Easy Japanese Summer Barbecue

Easy Japanese Summer Barbecue | Nourish SF

Clear sunny days are rare here in San Francisco, especially during the summer months of June-August. So when it's "unseasonably" hot out, I always find myself dreaming up a Japanese-style barbecue before I've even had breakfast. The Japanese-style barbecue foods I prefer are simple to prepare, and made even simpler for me since Bryan enjoys grilling.

One of my favorite cookbooks of all time is Everyday Harumi by Harumi Kurihara. She's known as the Martha Stewart of Japan and Everyday Harumi was the first Japanese cookbook I have ever cooked from. It's also one of the very few cookbooks I've cooked cover to cover. Not in a Julie & Julia way, but over time; the recipes are simply THAT good. It's through this book that I began building my Japanese cooking foundation. If you're interested in Japanese cooking, I can't recommend this book highly enough.

My favorite Japanese ingredient right now is shio koji, a mixture of rice (that's been treated with koji, an ancient mold spore called aspergillus oryzae), sea salt and water. Though it sounds pretty out there for most Western palates, koji is actually in soy sauce, miso, sake and mirin, among other basic Japanese ingredients. Since it's a fermented product, shio koji is full of healthy probiotics. I consider it pretty magical, since all I do is add a couple of tablespoons to marinate the chicken in the recipe below and it becomes mouth-wateringly tender, juicy and rich with umami.

Every month, I'm lucky enough to volunteer at the Aedan Fermented Foods booth at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market. We sell organic shio koji products including a variety of types of miso, all made in small batches here in San Francisco. Their products are the closest I can get to home-made level quality when I've run out of my favorite aunt in Japan's homemade items  (which she hand-carries to me from Japan almost every year). The quality and health benefits of the miso and shio koji are simply unmatched by the commercially-made items that are more widely available in Japanese markets. Aedan products are only available in the San Francisco Bay Area now, but you can purchase pre-made shio koji online or koji online to make your own shio koji , which is very simple.

Two of the four recipes listed below require any actual cooking with heat (a rice cooker and a grill). Simplicity, not having to stand in front of a stove on a hot day, and more time outside to enjoy the sunshine, check all the right boxes in my book!

Total Cooking Time: 24.5 hours
Active Cooking Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4

2 pounds grass-fed, organic, boneless chicken thigh meat with skin on. If you live in the Bay Area, I can't recommend Marin Sun Farms highly enough.
4 tablespoons shio koji
6 wooden skewers that have been submerged and soaked in water for at least 15 minutes prior to threading chicken onto them
1 lemon, quartered


  1. Marinate chicken with shio koji for at least three hours or overnight, if you can. 
  2. While the skewers are soaking, cut meat into roughly 1.5" squares.
  3. Thread chicken onto skewers, try to pierce meat twice with the skewer (sort of folding it onto itself) threading the skin with it.  
  4. Prepare a charcoal grill- this should take about 15 minutes.
  5. Cook the chicken for about 6 minutes on each side or until done.
  6. Rest for five minutes and serve with lemon quarters.

*Note: Yakitori is basically a kebab and means grilled chicken in Japanese. I don't recommend adding vegetables to your kebabs since vegetables cook at a different rate and heat than meat. Plus, this chicken is so good, you'll be glad your skewer is fully loaded with chicken :).

Total Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Active Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

Half of a (about 10 ounces) medium green cabbage
Four organic green onions
1/2 of an organic carrot
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon miso
salt and pepper- to taste
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds


  1. Shred the cabbage, peel and finely grate the carrot. Finely chop the green onions. Give it a good toss to evenly distribute the ingredients, then place it in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Cover and place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to get the vegetables extra crispy.
  3. Whisk sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, and miso in a small bowl until both miso and sugar have dissolved smoothly and evenly. 
  4. Right before serving the coleslaw, mix in the dressing, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss well.
  5. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.

*Adapted from Everyday Harumi

Total Cooking Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Active Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

16 ounce basket organic grape tomatoes (or cherry, if that's what your market has)
1 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt


  1. Sterilize a 4 cup or larger glass jar.
  2. Combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
  3. Rinse the tomatoes and remove stems.
  4. Prick each tomato a few times with a toothpick.
  5. Place tomatoes in the jar, pouring the pickling vinegar over them. Keep in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving. I prefer to serve the tomatoes at least one hour after and up to one day after they've been pickled. The natural flavor of the tomato is still present and not over-powered by the pickling mixture yet. 

*Recipe adapted from Everyday Harumi

Total Cooking Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Active Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4

3 cups uncooked Japanese white rice
1 tablespoon sake
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fava beans, peeled, shelled and cooked


  1. In the rice cooker pot, wash the rice three times in cold water then drain.
  2. Peel the favas and shell them, reserving the shells (the second layer wrapped around each bean).
  3. Boil 4 cups of water and toss in 1 teaspoon sea salt- this will keep your favas bright and green.
  4. When the water comes to a rolling boil, throw in the favas and shells. After the favas have cooked (3-4 minutes), strain them, immediately place them in cold water to stop cooking and reserve the boiling liquid.
  5. Cool the fava-infused liquid until it's warm to the touch, then add it to the rice cooker with the rice (1 cup of liquid per 1 cup of rice, or to your rice cooker's instructions). Add the sake and salt, give it a good stir and cook rice. Do not add the fave beans to the rice- they will over-cook.
  6. While the rice is cooking, discard the fava shells, reserving only the beans. 
  7. When the rice is finished cooking, give it a good stir, tossing in the cooked favas and mixing roughly. 
  8. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt (and black sesame seeds, if you'd like).

*Adapted from Everyday Harumi. You can also use green peas like Kurihara does. I just can't get enough of favas when they are in season, even though they require some extra work!
*If we are having guests over, I'll cook from our donabe instead of a rice cooker and cook the rice according to the donabe directions.