NY JapanTown Healty Food and Green Festival

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Yesterday was the NY JapanTown Health Food and Green Festival. The festival took place in Midtown, on Madison Avenue between 43rd and 45th streets.

Promoting a healthy lifestyle using Japanese ingredients and cooking methods, the festival aims to enlighten New Yorkers about the many wholesome foods and flavors of Japan and how to incorporate them into American kitchens, ultimately increasing the understanding of Japanese culture through food.” – www.NYJapanTown.org

The festival featured a great handful of food vendors, as well as non-food vendors. The food vendors included a nice selection of local Japanese restaurants as well as international Japanese brands and food distributors. The event ran from 11am to 6pm, with schedule cooking demonstrations throughout the day sponsored by the Organization to Promote Japanese Restaurants Abroad (JRO). The demonstrations were hosted by Chef Billy Strynkowski of Cooking Light magazine, Chef Fred Sabo of the Met Museum’s Trustees Dining Room, Jenna Zimmerman, an Assistant Culinary Producer from the Food Network, and chefs of from Tanuki Tavern, Sushiden, Souen, and Hakata Tonton.

After some of the demonstrations, people can line up for free tastings, take a survey about the tasting, and receive a goodie bag. (Inside the goodie bag, I found a full-sized bottle of Otafuku Okonomi Sauce!)

We sampled misoyaki (miso marinated meat) by Marukome USA (top right), a piece of okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) by Otafuku Foods (bottom left), and mentaiko spicy cod roe on toast by Hakata Tonton (bottom right). The samples were delicious! This was my first introduction to mentaiko, which is actually marinated roe of pollack. It was tasty with a little spice. I am curious to try out more dishes with mentaiko.

There were also drink samples like Kikkoman Pearl Soymilks and Yakult, a mini probiotic drink that I remember so fondly from childhood.

Right next to Ito En (the tea distributors), there was a vendor handing out an interesting green colored beverage. It reminded me of wheatgrass drinks (which I like), and so I approached it with curiosity. Ryokko Aojiru is a Japanese health drink made from organically-grown young barley grass and green tea leaves. The drink is nutritious – rich in vitamins B1, B2, calcium, and dietary fiber. It tasted pretty refreshing. It has a much lighter taste than wheatgrass drinks. I grabbed a couple samples.

Well, that about covers the free food we had… and now here’s the munchies we actually paid for!

Beard Papa is NOT just about the creampuffs anymore. When we saw the lady waving around this Mango Ice Shower, we knew we had to get a hold of one too.

The Mango Ice Shower is shaved ice topped with fresh cut mangos, a mango sauce, and a shot of condensed milk (?). The picture on the left was the versatile and indestructible one that the lady used to draw attention. The picture on the right is the one we bought for $5. I swear the one of the left is not real, but the real thing on the right did not disappoint at all. It was super delectable, and not overly sugary sweet at all.

Cafe Zaiya caught my attention with their hot and tasty mini curry buns. You can see them make it right on the spot. We just had to be careful… contents inside the bun might be scorching hot. It was very tasty, but when all the curry filling sank to the bottom of the bun, we realized there wasn’t much filling at all. There was not as much filling as the curry bun sample that they were displaying. But for $1.50, we still enjoyed it very much.

It was the dude with the pig nose that drew us into Hakata Tonton. We picked up the Grilled Tonton Pork skewer for $5. The pork is served with with a spicy garlic sauce. The pork was juicy and the sauce added just even kick!

From far away, I wondered what those huge tubs of white stuff was. Each tub is actually 30 lbs of silken tofu. I could not resist but to buy a small bowl of Otokomae Tofu for $1. You get a choice of dressings – I picked the sweet soy sauce one. I’m a huge fan of tofu! I really enjoyed by how smooth and creamy, and tasty the tofu was. There was definitely something unique about it. I will look for this brand of tofu the next time I’m at the Japanese market. Apparently, Otokomae means a handsome guy in Japanese. They also have a product called Johnny Tofu, which is a yogurt-like creamy tofu.

Ajinomoto Frozen Foods USA sold containers of their reheated frozen gyozas for $2. Their gyozas have a thin wrapper and a unique shape, which allows them to cook to perfect crispness while still remaining tasty and juicy inside. We grabbed a container of chicken gyozas, since the edamame vegetable gyozas were temporarily unavailable.

Katagiri had every item in their stall for $1. They had mochi, sushi, ramune, hichew, and more. We picked up a two dangos, which are little balls made with mochiko (rice flour) and served on a skewer. The Matarashi Dango is the more common one and is covered with a sweet-salty sauce (soy sauce and sugar mixture). The Sesame Dango is covered with a black sesame seed paste. The regular Dango was delightful but we really enjoyed the Sesame Dango! Katagiri is a Japanese grocery store in Manhattan, located on 59th St near 3rd Ave.

Suzuki Farm was there selling their fresh organic Japanese vegetables. There was a Battle Robot stall, where you can pick you battle robot and challenge them to a match. This drew our attentions because it reminded us of that Battle Bots TV show, back in … wow it was about 10 years ago when it originally aired. TOTO, Japan’s leading toilet manufacturer, was there too, showcasing their Washlet – an innovative toilet seat that features an integrated bidet.

Check out more pictures in this album.

This was the second festival in JapanTown’s three-part series of festivals. The first one was the Cool Japan Festival which took place in the East Village back in July. And…

The next one will be the Soul Food Festival which will take place in the Upper East Side. So, mark your calendars!
Date: Sunday Sept 26th, 2010
Location: Lexington Avenue between 93rd and 96th Streets

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