Wednesday, August 19, 2015
I was intrigued to see lots of familiar brands in the grocery store in Siberia. If you need a junk food fix, you're in luck.
The local hooch is cheap -- you could get a bottle of low-end Russian vodka for $3; Stoli is only $7.50 for a half liter. (Why is the Stoli label all in English??)
By contrast, MY local hooch, made just down the road from us, is pretty steep -- $27 for a fifth of Jim Beam, $35 for Wild Turkey.
Compared to prices in US liquor stores, that's about a 50% markup on US booze imported to Russia, but about a 300% markup on Russian booze imported to the US. We might infer that Russia feels no need to impose sin taxes on liquor; they might even like cheap booze for its role in crowd control. Just speculating.
Sunday, August 16, 2015
I was struck by how much prepared food was available in the Russian grocery store. Many, many vegetables and salads, cooked meats, side dishes. Much was cooked on site, and smelled delicious! I guess Russian women are at work, not in the kitchen -- or maybe the kitchens are small. Clearly some people have enough money to get dinner at the store.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
The supermarket in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk had a feature I've never seen before: frozen foods in bulk. At the end of the freezer case, after all the packaged fruits and vegetables, were a bunch of open bins with scoops. Help yourself to one half plum or just enough broccoli for one!
I suspect that frozen foods are way more important in remote Russia than they are to US shoppers. Winter lasts a long time -- this is Siberia, after all -- and I doubt there's a whole lot of fresh produce being flown in. But I don't expect to go back in February to test this hypothesis.
Monday, August 10, 2015
If the fish looked pretty good in the grocery store in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the sausage looked fabulous. I don't believe I've seen so many different varieties of sausage before, even in Germany or in the German butcher shop in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
And I think there was one more case that I neglected to shoot!
Friday, August 7, 2015
Two days sail from Kushiro, we had a shore excursion into Russia, to the oil and natural gas boomtown of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. (Hey, anybody can visit Moscow and St. Petersburg, but don't you think Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk will win in a travel pissing contest?)
I enjoyed gawking from the bus at the unbeautiful architecture, and strolling through the city park, full of tanks and guns from WW2, but the best part of the trip was our half-hour stop at the shiny new shopping mall. The other tourists from our bus headed for the global brand-name shops, but many of us went straight to the supermarket.
Maybe we expected to see meager piles of black bread made from sawdust, but if so we were sorely disappointed. I didn't have time to inspect the middle aisles of canned and packaged goods, but the produce and meat departments were somewhere between perfectly acceptable and wow!
Since we were right on the ocean, let's start with the fish. Not so many varieties as we saw in Kushiro, but more smoked stuff, and more ready-to-eat salads and sushi.
And no, I don't know what you're supposed to do with the fish head.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
It's hard to say which section of the grocery impressed me the most: the fish or the prepared foods. In addition to various sushi assortments, you could buy many kinds of tempura fried goodies and stuff on skewers. This is just one section of a counter that went on for a long way. Everything smelled delicious and had we not just had breakfast, I would have bought a substantial box full.
And what you might call semi-prepared foods -- here, beautiful trays of paper-thin sliced pork and other meats to cook in your shabu-shabu soup pot. (I'll tell you about our shabu-shabu experience after I exhaust the grocery store photos.)
Monday, August 3, 2015
As you might expect, the rice section is big in the Japanese grocery store. Ten kilo bags weren't even put on shelves, just wheeled out on a dolly. These were plain white rice, the variety most used in the Japanese kitchen.
And there was a little bit of our more familiar carbo, this the famous Japanese shokupan ("milk bread"), described as sweet, moist and fluffy. It's sold in loaves with the heels cut off, in really thick slices, because Japanese kitchens have toaster ovens, not pop-up toasters. Bread only became popular in Japan in the last century and now it's a staple.
Saturday, August 1, 2015
Still at the fish counter in Kushiro...
A lot of sea creatures and sea-creature products that we don't even recognize.
Salmon jerky, in long stiff strips.
Two different kinds of roe (there were more).
Dark red whale meat (Japan is one of a handful of countries that allow the sale of whale, despite a global ban. They fish it from "research" vessels and say the meat is the "incidental byproduct" of research. Sure, we believe this.)
Tiny whiting, about an inch long, eyes and all. Our American guide, who lived in Japan for many years, said that when his wife was pregnant, she was encouraged to eat lots of whiting for the calcium and other nutrients. She did, but the minute she gave birth she said no more.