. Portland area fans of gourmet Asian cuisine have long been aware of this Asian supermarket on Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy. Can meals consisting of tofu, soy sauce and MSG possibly hope to be GMO-Free? A recent visit reveals that, yes indeed, we can shop GMO-Free here.
When you first walk in, you’ll find a wall with many varieties of rice. A closer look reveals the Hime brand, organically grown in California. In the refrigerated foods you’ll see organic tofu and uncooked wheat noodles. Also in the refrigerator section are milk and soymilk products by the much-loved Organic Valley. Organic eggs are available from Stiebers Farm and Chino Valley. For desert, they carry Julie’s and Alden’s organic ice creams.
In produce, you’ll see a mix of local and organic items, as well as exotic varieties such as Chinese eggplant, Korean melon and lychee fruit. While most of these items will be GMO-Free, you would be well advised to double-check the most recent updates on the GMO Compass for what is out there and GM Contamination Register for a list of all known contaminations and illegal plantings to be sure, because they are experimenting with crops everywhere, legal or not. In the United States we will probably hear of these but not so on foreign soil. That said, we still have some investigation to do regarding tested US crops. In frozen foods are Woodstock Farms’ organic green beans, snow peas, corn and edemame.
One of the highlights for Uwajimaya is the seafood section. There you can see large tanks with seafood so fresh that it is still swimming! All of the seafood, fresh or frozen, is labeled as to country of origin and whether it is farmed or wild-caught. You will want to consult the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch guides for the most up-to-date information concerning sustainability and mercury levels before making a purchase.
One area that appears to be lacking from a GMO-Free standpoint is in the meat department. There were no organic or grass-fed beef, pork or poultry items to be found at all. Unless you’re making a vegetarian or seafood meal, you will need to make another stop somewhere else. Be sure and tell a manager that so they can improve the store’s appeal for you.
For your other ingredients, Uwajimaya offers dry and soft noodles made with wheat or rice. Organic broths are available from Tigard-based Pacific Natural Foods(<--coupons and local!) You’ll also find Thai Kitchen organic coconut milk. Pure sesame oils are available in a wide variety of flavors. Look closely at the label to ensure that it is not blended with GM soybean or canola oils. Spectrum oils are also represented here. They are a real friend to the No-GMO - read this! Organic soy sauces can be purchased under a wide variety of brands, including San-J, Kikkoman, Wan-ja and Mitoku. If one is a fan of sushi, bulk nori is a serious deal. 50 sheets can be had for just $7.99. That only buys 10 sheets elsewhere.
For the tea drinker, there are Rishi organic teas. An incredible variety of non-organic teas are also available. Look at the label to make sure that the tea is pure leaf and not tainted with added flavors or sweeteners that are often GMO.
A popular beverage in Japanese culture is Sake, or rice wine. At Uwajimaya, they have an extensive selection available in a wide range of prices. There is now organic Sake available, including one made locally in Forest Grove. But where does the rice come from? We are still researching this. Local rice is important right now because you’ll see on the GM contamination register that GMO Asian rice got into some very angry Europeans’ food supply. So far the non-U.S. rice situation is not looking promising even with organic certifications. Most of these brands I’ve named in other sections are using U.S. crops. Sake is still unknown, however. That’s definitely one thing you’re paying close attention to when shopping at Uwajimaya. If you don’t have Internet access on your phone, send us an email with your phone number when you start shopping so we’re looking for your call, and we’ll look up all the tricky foods online for you before you check out.
There is an aisle devoted to snacks such as candy, cookies and crackers, both Asian and American styles. No products were clearly GMO-Free that I could find. Sorry to disappoint you Pocky fans. This is a good time for your shopping soldiering. Say you want non-GMO snacks to the cashier. If they don’t know what you mean, ask for a manager. In fact, why not seek out the manager to begin with? If he or she doesn’t know what you mean, give them something to get them started. We’re handing out the packets for free at our events when we get them on the calendar and if you email us we’ll send you a few. How many times do you say “I only eat non-GMO food?” It feels good when you get used to it and people are cooler than you’d think about it. We’ve made friends that way.
To the right of the entrance you’ll find what is basically an Asian department store. Here you will find all manner of cookware devoted to preparing a proper Asian-style meal. They have rice-cookers, electric tea-pots, woks, bowls, knives, chopsticks and serving ware. Also in this section are origami papers and books, Anime-inspired toys and classic Asian games such as Go, Shogi and Mah Jong. In the far-right corner is the Asian bookstore. Here you will find Japanese music and videos, more toys, cook books, travel guides, comic books, magazines, children’s books and more. Naturally, everything is written in Japanese, but if that’s a problem, they have books on learning Japanese too.
If you are a fan of Asian-style cooking and are pursuing a GMO-Free lifestyle, it will be well worth your time to head over to the West Side of town to purchase many of your ingredients. They offer great prices on many staple items, especially if you buy in larger quantities. Organic products are available in almost every category in a wider variety of styles and brands than in almost any other store in town, and they have exciting new things to try, from spices, to fishes to that weird looking… um… fruit?