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Japanese-Style Barbecue

By: Mike Liem

Date Posted: 2000-07-14

For most Americans, summertime is barbecue time. A barbecue is not only a wonderful excuse to get friends and family together, itís also a great way to cook and eat. Whether youíre grilling hotdogs and hamburgers or the equally venerable ribs or chicken, nothing beats the aroma of meat cooking over hot, glowing coals.

Like Americans, the Japanese also love barbecues. But while the method of cooking is the same, what go on the Japanese grill arenít always what your Uncle Bob used to burn on the Weber. Seafood is as much a staple of the Japanese barbecue as meat and poultry.

The Japanese have always been fond of grilled fish. You can barbecue virtually all kinds of fish, but one of the best that I know of is sake, or salmon. You can buy salmon steaks at Japanese grocery stores or from local fishmongers, and theyíre not terribly expensive. Salmon is great brushed with a little bit of oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, then seared over the grill. For many, myself included, the crispy salmon skin is probably the best part of the fish. The trick to barbecuing fish is the same rule that generally applies to cooking fish: donít overcook it.

Besides fish, squid is also a favorite of the Japanese. Barbecued squid may sound a bit unusual, but once youíve tried it, youíll probably love it. Itís cheap, healthy, and very, very good. If you want to try grilling squid, buy fresh, whole squid (donít waste your money on the more expensive packaged, sashimi grade squid). Ask the fish purveyor to clean and prepare the squid for you (which will save you a lot of work!).

If you want your barbecue to be dramatic as well as delicious, youíve got to have clams. Live, medium-size clams are available at any Japanese grocery store. They usually go for around 200 yen for ten to a dozen. Wash the clams thoroughly before cooking them. Place the clams on the grill and wait. After a few minutes, the shells will pop open, eliciting ďoohĒ and ďahĒ from those around the grill. A few more minutes and the clams will be tender and ready to eat. Pull the clam meat with your teeth and sip the juices from the shell. What a great way to eat clams!

So there you have it. A small sampling of outdoor barbecuing, the Japanese way. The next time you plan on firing up the grill, why not take a departure from the usual burger burn routine and head for the seafood section of the supermarket?

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