By the Book: The Japanese Grill

By: Kirsten Vala

Growing up in the Midwest, my first exposure to Japanese food was a local teppanyaki restaurant, where knives would click, flames would fly and I would anticipate the first whiff of seductive, sizzling sauce hitting the flat-top grill, the aroma permeating my senses, getting tangled in my hair. 

Brushing a beef marinade from the new The Japanese Grill cookbook this week, the same alluring aroma came sizzling off my grill pan, and I was instantly hooked. The authors — Japanese-born Tadashi Ono (chef at Matsuri in NYC) and food writer Harris Salat — came up with a simple yet brilliant concept: combine American-style grilling (steaks, chops and chicken over a backyard grill) with basic Japanese flavors.  

Writing out the exotic grocery list for Pork Chops with Yuzu-Miso Marinade(red miso, sake, mirin and red yuzu kosho), I wondered whether it might be too much trouble. But seeing the same ingredients called for in the next recipe, and the next — I used the yuzu kosho (a spicy citrus sauce) in a marinade for fish, flavored my green beans with sake, and brushed red miso over grilled rice balls — I realized the the stroke of genius: The authors set you up with a few key ingredients, and use them again and again. With one shopping trip, you'll be set to grill Japanese-style dishes all summer long. 

This cookbook covers all the Japanese grilling bases. Beginning with traditional yakitori (skewered food, including chicken hearts, gizzards and more!) — a cool nod to the grilling culture of Japan— it then delves into American standbys like Garlic-Ginger Chicken and sides like easy Spinach with Ground Sesame.

A surprising chapter is devoted to Yaki Onigiri, or grilled sticky rice balls, brushed with flavorings. I was tempted to skip such a complicated-looking accompaniment, but the crisp, golden grilled rice balls were fun and easy to make, definitely worth the extra effort. Japanese-style foil-packed grilling is also a nice surprise — for small or tender veggies or fish, try cooking in a pouch with ingredients like sake and soy sauce (like the  Foil-Baked Green Beans with Soy Sauce and Garlic).

The Japanese Grilltakes grilling to a new, unexpected level, mixing infinitely familiar grilled fare with a bit of the exotic. I'm hooked on the flavors — tangy yuzu kosho, sweet mirin and potent sake — and I'll be working my way through this cookbook all summer, with weeknight, grill-pan suppers and backyard cookouts sure to impress. 

Start grilling from The Japanese Grill with these recipes: 

More cookbooks to try: 

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