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I love the 4th of July! Even if you aren’t American, who wouldn’t love gathering around with friends and family, enjoying the sunshine, and stuffing yourself with coma-inducing amounts of barbecued meat and vegetables, potato salad, and delcious apple pie (a la mode, of course) for dessert?
However, I must admit that barbecuing, as a cooking style, confuses me a little. Slow cooking brisket? Four hour ribs? What are these things? How do I do? How long is too long, and what’s up with the whole beer can in a chicken deal? I honestly think I need to plan a trip to the Southern states to get a barbecuing education, as they have much more prolific barbecue than we do in California.
In fact, the most barbecuing experience I have is at Korean BBQ, which is a dining style where everyone sits at a grill embedded into a table. A selection of fresh, thinly-sliced, raw meat is delivered to your table, along with fresh vegetables and Korean side dishes. And then you cook the meat and veggies yourself, at your own table, dipping the meat in sauces as it comes off the grill.
But something that always enticed me about anime was the yakiniku, or grilled meat, that characters eat, usually at a celebration. You see this in Silver Spoon (rip Pork Bowl), Haikyu!!, Sakura Quest, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, and many, many more. Yakiniku was inspired by Korean BBQ, in that everyone gathers around a grill together to cook up some meat, and dip it in a sauce. However, that sauce is special to Japan, and is much sweeter than the dipping sauces you typically find at Korean BBQ. Also, the veggies that are cooked in anime alongside the meat are much more reminiscent of American barbecue, at least to me. You frequently see corn on the cob, zucchini, and onions, all of which I’ve had at barbeques in America. (You also see mushrooms, but that’s definitely just a Japanese thing, I’m pretty sure.)
The challenge with cooking yakiniku in America is that most American barbecue grills are just not designed for the thin slices of meat required for an authentic yakinuku experience. Of course, you can use the yakiniku sauce to add flavor to any grilled meat, but yakiniku is typically cooked in just a few minutes, and eaten straight off the grill. Because the slices of meat are so small, the grill they use is crosshatched so that nothing can easily fall through. My barbecue (ok, fine, my apartment complex’s barbecue), unfortunately, is not like this, so I had to improv my own Japanese style grill by putting a wire rack over the charcoal grill and using that as my cooking surface. It worked perfectly! If you want to do this, make sure your rack is pure metal, so that it doesn’t disfigure.
Once you grill your meat, it’s as simple as swirling it around in the yakiniku sauce, and shoving it into your mouth as quickly as possible! As a bonus, I’ve included a Japanese potato salad recipe below, to prepare and eat with your meat. I highly recommend it- Japanese potato salad is vinegary and crisp, the perfect compliment to the spicy-sweet dipping sauce. Have a happy and safe 4th of July, and if you aren’t celebrating, I hope you can still use this recipe. After all, who needs a national holiday as an excuse to eat grilled meat?
Watch the video below for more details on how to get grilling!
Ingredients for Yakiniku:
The Meat + Veggies:
- Thinly sliced beef that is a nice cut, such a rib eye or sirloin. I also like short ribs, and use some here. Most Asian supermarkets will have thinly sliced meat, or meat specially labeled for BBQ- check the frozen food section if they don’t have anything fresh!
- Fresh corn, shucked
- Fresh zucchini, sliced for the grill
- Shiitake mushrooms, cleaned
- Really any kind of veggies you want.
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp mirin
- 1 1/2 tbsp sake
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp awase or shiro miso
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 1 tbsp grated garlic
- a few dashes of Togarashi, or another chili spice
- Sesame seeds
Ingredients for Japanese Style Potato Salad
- 2 pounds of gold potatos, peeled and cut into pieces
- 2 mini cucumbers
- 1 carrot
- 1/8 of a red onion
- 1 boiled egg
- 1 cup Japanese mayo
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
To Make Japanese Potato Salad:
1. Boil potatos and carrot until fork tender, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Thinly slice the cucumber, put in a bowl, and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
3. Dice the onion. Mince the egg. When carrot is done, halve it lengthwise and cut half moons.
4. When potato is done, mash until it is almost smooth, with just a few chunks of potato left.
5. Wring the water out of the cucumbers. Add the cucumber to the mashed potato. Add the egg, onion, and carrots. Stir to combine.
6. Add the mayo and vinegar. Stir to combine. Taste, season with additional salt or mayo as needed.
7. Set aside in fridge until ready.
To Make Yakiniku:
1. Combine sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer and reduce slightly, taste the flavors, adjust any flavors, and then set aside to cool. Before dining, pour a little into dipping bowls for all the diners.
2. Get your grill going- light your charcoal and allow the coals to come to an even temperature (all charcoals should be grey and very hot by the time you start cooking).
3. Place your wire rack over the grill so that it is cross-hatched. Give it a few minutes to heat up.
4. Then, start grilling! Place vegetables on first, as they’ll take longer to cook. If you’d like spread a little yakiniku sauce on them for flavor. When ready to start eating, lay your meat on the grill so that it is laid flat. This will make sure the meat cooks evenly. Turn over once, halfway through cooking. Depending on the thickness and type of your meat, each side with require about 1-2 minutes of cooking. If cooking short ribs, leave on for a minute or two longer. If cooking chicken or pork, be careful to make sure it’s fully cooked before removing it from the grill.
4. As meat finishes cooking, pile it up on a plate and let your friends dig in. Make sure to save some for yourself! If you’re sitting around a grill, your friends can just pull meat off as it finishes cooking and eat.