A Love Letter to Maruichi

May 2, 2024
Laura Zhang

During my freshman year at Princeton, I would often find myself craving Asian snacks. Coming from Sydney, a multicultural city, I could easily find an Asian supermarket, quickly pop in, and find shelves filled with classic Asian snacks like Pocky and Hello Panda, and drinks like Ramune and Calpico. However, at Princeton, beyond the snacks that I stuffed into my luggage before coming here, the closest I could get to satisfying my wish for snacks would be Late Meal sushi or the bubble tea places scattered about the town. The only way I could get my hands on Asian snacks was via a drive to a mart far from campus – a journey that I would not have been able to go on at midnight, which is when my cravings often hit. 


This all changed last semester, the start of my sophomore year, when I came back to Princeton and heard whispers about a new Japanese food mart that opened on Nassau Street, the main street that students frequent to grab a quick bite. When I rushed to see this new store, I was greeted with a white, clean storefront with a big plaque that hung above the main entrance that had the words “Maruichi Japanese Food & Deli” in white against a black background. Going into the store, it was instantly hit with a wave of nostalgia. The first thing I saw was a shelf stacked with Asian snacks – from sweets like Kit Kats and Meiji chocolate to savory items like instant ramen and Shrimp chips – I was shocked at how much variety there was. Near the entrance, there were also specialty items such as matcha powder, matcha whisks and bowls, and fancy tins of tea. There was also a fridge section filled with drinks such as my favorite: Oi Ocha, a slightly bitter but soothing green tea. 


As I walked further into the store, I saw more grocery-like items: vegetables, fruit, frozen goods like gyoza wrappers, and condiments like Kewpie Mayo. However, the most impressive section had to be a stand that sells fresh onigiri (rice balls), and a counter with sushi, sashimi, and daily-made bento boxes. I distinctly remember a hectic day last semester where I was running out of time for lunch, grabbed a gyudon (beef bowl) from Maruichi, and sat on the bench outside, enjoying the savory and sweet flavors of the bowl. As well, the onigiri costs only $3 and the variety is unmatched – ranging from tuna mayo to spicy chicken to a rice ball called “bakudan” which contains a mix of vegetables and salmon. At 8:30pm, 30 minutes before the store closes, the onigiri and bento boxes become half-off – a great steal for yummy food. 


Beyond the food offerings, the staff at Maruichi are so friendly and helpful. It’s so easy to strike up a conversation with them – a recent example being when I saw a poster of fluffy Japanese pancakes hung up at the cashier. I was able to talk to an employee about the poster and found out that Maruichi actually opened a breakfast cafe called “J.S. Foodies” which serves Japanese soufflé pancakes and other breakfast items. Having tried the soft, not too heavy, fruit pancake there, I can testify that both Maruichi’s deli and cafe have delectable food. 


I can confidently say that Maruichi is my favorite place on Nassau Street. Whenever I find myself wanting a pick-me-up, I go to Maruichi and grab an onigiri. Even when I have nothing else to do, I find myself gravitating towards Maruichi, simply browsing its shelves and being in the store even if I end up buying nothing. Thank you Maruichi for opening your doors at Princeton! Future tigers who crave Asian snacks just like me, Princeton has a place just for you.


Fluffy Japanese Pancakes