Yakitori and Barley Tea

At festivals, there’s always an abundance of food options. So much that it’s hard to try everything. Being at the Japanese festival recently which commemorated our city’s relationship with Japan, I had that problem. There were stalls with sushi, takoyaki (squid balls) and noodles with squid ink, all of which I unfortunately didn’t get to sample. However, other than the cold yuzu shio ramen, I was able to try some yakitori. In Japanese, yaki means grilled and tori means fowl. These are pieces of marinated chicken skewered onto a stick and grilled on a BBQ, much like kebabs.

To cook yakitori, a long BBQ-like cooking grate is used (though some just use a straight-on BBQ grill). At the festival, there were three guys constantly flipping the endless row of skewers until they were cooked a beautiful golden-brown. When they were done, they dipped the seared skewers into a sweet sauce and then placed them into a styrofoam cup to serve to their customers. Much like any marinated meat, these skewers were delicious! They had the strong smokey flavours of the charcoal and the sweetness of the marinade which is probably due to the mixture of soy sauce, mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine made of rice), sake and brown sugar. They were moist and easy to eat off of the skewers.

To finish off our meal, we had iced barley tea or mugicha in Japanese. I didn’t really know what to expect, but when I drank it the tea was refreshing, cold and tasted very much like barley.

It reminded me a bit of green tea in terms of strength. The flavours of the barley were very robust and heavy and it was definitely a change from the usual types of tea. I always find cold teas a bit odd (other than iced tea beverages), so I think drinking barley tea hot would be even better.

To end the day, the festival had a bon odori dance performance which is a Japanese folk dance to welcome the dead. The lady instructed the audience to “dig, dig, chunga chunga, open, open” and repeat while making different hand gestures and moving around in a circle. The performers were dressed in traditional kimonos and the dance itself was kind of cute. Not sure if I’ll pick it up anytime soon, but the audience seemed to enjoy it. 🙂

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