Memorial Day BBQ, Japanese style!

Memorial Day is almost here so let's have a BBQ!  Just take out that simple teriyaki sauce that you've stored in your refrigerator, or make a fresh batch now -  Marinate a whole chicken, yummy beef steaks, skewer some jumbo shelled and deveined shrimp, or fresh scallops, whatever you like!  It helps to skewer smaller seafood pieces so that they aren't slipping through the BBQ grates.  There's nothing like the smell of fresh BBQ so don't be surprised if you're neighbors sneak over to see what's on the grill! For the chicken, have your butcher cut it for you or do it yourself (  Keep the skin on to seal in the flavor.  Take your meat, fish or poultry and put them in separate zip lock bags. Pour enough teriyaki sauce over them to coat.  Let them marinate for a couple hours or over night in the refrigerator.  When your ready to get your party started, heat up the BBQ to medium high and cook the chicken about 10-12 minutes per side, the steak about 5-8 min per side (depending on how you like it done) and the shrimp or scallops for about 2 minutes a side (do not overcook these as there is nothing worse than tough shrimp or scallops). Cook them in this order from the longest to the shortest amount of time needed.  DO NOT cover the BBQ when cooking or you'll end up with too much char from the sauce dripping and catching fire. Let them rest for about 5 minutes before serving.  Serve warm or at room temp.

Here are some easy Japanese sides:

Chinese Chicken Salad (I know, it's Chinese but most Japanese-Americans know how to make a good one)  This one is from my mom and is always a huge hit!  The dressing for this can be made in advance and refrigerated.  For a unique accent presentation, serve these in one person portions in little Chinese take-out cartons sold at places like Smart & Final and have the dressing on the side to add just before eating.


1/2 to 1 pkg. maifun (Annie Chung or Dynasty brands sell maifun - you should be able to find it in a regular grocery store in the Asian section,  if not an Asian grocer for sure)

3 boneless chicken breasts or 18 chicken tenders

1-2 heads lettuce - Iceberg or Romaine, sliced thinly

3 green onions, sliced thin diagonally

1 small pkg. almonds, toasted

1/4 C sesame seeds, toasted

1/4 C cilantro or Chinese parsley

1 large piece of fresh ginger - cut in half lengthwise with skin on

Vegetable oil for deep frying


4 Tbsp. sugar

4 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar or Su (my favorite brand is made by Marukan and is available at most regular grocery stores in the Asian section #5 on my must have list

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 C salad oil

2 Tbsp. sesame oil (my favorite brand is Kadoya and is available at most Asian grocers - #2 on my must have list

For the dressing, combine all ingredients except oils and dissolve over low heat.  Add oil after cooling.  Whisk ingredients.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use. Just shake before pouring over the salad. Cook chicken breasts in enough water to cover breasts and add the fresh ginger.  Heat to a boil and cook chicken until just done.  Immediately drain, cool and shred into very small pieces.

Deep fry maifun in hot oil at 350 degrees, a handful at a time.  There should be about 1 inch of oil in a deep pan.  The maifun will puff up quickly.  Remove and drain on a paper towel and set aside.

Combine the chicken, lettuce, onions, almonds, sesame seeds and cilantro in a salad bowl.  Just before serving add the crunchy maifun and dressing and toss gently to mix.

Skewered veggies with Miso Dip

You could use sweet peppers, mushrooms, red onions, japanese eggplant cut into big chunks, whatever you like!  Sprinkle with some salt and drizzle some olive oil on them to cover lightly. Skewer a colorful variety.  BBQ them on medium high heat until they have a nice char to all sides.  Serve this miso dip on the side or you could also have a side of warm teriyaki sauce for people to drizzle over.

Miso Dip Ingredients:

¼ cup red miso paste

2 tbsp mirin

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce, preferably low sodium

Whisk all ingredients together and serve in a nice bowl.

Japanese Pumpkin Fries (Kabocha – カボチャ)

Makes about 6 small servings

These fries are a big hit with the kids.  Dunked in catsup or alone, they are a nutritious side dish to any meal.  They are better because they are baked, not fried.


1 Japanese Pumpkin – Available at most natural food stores or Japanese grocers

2 tbsp Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper (Preferably Kosher salt as it’s bigger and gives it bolder flavor without adding much)

Choose your spices - add paprika for a nice kick or make them sweeter with a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar!

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees. Cut the kabocha in half and remove the seeds with a spoon.  The seeds can be used just like pumpkin seeds for roasting so save these!  Cut the stem and bottom off.  No need to peel, just leave the skin on.  Cut into 4 inch lengthwise strips.

Place on a cookie sheet.  Coat with olive oil, salt, pepper and spices.  Mix to incorporate.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until they are browned - turning once.