Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

Tracking Down Exotic Ingredients

Thanks to my shopping bonanza on last month, my pantry is pretty well stocked with Japanese ingredients. They had a special, free shipping on orders over $50, so I stocked up on a few extras.

But I?m still missing some things. was out of stock on gari shoga, that delicious pickled pink ginger that goes along with sushi. They were offering it for a great price, so no wonder they were out of it. But now I?m left to find it here in Napa. Most of what I?ve been able to find in the past has been way overpriced and packaged in such tiny jars that my son would easily be able to devour the whole thing at a single sitting. But I think one of our better grocers has half-pint tubs of it for a better price.

Trader Joe?s carries both sushi rice at a reasonable price and big bags of sembei crackers for about $3. I saw fresh daikon radish at the gourmet grocery where I bought my fresh vegetables last month, and they also carry sushi grade tuna, along with a beautiful selection of other fresh fish and seafood. The only challenge I anticipate is finding Japanese eggplant this time of year, and tobiko, those tiny orange fish eggs that are sometimes used as a garnish for sushimaki. I may have to settle for garden variety eggplant, and skip the tobiko, but I hope not, because it's always such a tasty and colorful ingredient.

For those of you who are just getting started with stocking up on Japanese ingredients, here?s a link to an helpful article I wrote awhile back:

Stocking the Japanese Pantry

And once you?re ready to buy your Japanese ingredients, be sure to check out