by Christina Autry
Walking into Seiwa Market is an experience rarely found in Houston, especially on Dairy Ashford – a necessary stop for anyone interested in our city's international markets.
Walking into Seiwa transports you wide-eyed away from Dairy Ashford, out of Texas, and into a new and unique grocery experience, where with every turn you ask yourself, "What is this?" "I've got to try it!" and "Why isn't American food packaging so cute?"
You may have visited Seiwa's tasty next door neighbor, Ramen Bar Ichi, which gives Houstonians outside of the Beltway a delicious neighborhood ramen option. Not surprisingly, this strip of Japanese stores, including the brand new Japan House, are under the same ownership. Naturally, Ramen Bar Ichi gets some of it's ingredients from Seiwa.
Seiwa originated in California but opened the Houston location in 2016. Mr. Miyazaki, store manager, explained that the business-friendly environment that Texas promotes encouraged Seiwa to choose our state. Having chosen West Houston, many Seiwa customers are families who enroll their children in the nearby Japanese Language Supplementary School, and shop for groceries during the day. Locals of all sorts are intrigued by Seiwa and are delighted with what they find, just as I was.
Coming from California to Houston, Miyazaki had to figure out what the Houston market wanted. It turns out that snacks are a big seller at Seiwa. Because of the trendiness of Japanese snacks on YouTube and social media, attractively packaged snacks with Japanese characters are practically selling themselves. Matcha (green tea) is a hugely popular flavoring. In Japan, you'll find matcha flavored Oreos, Haagen-Dazs, Starbucks lattes, and a plethora of snacks in addition to the actual tea!
If you Google the most popular Japanese snacks, you can find them at Seiwa. Senbei, Pocky, Green Tea Kit Kats, Mochi, and a huge variety of tasty novelties will keep you exploring the aisles! (And wanting to photograph every little thing, if that's what you're into also).
Seiwa carries fresh produce, frozen and refrigerated items, aisles of dry goods, sauces, tea, fresh seafood, and has a small restaurant inside the store. They pride themselves on only using top-quality fish and serving scratch-made Japanese meals such as ramen, udon, curry and desserts made to order. And what are the most popular items purchased by its Houston customers? Tofu, Natto (fermented soy beans), Ramen Noodles, Sashimi, Sushi, and Onigiri (rice balls) make the top 6 foods.
Scenes from around Seiwa
Here are the snapshots of my journey through Seiwa and the rewards for my efforts (spoiler alert, we made Miso Soup). And, in case you've been wondering, the name Seiwa comes from a Japanese, Buddhist emperor from the 9th century. Now you know!
Recipe Recommendation: Miso Soup
What would be a better way to get a taste of the market than filling up your cart and cooking a dish? Luckily, Mr. Miyazaki was kind enough to help pick out the ingredients to make a simple, traditional Japanese Miso Soup. Below is the recipe and some of my snapshots as I cooked Miso for the first time. I encourage you to cook something that's out of your box as well!
I used this Miso Soup recipe from Epicurious because it fit the exact ingredients that we picked at Seiwa.
My Final Product!
I was skeptical that I could pull it off the first time, but it came out great! Which means you can do it too! Hope you enjoy Seiwa (and cooking) as much as I did!