Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Make Your Own Yakitori!

It was a case of 'monkey see, monkey do' after reading last Wednesday's LA Times write-up of do-it-yourself yakitori. So on Saturday I headed down with grandma to Marukai in Torrance to buy a yakitori grill and a slew of meat and vegetables. Once we were in the store, I got so excited I ran off to the kitchen appliance section leaving my grandma coughing in the dust. I described to the nice Filipino stock boy what I wanted and he pointed to a nearly empty shelf. Apparently the other LA Times readers beat me to it. =(

There was still a foot-and-a-half-long ceramic grill left for 50 bucks, so I snatched it before anyone else could. Then I grabbed a few packs of sliced pork belly, chicken breast (they were out of thigh), shishito, juicy Arabiki sausage and a few stalks of green onion. Just in case this project completely backfired, I wanted to keep it simple. Of course the all-important ingredient is the Japanese charcoal or binchotan ($6 at Marukai). I'm not one to say just how well it stands up to American charcoal but if you're making Japanese BBQ you might as well do it right.

Compared to lighting the fire, preparing the skewers was easy. Just cut the chicken into bite-size morsels and marinade them for at least 30 minutes in a mixture of sake (2 tbs.) , mirin (2 tbs.), soy sauce (2 tbs.), dashi (3 tbs.) and sugar (1 tbs). ( I don't recommend LA Times' recipe. Ya need a 'lil sugar in there.) Here's some skewer varieties I tried:

1) Sliced pork belly wrapped around raw asparagus (above)
2) Chicken morsels and green onion
3) Arabiki sausage
4) Shishito

If you want a sauce to coat the cooked skewers then just mix a little cornstarch with cold water, add it to the marinade and heat it up in a pot to thicken.


(@_@); =>

Lighting the charcoal was a big challenge considering I don't have a backyard kiln or even a metal trashcan (Though I did think of borrowing one from the neighborhood homeless guy). I'd be a horrible arsonist, but I'm sure the fire department would be happy about that. Actually I take that back. They would have scolded me had they known I was burning coal on a stove.
The whitened sticks turned a fiery red so I tossed them into the pit. Mikey kindled them with an electric fan. Carbon monoxide poisoning isn't my ideal method of death so I kept the windows wide open.

It took over an hour to get the coals started but once they did it was smooth sailing from there. The sausage and pork belly's fatty oils dripped onto the charcoal sending up a savory stream of smoke. That's what helps flavor the meat, so as much as I wanted to jump-start the fire with lighter fluid I knew it would have ruined the entire meal.

When you think about it, it's strange to have a hot fire going in the middle of summer heat. But for some reason, this is the season for barbecues -- so bust out the beer and fire up the coals.

Personally, I hope to enjoy a soft serve ice cream cone this summer. That's all I really ask for. Well, that and a juicy stick of pork belly. =)


Lactose Intolerance Log:

I'm nearly done with my non-dairy experiment. I'm documenting my experience of going 38 days without dairy here. (Warning: Log contains explicit details of abdominal discomfort.)

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