Imagine having the ability to create a small active volcano using only onion rings, vegetable oil and a very special secret sauce. I have seen it myself. This little gem, created by master chefs, comes from the country that also gave us origami.
When I was a young lad, growing up, the ice cream truck would occasionally drive up our street during the summer, with its tinkling music, and sell ice cream cones to happy children.
In Japan, the substitute for ice cream is … baked apotatoes! (How much saki do they drink over there? Do they not love their children?
A truck, no doubt well-built and fuel-efficient, actually drives around selling baked potatoes to unsuspecting, defenceless young Japanese children. You may as well give them roasted Japanese aubergine with garlic and cheese.
(As a child, I would have been profoundly disappointed, to say the least, if someone had tried to surreptitiously slip me a baked potato instead of an ice cream cone.)
In Japanese yakiniku means grilled meat. But not only do they grill meat, they also grill up their tofu: Yaki-dofu, to be more exact, is one Japanese term for grilled tofu. Nothing could possibly be tastier than grilled tofu – except maybe a dry piece of paper towel.
Apparently, unsuspecting, defenceless young Japanese children are not immune to the charms of barbecued tofu. During my exhaustive research regimen, I discovered a recipe for a ketchup-based “BBQ Tofu for Kids”.
For this tasty treat, you whisk together all the kids’ favourites – soy sauce, vegetable oil, water, garlic powder and ketchup – to make a marinade for cubes or strips of tofu, which will later be grilled.
My Mom used to give me chocolate chip cookies for a treat as she was blissfully unaware that grilled tofu was appropriate for any age group.
If you should find yourself wanting to actually grill up tofu, you should go with the extra-firm and make sure you press it well. Marinade the tofu in a bag in the fridge for at least an hour, but longer is OK as well. Pick a marinade with a bit of sugar as it will caramelize the outside of the tofu, and use skewers instead of throwing it right on the grill.
Make sure the grill is well-oiled, as tofu has a nasty habit of sticking to the grill if you do not exercise caution. Feel free to use any excess marinade to baste the tofu while it is cooking on the BBQ.
Now, what I think could work would be to cook the sushi on a hibachi, the Japanese version of a BBQ. Everyone knows that that the origin of sushi can be traced back to third-century China where the fish, rice and vinegar were combined to ferment and subsequently stored to provide nourishment during lean times.
The Japanese, and this can be verified, took over sushi-making during the highly controversial Muromachi Period, abandoned the fermentation process and wrapped the remains in compressed, dried seaweed.
The result of this evolution is termed Edo-Mae Zushi, euphemistically as nigri, or what we in Canada know as raw fish in rice and weeds. Sounds like pike fishing with my buddy Steve. Have we even mentioned wasabi yet?
To make sushi BBQ on your hibachi, successfully, you must also serve umeboshi, the traditional Japanese pickle, which starts life as a pear and is mandatory at every meal. I am only now beginning to understand why breath mints enjoy such brisk sales in Japan.
For me, tofu of any type may be successfully “hidden” in Pad Thai. I just have to figure out how to grill a decent Pad Thai; maybe a few Changs (beer) might help me out a bit there.
Remember to shop locally and grill responsibly.