Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grilled Ginger Chicken Yakitori with Leeks - and an old Trip to Japan

In a previous post, I mentioned a tiny Japanese restaurant in the heart of suburban New Jersey that became a firm fave of mine and gave my husband and I a new-founded respect for Japanese cuisine.

Then I actually got to go to Japan and ate McDonalds there for three days straight. More on that disturbing fact at the bottom of this post....

Aside from a delightful rolled beef and spirng onion dish (Beef Negimaki) that we constantly ordered, we would also alternately fluctuate between the chicken yakitori and tonkatsu. The former is chicken grilled in a teriyaki sauce, and the latter is more of a deep fried cutlet.

But in the mad rush that is the home kitchen, I realised I'd never actually attempted making these dishes at home, until Joanne's Regional Recipes came along showcasing Japan, and I thought "Well, now is the time or never!". Or I might have to settle for McD.

I saw a recipe on Food and Wine magazine (my new cooking muse) and I liked how they had incorporated ginger, leeks and bell pepper to this simple grilled dish.

We have the usual cast of characters to make the teriyaki sauce - yes people, we are making our own teriyaki, no store bought here!

Let me introduce you to Mirin, Sake and Soy Sauce - the same ingredients that were used in the Beef Negimaki marinade as well.

Grilled Ginger Chicken Yakitori with Leeks and Bell Peppers
(adapted from Food and Wine magazine)

1/3 cup sake
1/4 cup mirin
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar (you can ramp up to 2 Tbsp as per the orig recipe, I just don't like too much sweetness)
2 tsp grated or crushed fresh ginger
~2 lb boneless chicken (thighs or tenderloin)
Optional - yellow miso paste (3 Tbsp) - I did not use this
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cored, cut into squares
1 leek, white and light green part only, washed thoroughly, halved and cut crosswise

1. Soak bamboo skewers in water for ~ 4 hours so that they do not burn while grilling.
2. Mix sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar and ginger in a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat for about 5 - 10 minutes.
3.Thread chicken, bell pepper and leek pieces alternately on bamboo skewers and place on foil rimmed pan. Brush or pour marinade onto the skewers, refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Do not discard marinade, you will want to re-use it for basting while cooking.
4. Preheat oven broiler or fire up a BBQ grill, grill the skewers while basting with the remaining marinade and turning the skewers over so that all sides of the meat and vegetables get cooked. (It took me about 10 -15 minutes in an oven broiler).
5. I served the yakitori with steamed broccoli, boiled potatoes that had been tossed in butter and red chilli flakes, and some fried carrot and celery rice.

Back in the day (prehistoric - I didn't even have a digital camera!) I got to visit the magnificent country of Japan. However, I was also pregnant, and when we reached (literally) the other side of the world, my olfactory system went into overdrive and I very conveniently developed the most horrific case of nausea, which would then plague me for the rest of the pregnancy.

Nice going Ann, way to kick start your vacation in Japan!

Every restaurant sent me into shudders as the new smells and sights put my over-reactive digestive system into tremors. I sadly moped along the roads looking for something  to placate me, and my eyes fell on those golden yellow arches. Yes, people, I dare to divulge that I ate McDonalds (horrors!) for the next three days. Even though we couldn't quite figure out what we were ordering from the bright, cheery menu boards, fries are fries at the end of the day in any continent. Go on, laugh. I'm already planning a second trip to make up, suckers.

It didn't stop me from taking in the sights and sounds (maybe just not the smells) of Japan. I left in awe of the clockwork efficiency of the country and the homogeneous nature of its people. We never felt unsafe, we learnt their systems and traditions quickly thanks to the help of kind passer-bys and we marveled at their stoic and proud heritage.

At the revered Sensoji Temple in Asakusa district. I've always wonderd in Pier 1 carries that lantern in that size and more importantly, what could have happened if it had fatefully fallen on me.

Attempting to not cross a street at Akihabara - the electronics retail section of Tokyo. Very difficult to do, because you get swept in a sea of mankind and they politely deposit you on the other side of the road. Stores displayed every range of electronics from the latest in computerized toilet seats (heat and water strength monitors) to what looked to us like funny miniature walkmans which would then arrive Stateside as Ipods. They were 5 years ahead of us!

At the entrance of the Meiji Jinju temple in bustling Harajuku. Yes, the same Harajaku neighborhood of Gewn Stefani notoriety with its strange mix of British punk teenagers had this ethereal lush green Yoyogi park. The noise of the city is miraculously silenced here and you are transported into another era. Seriously, I kept thinking "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" characters were going to leap out of the trees.

Walk thorough the park for twenty minutes and you come across the majestic Meiji Jinju temple. And guess what, it was apparently "Perfect Day to Have a Wedding" Day in Japan, we walked into FOUR separate Shinto weddings taking place, and the families let us watch. A completely other world and beautiful experience, though I will give a fashion shout out to that priest, take a look at his Lady Gaga-esque platforms.

This bride was going through several kimono changes with her assistants for a wedding photoshoot and gamely let me capture a shot of her. Check out the elaborate hairdo.

Finally, as we were leaving we bumped into an army of little tots, dressed up in regalia escorted by their grandparents for some sort of children's bendiction. This sweet grandma let me take a picture of her cutie pie, who in turn flashed some sort of gang sign at me.

This very lengthy post goes off to Joanne who is hosting Regional Recipes - Japan this month!


Gulmohar said...

Hey Ann ! How you doing ? Thanks for all those sweet words and your wishes..
Lovely pics from Japan

Nostalgia said...

Nice..How jealous your Japan trip makes.. wish I will go there one day too.. Glad you had a good time.

An Open Book said...

Hi Ann...thanks for that very relevant and sweet comment on my blog:)
Welcome back and i hope to see many more interesting posts...
Japan looks like fun, although ive heard food is pretty adventurous.
The daring bakers pink cookies are so damn adorable..

dp said...

I actually think it's kind of fun to go into McDonald's when visiting a foreign country. You never know what you'll get. In DK they serve remoulade or mayonaise with fries and you can get beer. I think it was in London where you can get a veggie burger.

Hey, bet you won't be buying teryaki sauce from the store anymore!

dp said...

I think it's fun to visit McDonald's in foreign countries. You never know what additional things you'll find on the menu.

Good for you for making your own teriyaki sauce. So easy, I doubt you'll buy it from the store anymore.

Soma said...

The skewered chicken with everything else is the kind of dinner I am craving right now.

Love that sweet little girl in red.

Dr.Sameena Prathap

Hi Ann,

Lovely pics and a great write up on your recipe too...will try it out..


sra said...

I can identify with eating McDonald's in Japan. I had very good Lebanese in Bangkok ;)

The first time I went there I couldn't take the smell of the street food though I did try quite a bit. But after a while, I couldn't take it anymore. I was quite disappointed with myself. When I went again last month, to Taiwan and Thailand, it didn't bother me at all!

Fabi said...

Beautiful post and awsome pics!
Have a nice weekend, cheers from Fabi in Madrid-Spain :-)

Ann said...

Thanks for all your comments folks! Wow Sra - Lebanese food in Thailand! =) said...

Nice ur post are a walk into japan for me..great pics ann!! Delicious looking grilled chicken.

TheKeyBunch said...

Such delish looking food! Love your blog:)


Joanne said...

Pregnancy really does truly crazy things to your system. I have a sneaking suspicion that someone is going to have to tie my down from McD's when I'm pregnant.

Thanks so much for this gorgeous post! I loved seeing all the pictures from Japan and the yakitori sounds delicious!

Bharathy said...

Wow! glad to hear you had a nice time in Japan!Lucky gal..:)

Hope wine turns out well for you!do let me know on day 21 ;)..hope you used wheat and yeast! :)

Angie's Recipes said...

Beautiful pictures of Japan, I really love the picture of that sweet little gal.

Marisa said...

Super impressed that you made your own teriyaki sauce!

hope and love said...

great post..!! keep rocking..!! :))

Rachel said...

I enjoyed this armchair tour of Japan. Thank you so much for being such a wonderful guest judge for Cook the Books. I appreciated all your comments about the book, Indian cuisine in all its variety, and about our blog posts. It was a fabulous effort and I am glad to have met you and been introduced to your blog.

tigerfish said...

Thanks for sharing photos of Japan. I like your meal of balanced carbs, proteins and fiber. :)