1. I keep telling myself that I’m going to learn the Japanese language some day, though I’m not sure why I should. Now that I make my own sushi, I hardly ever go to Japanese restaurants anymore; virtually no Japanese people live within 5 miles of my home and I seriously doubt that I’ll ever be able to afford to visit Japan (and if I ever do, I’m bound to spend all my time there either in restaurants or hopelessly bloated in my hotel and unable to move, so what’s the point of going?). As for shopping in Marukai Market, I don’t need to know Japanese—unless I want to eavesdrop, which is not at all beneath me—because nearly everyone in the store speaks perfect English. So why would I—a guy who tried and failed to learn three different foreign languages, one of them my wife’s native Tagalog so I could finally understand what her mother was saying to me—want to even consider learning Japanese? Beats the hell out of me.

    I discovered this market (which was the New Meiji Market then) back during the last ice age, when I was a student at El Camino College down the street in Redondo Beach (which we called the "Redondo Glacial Field" in those days). I had a fascination for the Far East at the time that obviously never went away—considering when I eat out it’s almost always at a Chinese restaurant, a Japanese sushi bar or a Filipino eatery favored by my wife and her friends—so whenever I wasn’t gorging myself at Wang’s right across from the college, I was in New Meiji market scoping on the pretty young women working there. Several of those women still work there, and many are still pretty; but like me, they are hardly young anymore, and some are actively training their grandkids to take over their positions when they retire in a year or two.

    Don’t listen to what your wizened grandparents, uncles and aunts say; getting old really sucks.


     Anyway, I digress. I shop at Marukai regularly, mainly for the fish with which I make my sushi for about 1/3 what it costs at a sushi bar, maybe even less. They have excellent yellowtail (hamachi) and occasionally have fatty tuna belly (toro), which are my favorites. You can also find sushi quality squid, octopus, shrimp, salmon, halibut, red snapper and a variety of other delicious swimmers and creepers. In addition, the sashimi-quality scallops are delicious and I can’t go there without buying salmon roe (ikura), and whatever tiny red roe they have on hand that I mix with the scallops when I make scallop gunkan nigiri. 


     For those who lack ability or are just too lazy to make their own sushi, there’s a sushi bar in the store (and also a terrific-smelling yakatori stand that I really ought to try someday) and in the sashimi fish area you can also find ready made-to-go packages of assorted sushi pieces. The fish is all previously frozen (flash-frozen, I would guess), but they all retain most of their fabulous flavor and are usually nice and tender.

    My wife enjoys sauntering through the aisles of the market to explore and find new, interesting items. As for me, once I have my fish I’m ready to head home and construct my dinner. But I always have to buy some non-sashimi quality salmon to cook up for her because she flat out refuses to eat raw fish, which strikes me as odd for one who grew up in eastern Asian culture (though we all know how Americanized the Philippines is). Then again, I had to teach her how to use chopsticks, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.

    I give Marukai four out of five stars simply because the sashimi-quality fish is not actually fresh, but previously frozen (that and more often than not I miss out of the toro, and that just pisses me off). However, when one considers that the fish has to travel thousands of miles before hitting the display case, one can’t be too choosy.



    Marukai Pacific Market
    1620 West Redondo Beach Boulevard
    Gardena, CA 90247

    (310) 464-8888


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