Japanese cooking techniques often revolve around using a grill rather than an outdoor grill, especially during the cold winter months. But spring and summer in Japan are another story, even for those who don’t have outdoor space to grill.
The long, chirping chirping of cicadas, the smell of chicken grease sizzling on hot coals, shochu highballs and neighborhood festivals — these are things that remind me of my summers in Japan. I didn’t have space to grill in my apartment in Machida, outside of Tokyo, but I could always rely on festivals and park barbecues to get my yakitori fix. If it would be downright irresponsible to import a bunch of cicadas just to create a bit of ambiance at my next summer barbecue, I can at least serve up a menu of some of my favorite Japanese grill recipes. Although you can use a grill to make all of the recipes below, we suggest using a charcoal grill for the best flavor. A Weber is fine, but a tabletop konro or shichirin (small clay grill) creates a communal experience that lets you and your guests eat while you cook. For an even better taste experience, try using binchotan charcoal.
Looking for simple recipes that celebrate the main ingredients? Try salt-grilled fish or some of the classic yakitori recipes. If you’re looking for complex, layered flavors, head straight for the Ginger Garlic Half Chickens or the Miso Marinated Salmon. Of course, just because we grill doesn’t mean dessert isn’t on the menu – mitarashi dango is a grilled dessert and a spring festival favorite in Japan. Find all these recipes and more below.