New York food shopping fun: Japanese groceries

[Update:] See this more up-to-date and comprehensive listing of Japanese groceries and other related stores in the New York area, with addresses, hours and phone numbers.

sunrise_mart.jpg

Whenever I go to New York I stock up on as much Japanese groceries as I can manage. Prices there are cheaper and the selection much bigger than at the tiny Japanese grocery in Zürich, Nishi's Japan Shop. Here's a biased overview of the Japanese grocery stores and other places to get Japanese foodstuffs in the New York City area that I have been to. (See this page for addresses.)

Mitsuwa

If you can spare the time, it is well worth making the trek across the Hudson to Mitsuwa, formerly Yaohan, the big Japanese supermarket in Edgewater, New Jersey. (It was built here because Fort Lee used to be a favorite location for Japanese business men on temporary assignment to live with their families.) It has the biggest selection by far, especially of staple items like rice, soy sauce, and sesame oil. The mini-restaurant row in the back of the store, complete with plastic versions of the dishes on offer, is quite entertaining if you've never been to Japan. It's much more convenient with a car, but there is a shuttle bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Most of the major signage for specials and such is in Japanese only, but individual items are usually labeled in English. The book/stationery store in the adjacent mini-mall is nice too.

Manhattan Japanese grocery stores

The selection at all of the Manhattan Japanese grocery stores is pretty much the same. Of these, I like JAS Mart a bit more than Katagiri for overall quality and friendliness. However, Katagiri may have the edge on raw sashimi-quality fish and the like. It's also the priciest.

The very popular Sunrise Mart is my least favorite Japanese grocery mini-chain. They over refrigerate all of their readymade obento and other meals to the point of making them hard and inedible; if you make the mistake of buying their onigiri, be sure you have access to a microwave oven, though that won't really make the badly cooked rice that much better. Still it is fine for your Japanese grocery basics, and since it is quite popular the stock is usually fresh.

Incidentally, Katagiri seems to have the most helpful-to-hapless-non-Japanese Japanese-expat customers from what I've observed, possibly because of its midtown location and the fact that the store has been around for decades.

Korean grocery stores such as Han Ah Rheum and m2m also carry a big selection of Japanese groceries.

The 'burbs

The grocery stores in the suburbs, including Mitsuwa, tend to maintain a higher level of quality than the ones in the city, especially for fresh produce and readymade meals. I think this is because the ones in the city cater to a student and young-people customer base, and the suburban ones have more wives of businessmen as customers. Housewives are usually pickier than students.

I go to two of them fairly often since I have family on Long Island: Nara Foods in Port Washington, and Shin Nippondo in Roslyn. Both are good small stores. Shin Nippondo may be slightly better stocked than Nara, but you can get all your basics at either place.

Snacks and other speciality items

Beard Papa is a Japanese chain that sells cream puffs. See my previous comments.

Panya Bakery sells Japanese baked goods. Japanese sliced white bread is the best sliced white bread in the world, simply delicious for delicate English-style tea sandwiches and as buttered toast. Just about everything they carry is authentic middlebrow Japanese-style; melon pan, anpan, cream horn, etc. (The store name bugs me: since Panya means bakery in Japanese, the full name is Bakery Bakery. Anyway...)

Minamoto Kitchoan carries traditional Japanese snacks, most of which are bean-paste based. It's inferior in quality to Toraya, which sadly closed a few years ago. Toraya used to make all of their fresh snacks in-house, but Minamoto Kitchoan only sells pre-packaged goods.

The tiny Oms/B store near Grand Central Station makes quite edible onigiri/omusubi (rice balls). Their nori-wrapped ones are made to order with warm rice.

You can go to a reputable non-Japanese fishmonger like Citarella nowadays for sashimi-quality fish. You can also special order very thinly sliced beef for sukiyaki and shabu-shabu from a good butcher like Lobels or Schaller and Weber. (Note: to buy meat at Lobels, you will need to take out a second mortgage on your house.)

(Note: I was about to take out the following reference to Aji Ichiban, since upon reflection this is not really a Japanese food store at all; it's a Hong Kong snack store with a few Japanese-style snacks, but mainly carried dried fruits and other snacks more familiar in China/Hong Kong. It is somewhat puzzing why they call themselves by a Japanese name, but I have seen this trend elsewhere...sort of like Japanese stores or brands giving themselves American-sounding names. In any case the listing is still here, with the caveat that this is not a Japanese food store despite the name.)

Aji Ichiban (which means 'taste number one' in Japanese), a Hong Kong based snack store chain, sells a lot of prepackaged house brand snacks, plus a big variety of interesting dried fruits and things. (Note: The first time I went here they were very friendly, but the second time they were decidedly not. They were outright rude actually. So, I guess it's good to watch out. And they do not, emphasize not, like you taking pictures. I guess they don't realize it's free publicity for them, but oh well. Incidentally, a reader points out correctly that this is not the place to go if you want Japanese brand snacks. Aji Ichiban sticks strictly to house brands.)

aji_ichiban.jpg

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New York food shopping fun: Japanese groceries

I pick my favorite Japanese supermarket by whoever has the most candies and snacks. Which is probably wrong. ;D The Han Ah Rheum in in Manhattan is so tiny, but the ones in NJ are ginormous and more awesome, especially for produce.

Robyn | 22 July, 2006 - 18:27

question

Hi
I usually go to Mistuwa but i live in Queens and it’s a hassle to go there everytime. I am thinking about trying the two other ones you mentioned in Long Island. Just wanted to know how the quality and selection is there compared to Mitsuwa or Katagiri or Yagura … Thank you so much. Please e-mail me back at your convenience

Ann | 16 February, 2007 - 19:40

small but good

Ann, both Nara and Shin Nippon are small stores, but have good selections comparable to Katagiri or any of the smaller groceries in Manhattan. It’s a shame there are no more Japanese groceries in Queens anymore…at one time there used to be a sizeable expat population, especially in the Flushing area, but they seem to have moved on to leafier ‘burbs. You can also find a lot of Japanese groceries are Korean markets, though I guess you may know that already.

maki | 16 February, 2007 - 20:02

Need some help

I need some help finding a good grocery store in NJ & NY area. I’m moving to Morristown, NJ from Hawaii.
I’m Japanese and I don’t have any difficulty finding Japanese retaurants or markets here. So, I just need to know some good stores to go to buy some Japanese stuff. I enjoy reading your suggestions — I’ve been to NYC several times with my husband who’s from NJ and had some ramen there… but couldn’t find grocery stores…. I’m getting nervous and I don’t want to be out of my Japanese food… Well, it’s NYC so I’m sure I can find something, but NJ?? I read that Mitsuwa is great — is the variety good? We have Shirokiya which we just had “Takoyaki” week. It was awesome. Thank you!!!

m.f | 2 April, 2007 - 13:59

don't know how Hawaii and NJ compare

I don’t know how Hawaii and NJ compare in terms of Japanese grocery availability. Hawaii has I believe the biggest population of Japanese-Americans, but there is a sizeable Japanese expat/immigrant population in the NY/NJ area. Mitsuwa is okay. It’s a regular-size supermarket (not a small grocery) which is about 85% Japanese products, with small selections of Korean and ‘regular American’ stuff. They also have a sit-down eating in the back and some sort of mini-food mall. There’s a small bookstore, zakka store, etc. on the side of the mini-mall.

In NYC the Japanese grocery stores are very small, which is maybe why you couldn’t find them if you were sticking to the normal touristy locations.

This site (in Japanese) has a lot of useful info for living in/around NY, including a list of Japanese grocery stores:

http://www.metropagesjapan.com

maki | 2 April, 2007 - 15:26

Thank you!!

maki, thank you so much for your information. I appreciate it a lot. I will be looking into it more as my move to nj comes closer. i will be flying in to newark next week to see my husband. by the way, my real name is makiko. thanks again!!!!

m.f. | 3 April, 2007 - 12:33

other Asian markets in NJ

I live in South Orange, NJ, which is about 20 minutes from Morristown, and I go to Mitsuwa about once a month to get hard-to-find ingredients like gobo and special cuts of meat, but have had really good luck with local Asian markets. Mitsuwa is great, and has a good bookstore and a lot of food stalls, but it’s expensive and a long trek on those awful NJ highways. The Chinese markets are a lot cheaper than Mitsuwa, particularly for vegetables, and I’ve found just about everything I need there: mirin, abura-age, lots of kinds of miso and really good fresh noodles. The local Whole Foods has daikon and Asian eggplants, panko, wakame and bonito… Try Kam Man in East Hanover (200 Route 10 West) or Edison (511 Old Post Rd.), whichever is closer, or Asian Food Market (956 Route 22 West, North Plainfield).

Erika | 3 April, 2007 - 23:13

Excellent, info I’ve been

Excellent, info I’ve been trying to make sushi!

mel | 16 August, 2007 - 22:32

Sake lees or Sake kasu

I love your site!
Can you help me find Sake Lees or Sake Kasu in it’s paste form for cooking?

I go to Mitsuwa about twice a year, but was wondering it I could get it closer in NY somewhere.
Thanks!

Connie | 10 December, 2007 - 17:50

not sure

I can’t say for sure if a particular store carries sake kasu, but you can try calling them up! It’s a fairly common ingredient, so most stores should carry it (if they have a mainly Japanese customer base anyway). You can also try contacting Uwajimaya (uwajimaya.com) which seems to carry the stuff, though they don’t list it on their Amazon store.

maki | 10 December, 2007 - 19:20

Saki

I live on Long Island, I moved here recently. I discovered that I like sake very much, however I’m still looking for a store that sells “Sho Chiku Bai” or other quality sake. If anyone knows of such a place on Long Island, please post it.

Thank you.

anon. | 11 January, 2008 - 23:50

selling alcohol

It could be that small grocery stores aren’t allowed to sell alcohol (I can’t quite remember ever buying sake at one of the small Japanese grocery stores on LI). Mitsuwa in NJ does have an alcohol section for sure, if you can make the trek out there. Incidentally, Sho Chiku Bai is a very mass-market brand (sort of like Gallo or Mondavi is for wine) so any store that sells sake should have it.

maki | 12 January, 2008 - 09:49

sushi-grade fish

Do they sell sushi- or sashimi-grade fish at either of the Long Island markets, Nara or Shin Nihon do? If they don’t, do you happen to know where on the Island to get it?

Thank you!

sarah | 2 February, 2008 - 04:40

both of them do! Have fun!

both of them do! Have fun!

maki | 2 February, 2008 - 10:27

Where to find good quality Japanese Natto in NJ?

Hello!

I am looking to try Natto and want to find the healthiest and best available in NJ. Any ideas? Also stores that offer good prices on quality Japanese products like rice bran oil and root vegetables.
Thank You!

Laura | 3 May, 2008 - 17:06

Japanese Groceries shipped to my door

Most of the products mentioned here can be found at http://www.japansuper.com.

They are in California, but ship anywhere in the US. Everything comes directly from local vendors, so it’s the freshest you can get. Imported products are shipped directly from Japan.

I love the freshly made Fugetsu-do mochigashi and wagashi, Yamazaki Bakery shoku pan and Niitaka-ya asazuke tsukemono, along with lots of other things, shipped directly to me. And, I never even have to leave my house.

supermum | 14 May, 2008 - 18:49

sembai

Hi! I came across a shop selling only sembai — a wide assortment of them — in Manhattan last year. I can’t believe there is such a store in NYC and so I went in and bought various kinds of rice crackers, in different flavors, shapes, and sizes. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to the name or the exact location of the shop. I was walking on one of the streets — 45th/46th/47th — from the east side to the west side and can’t remember. Would anyone know the shop I’m referring to? If so, please let me know. I’m sure this is not Minamoto Kitchoan. Thanks!

Mercedes | 30 July, 2008 - 15:10

tatami iwashi (dried sardine sheets)

does anyone know where I might pick up this item. Tatami iwashi??
thanx

david | 30 January, 2009 - 02:45

Re: New York food shopping fun: Japanese groceries

here in california we have a lot of mitsuwas and etc my mom works at one of them

703san | 18 January, 2010 - 03:18

Re: New York food shopping fun: Japanese groceries

You know this is one of the reasons why I love New York. You may see, taste and find out about every part of the world in NY. Recently I've been interested in Japanese culture. I think it is very paculiar as it is very different from others. I've watched a lot of documentaries about it. I found a lot at shared files SE http://filecraft.com . I like that living not far from NY you may not only watch films but become closer to it. As for me, I'm going to try Japan traditional menu. I'm so excited about it.

Sandrin | 9 December, 2010 - 19:39

Re: New York food shopping fun: Japanese groceries

Living in Indiana, there is a very limited supply of fresh seafood. Don't even think about going to a Joe's Crab Shack, or a Red Lobster if you're seeking out fresh seafood. I found a store about 10 minutes north of where I live that sells very fresh seafood. I'm sure it's nothing like what you are able to get in New York, but it's the best I've found around my neck of the woods. Trust me though, next time I visit my brother in New York, we'll be making a trek to one of these stores you named.

Yolando | 18 January, 2011 - 17:00

Re: New York food shopping fun: Japanese groceries

I've been on this huge sushi kick! I never knew you could spice up raw fish so much! I found this one Japanese joint close to my house, it's kind of like a Benihana, but with a shop they sell there sauces, and spices under a big canopy. I bought some sauce I can't even begin to pronounce, let alone spell. I won't ever forget what it looks like though. It makes all food taste good in my opinion, but it makes sushi taste even better! I may even begin a raw food diet!

Shane | 19 January, 2011 - 16:54

Re: New York food shopping fun: Japanese groceries

I would love to see the Brooklyn Dissertation! :)

The whole foods in Tribeca is really nice, if slightly layed out weird. I also found less of a sticker shock there, because I was used to "whole foods prices" (It has been about two years, but the whole foods prices did not seem to change dramatically from Austin to here.)

And, its Brooklyn, but I found a supermarket in the next neighborhood (Foodtown) offers online mensagens ordering and delivery. Cheaper than fresh direct, if slightly different products.

jenny | 11 April, 2011 - 20:47

Re: New York food shopping fun: Japanese groceries

My most favorite Japanese grocery store in NY! Although recently I got a branch of Sunrise mart in midtown, still come back here periodically because they sometimes have crazy deals.
But often the big sale items here have extremely short time for the expiration date. Be careful...
By the way, I think they used to do free delivery for the goods over $50, but now it's for over $100. Otherwise they charge $5 or so for the delivery. Well, still I'm happy that I don't need to carry heavy rice bags and beer all the way home...!
ecommerce seo

Nineveh Nebuchadnezzar | 29 June, 2011 - 07:59

Re: New York food shopping fun: Japanese groceries

My most favorite Japanese grocery store in NY! Although recently I got a branch of Sunrise mart in midtown, still come back here periodically because they sometimes have crazy deals.
But often the big sale items here have extremely short time for the expiration date. Be careful...
By the way, I think they used to do free delivery for the goods over $50, but now it's for over $100. Otherwise they charge $5 or so for the delivery. Well, still I'm happy that I don't need to carry heavy rice bags and beer all the way home...!
Amish Furniture

dustin buttry | 1 July, 2011 - 13:25
anon. | 11 October, 2012 - 00:28

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