“Daaamn it’s hot!” you say as you look up at the sunlight pouring down on you. It’s that season of giddy excitement. And during this season, the taste of food outdoors just seems even more delicious. If you’re going to do it Western style, do a barbecue; Japanese style, shichirin. This month we asked two experts to share their recipes and techniques.
Japan’s traditional cookware
The shichirin was developed before the Edo era. Earthenware made from the packed soil of fine volcanic ashes called Keisodo was fairly standard, and could be found in almost any household long ago. But now, the shichirin is used in restaurants and outdoors as a tool for getting that charcoal grill taste. The influence of so-called “slow food” has been asserting itself recently, and the shichirin has been receiving renewed attention as a result, with more and more families apparently making use of it. Whether you are cooking fish or meat, it all comes out tasting delicious on the shichirin. Open air grilling is a given, but since there is little smoke, you can use it indoors as well (but be careful, in fact it might not be permitted to do so in your building). That said, why does grilling with a shichirin make the food so delicious? The answer is in the infrared rays. With the shichirin, infrared rays are produced when you fire up the charcoal, and with the additional infrared rays from the keisodo, you have double the effect. Food surfaces are crisp and delicious, and the insides are plump and juicy.
*Most are made with keisodo, and the inside as well is carved out and shaped with keisodo stone as in the old days. Such “quarry shichirin” is the best there is. Even if cracks appear because of the heat, it is wrapped around by a special band that keeps it from crumbling apart.
The shichirin is a little hard to use when you have a lot of people, but it’s simply the best cookware for drawing out rich flavor from your food. If you’re going to use the shichirin, the most important thing you have to attend to is the charcoal. If you use high-grade binchotan, it’s expensive but it burns smokeless, burns evenly for a long time, and looks pretty! By adjusting the vent on the bottom you can control the heat. An uchiwa (paper fan) or hifuki-dake (bamboo shaft with a pinpoint size hole at one end) are the best ways to turn up the heat. Every Japanese person has at some time in their life enjoyed the warm glow of a shichirin. Be sure you experience this humble piece of Japanese culture too.
Today we’re going to try barbecuing with a humble shichirin. We’ll start with learning how to use it. Then we’ll show you what happens when you cook up fresh seafood and vegetables on a shichirin. All the ingredients were sourced locally in Itoshima.
How to use Shichirin
Once you have lit your charcoal, you can add coal from time to time, but since adding charcoal can weaken the flame, you can regulate the heat by placing the shichrin in a breeze, or by giving it some air with a fan or bellow.
- Binchotan: There are two types of charcoal: black and white. You can generally obtain black charcoal easily. Binchotan is a type of white charcoal. It is high quality because of its fineness, and kishu binchotan is considered the best.
- Vegetables: Shiitake mushrooms and green peppers cook rather quickly. Eggplant will cook all the way through even if you place it on the shichirin whole. Bacon wraps are also delicious! A little bit of salt is all you need for some flavor.
- Sazae no Tsuboyaki , Aji no Himono (turban shell cooked in its own shell, (dried horse mackerel) ): Add some sake and soy sauce and you can do some simmering. When the aroma of charcoal and stone rises, you can almost taste the luxuriousness. Dried fish doesn’t really need to be cooked; simply broil it over a weak flame.
- Broiling fish wrapped in foil: White fish and vegetables, butter and lemon mixed in oil, a little bit of sake and soy sauce. The key point here is to wrap it up in oil. After you have heated it over some charcoal and opened it, you’ll note the change in aroma.
- Jidori (free range chicken): If you are enjoying the pleasures of the shichirin and the differences of charcoal to your heart’s content, then do give chicken a try. Firm free-range chicken from Itoshima needs only a little salt and pepper for flavor.
- Mochi (rice cake): For times when you feel just a little hungry, mochi makes the perfect choice. Mochi cooked on a shichirin is gooey and delicious!
The Barbecue- a necessity of the food culture country
Barbecue grills are so popular in the West that you could say there is one for every household and not be exaggerating. There are numerous tales of the history of barbecues, and one is said to have begun around the turn of the last century in an open-air meat market in Texas, U.S.A. Mention barbecue in America, and you have the monthly publication of the newsletter “Barbecue Times,” and the book “Steven Raichlen’s BBQ USA” published two years aga, which ranked among the top five books in sales (it’s a thick book containing barbecue recipes, the differences in barbecue from region to region, information on barbecue restaurants and more).
With barbecue so permeating the country, how can it not be an emblematic example of meat food culture? Whatever the case, most people associate that hearty sizzle of the grill with barbecuing, but since the original method relied on grills that allowed for fine tuning of the smoke, the current barbecue craze is all about giving the grill plenty of time and cooking up your original barbecue recipes.
*Weber makes the most popular type of barbecue grill in America. There are charcoal types, but gas types are equally popular in the West. Open up the tap, push the flame button, and you’ve got yourself a simple and convenient cooking tool.
The great thing about barbecuing is that it is delicious and easy. Cleaning is a cinch, too, and since you’re just grilling over a screen, there is something festive about it all. With a little more effort, you can begin grilling the day before for enhanced flavor, and you can add some homemade dressing as well. If the thought hits you and you snap up some ingredients, you can grill right away. Don’t worry about how to dish it up. The point is this: grill with zest and little effort! Can’t you just hear that sizzle beneath all the brilliant sunlight beating down?
How to BBQ
Fire up some food on your barbecue with zest and light spirits. This time, we’re going to get some barbecue secrets from Matt, who spent most of his college years barbecuing everyday, and who still just can’t separate himself from the grill.
- Firing up the barbecue grill: Before preparing your vegetables and meat, more than anything, you have to prepare the flame for your grill.
- Mustard Sauce Chicken: The essential meat menu for your barbecue. Cover a block of chicken in mustard sauce. The sumptuous aroma and the juicy meat is sure to whet your appetite. From the looks of it, this makes for a true America dish. Baste the meat in the sauce once you have mixed all the ingredients below. It might be wise to wear some plastic gloves to keep from getting messy. One half cup mustard, 3 tablespoons of vinegar, 4 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce, 3 tablespoons of syrup, and a pinch of dried thyme.
- Hot salad: Top your chopped vegetables with some special sauce and grill them until they are soft. Keep an eye on them until they are just beginning to darken, remove them from the flame, and cut them into bite sizes. Oil for grilling corn. Add the dressing while it is still warm, and you have yourself a fresh, bright hot salad.
- Salad dressing (to complement the taste): Mix grated garlic and ginger in with olive oil and raspberry vinegar, and add some thyme for the aroma.
- Salad dressing (as a finishing touch): Add a little vinegar to olive oil. Add salt and pepper to your liking
- Barbecue sauce corn: Cook up some scrumptious corn using this sweet barbecue sauce as a light finishing touch. The key to creating delicious taste is in the preparation of the corn. Lightly boil the corn in some water, milk and sugar for a wonderful taste. To make barbecue sauce, use equal amounts of ketchup and brown sugar. Add vinegar and soy sauce to your liking. Sprinkle on some grated garlic. Add some sweet flavor with pineapple juice. This sauce works brilliantly with meat and vegetables alike.
- Banana chocolate: Feast your eyes! A standard desert with rich sweetness in mind. Put chocolate over banana sliced in four parts, add a little sugar and butter, and just before you grill it, add a little rum for the aroma. Add as much topping as you like. It’s ready to eat when the butter melts.
- Use a hairdryer! How American can you get! Plug’n’play baby! Set your drier to turbo hot and point towards already lit coals.
- Tongs in the right hand, water sprayer in the left. Squirt some water on a flame that’s too big; it’ll ruin all that aroma you’ve work to create.