Tebasaki Chicken Wings

tebasakiwings

I travel to Japan quite frequently for work and am fortunate enough to enjoy the some of the most amazing food on earth. Sushi, tempura, Kobe beef, you name it. While my travels normally take me to Tokyo, last year I had business trip in Nagoya, which is in central Japan. You can find most typical Japanese dishes in every city, but there are some delicacies that can only be found in certain regions of Japan.

My first Japan trip was actually to Nagoya a little over a year ago. It took about 16 hours to get there and I think I landed around 10 pm. By the time I made it through customs, took a taxi to the hotel and checked in it was almost midnight. And I was STARVING. I set out to find anything that was open and wound up in a quaint little restaurant with servers and chefs that didn’t speak a lick of English and menus written completely in Japanese. With no pictures!

The server luckily knew two words- “Ramen” and “Pork”. At this point I would’ve eaten the menu so I nodded and muttered “Hai”, which is Japanese for yes.

I was expecting a bowl of noodles in some sort of broth and maybe a piece of bacon or a pork chop? Well I got the first one—a bowl of noodles. But do you know what the pork dish was? A PIG’S BRAIN! WHY would I want to eat the brain of a pig! They aren’t even smart! I felt bad, so I cut it up and moved it around on my plate so it looked like I at least tried it. I’ll tell you one thing—the sight of that meal cured my hunger.

So anyway, I was very hesitant to break out and try anything crazy after that experience. I ended up speaking with the concierge and telling him about my run in with the brain. He laughed, and said the chefs were probably trying to play a joke on me. He told me if there’s one thing I should try in Nagoya it’s Tebasaki chicken wings. Chicken wings sounded safe to me so I was on my way to the nearest place that served them- Yamachan.

Yamachan is actually a chain with most branches in Nagoya, 34 to be exact. Based on my three visits to this joint, it’s a quite popular post-work hangout for Japanese businessmen. They serve cold, cheap Kirin or Asahi beer and wings by the dozen. You can’t miss the logo- it’s a cartoonish looking man dressed in a bird suit with a peace sign.

I actually just got back from Tokyo two days ago and I found a Yamachan! There is only one in Tokyo and it’s smaller than a closet, with standing room only. The atmosphere wasn’t as nice as the Nagoya branches, but it reminded me how much I love these wings. As an added bonus, they even provide you with a 5-step eating guide.

Yes that is Zima on the menu
Yes that is Zima on the menu

I’ll always have my allegiance to the buffalo variation, but these are really REALLY good. Totally different texture than your standard wing (they’re double fried), and the seasoning is unique and tasty. Thanks to a spoonful of pepper and a pinch of sugar, they have a perfect balance of spicy and sweet. Next time I will try a baked variation, but if this is your first time trying these wings—you gotta fry them.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken wings ($4.00)
  • ¼ C flour ($.10)
  • 2 tbs soy sauce ($.20)
  • 1 tbs sugar ($.10)
  • 1 tsp Japanese sake ($.50)
  • 2 tbs Mirin ($.50) – you can find this in the Asian section of most supermarkets
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder ($.05)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 tbs white sesame seeds ($.40)

Total: $5.85

Instructions

Rinse chicken wings and pat dry. Dredge in flour. Heat oil in cast iron or regular skillet on medium-high. Fry wings for 3 minutes or until light golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Mix soy sauce, mirin, sugar, sake, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Turn skillet to high and fry wings another 5 minutes. While chicken is cooking, microwave glaze for 1 minute.

Drain chicken on paper towels and brush sauce. Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper along with sesame seeds.

Serve hot.

Japanese Avocado and Ginger Salad

AvocadoSalad

I’ve been to Japan four times in the last six months and racked up more frequent flyer miles than I know what to do with. I’d love to say it was for vacation, but I have to travel there often for work (my day job– I wish it was for something cooking related). If you have never been to Japan I suggest you go immediately. I’ve traveled quite frequently in the past few years, both domestically and internationally, and I can say that Tokyo is without a doubt one of the most incredible cities I’ve ever been to. It’s one of those places that can really change your entire perspective of the world. The people are so driven and career oriented, the city so fast paced, yet the Japanese culture of being kind, respectful and trustworthy is not forgotten. People will go out of their way to help you and make you feel welcome, and you never have to worry about your personal safety as a tourist . In Tokyo, you can ride the metro at 3 pm on any given weekday and see dozens of 5-year-old children riding the train home– by themselves!

tokyo

This post would be incomplete if I didn’t mention the cuisine in Japan. It’s incredible. My favorite sushi joint, Sushi Zanmai, is open 24 hours and serves the most amazing, yet simple, sushi ever. Most of it arrives every morning from Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, the largest seafood market in the world. Below is a photo of me exploring the market at 6 in the morning, right before I had tuna sashimi for breakfast at Zanmai.

fishmarket

Some of the traditional dishes in Japan are quite…interesting. Each time I go I try expanding my horizons a little, but to be honest there are just some things I will never eat. Things like horse meat, grasshoppers and fermented soy beans. No thank you! It’s funny when I go to Japanese restaurants in America now. Those Teppanyaki places are a total rip off! There is no such thing as white sauce in Japan. There is no fried rice either. With that said I did have an amazing ginger salad the last time I went to Tokyo. It was a little different than the standard kind you get in the states. They added avocado, used butter lettuce and the salad tasted much fresher than normal. Below is my take on ginger salad!

Ingredients

  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small shallot, peeled chopped
  • 2.5 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons white miso
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 head of bibb lettuce or spring mix
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced into rings
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Sesame seeds

Instructions:

In a food processor, blend, carrot, shallot, ginger. Add white miso and sesame oil. While the machine is running, slowly add canola oil and water. Blend until it reaches desired consistency. Toss with bibb lettuce, onion and avocado. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

sushi