bred according to specific canons. It is meat rich in thin layers of fat well visible inside the muscle. It instantly reminds me of the precious Carrara marble. I hope that the flavor and consistency justify a very high price of the product.

 

Finally, I head towards the colorful freshness of the fruit and vegetable department. I am surprised by the enormous central refrigerator counter, which is dedicated exclusively to fermented vegetables - mostly in brine – known by the name Tsukemono.


Fermentation has played an important role in Japan since ancient times, when it was used to preserve food for a long time. Today, fermented foods are at the heart of the Japanese diet. It is no coincidence, therefore, that this country has seen important developments in scientific research in the field - such as those obtained by Dr. Minoru Shirota  who has investigated possible benefits of fermented foods for the organism.


The fermented vegetable department is a rainbow of colors: daikons, cucumbers, aubergines, red strawberries, carrots, onions and everything that nature has to offer.

 

On the way out I am pleased to come across a bit of Italy in Japan. Even if in small quantities, seeing pasta and premium Italian products in the supermarket alleys in the Far East fills my heart with pride and joy.

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