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Market Visit: Mitsuwa Marketplace

Hello Kitty pastries at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights.

Hello Kitty pastries at Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights.

Gourmet cooks and wanna-be's alike, should never be intimated of the Asian market. The thought of walking in a place where people speak little English is one of the biggest worries. Other's complain of seeing "weird" ingredients. What's weird in my book are those who stock their pantries with boxes and cans of "food".

Mitsuwa Marketplace (http://mitsuwa.com) in Arlington Heights is a Japanese market located on 100 E. Algonquin Road. It's a chain of 9 stores with most locations in California, to Chicago and New Jersey and established in 1988. This is the only of it's kind in Chicagoland.

Right upon entering Mitsuwa, the shopper will realize why it's called a Marketplace. Mitsuwa is a marketplace complete with a Japanese bookstore, bakery, food court, housewares even a make-up counter and of course, the grocery store. Any visitor will be immediately transported to a different and spectacular world!

My five year old daughter has taken a liking to my weekly market visits and is now insistent that she come along for every single one. Honestly, at times it's a big pain. Anyone who has a daughter like mine; one who is high-maintenance and demanding, knows that a two-hour trip can turn into five. On this day, we were having quite a great day together, and she was so intrigued with all that was going on.

We first took a peek at a a crowd that was gathering at a stall by the entrance. There we saw Japanese, Caucasians, African-Americans, and many other Asian cultures clamoring to get their piece. As we weaseled our way to the front, we realized that it was a mochi stall. Mochi is a Japanese treat, a rice cake usually filled with sweet red or yellow bean filling, and sometimes topped with toasted sesame seeds. There was such a great array of mochi! Some were filled, others were shaped like leaves and bright colors of pink and green. They were so beautifully displayed.

But before I could get carried away, I was quickly reminded of the many other things we came to explore at Mitsuwa, so we moved on. As it was the perfect time for lunch, we decided to start at the food court. The choices were endless. There was a pick up and go sushi counter that was so huge that it could easily rival the deli counter at Whole Foods Market. The sushi was restaurant style, not like what shoppers normally find at their local grocery store.

The lines of every single food stall was jam packed with people, so it was difficult to gage which one we were going to try. But thankfully, just as in any good Asian restaurant, their marketing was in the menu item pictures and displays that lined the outside walls and glass cases, for all the customers to drool over and decide. We eventually went for the Chinese stall where I was drawn to the photo of the roasted duck over rice. I was sold and completely hungry at this point.

As my daughter and I sat down to our full plate of roast duck and shrimp rolls, I saw a long line forming at one particular stall. As I examined further, it was a burger stall, called Gabutto Burger. This place doesn't make any old burger. Their menu consists of an array of Japanese inspired burgers. I was so excited that I bought a Teriyaki Tofu Burger that was so delicious that even my daughter took a few bites and liked it!

Our next stop was the grocery store. There we found many typical fruits and veggies with as well as authentic Japanese ingredients like fresh ginko, Japanese scallions, and so much more. As we browsed around and picked up groceries for the week, we found ourselves in the snack isle. The bright colors of the packaging is so cute and eye catching that we could not resist. Many of the snacks are foods I used to eat as a kid! I was excited to share them with my kids.

Our last stop was the bakery. All bread was made fresh at the site by a company called Pink Hippo from Michigan. They had both American style bread, like white, whole wheat and cinnamon raisin, as well as beautiful pastries. However, the star of the show was the Hello Kitty, custard filled pastries that customers were almost knocking each other out to get. I had to take one for the team and grab one for Sofia. Another great find in this bakery was their pre-made sandwiches. The labels were in colorful with Japanese characters. I was especially curious and happy to find a katsu sandwich that looked so good that had I not already eaten two meals, I would've totally bought it!

Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights is an Asian food lover's paradise! There are so many things you will find here. Foodies will find Asian food trends like coconut water, aloe drinks, green tea matcha, and so much more at half the price and more authentic. Definitely take the time to visit Matsuwa, if you haven't already.

Which is your favorite Asian market in Chicagoland?

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