Q&A with Tim Anderson

Your new book is called Your Home Izakaya - what are izakaya?

Izakaya are Japanese bars that serve food specifically to have with drinks. In fact, they began as sake stores that started selling snacks in order to keep customers there. Izakaya food varies widely, and can encompass a very big range of Japanese and also international cuisines, but it tends towards strongly-flavoured dishes. Basically, if it’s fun and tastes good with beer or sake, it’s fair game!

What inspired you to write a book dedicated Izakaya? 

My publisher asked me to write a book about izakaya, and I jumped at the chance because it’s one of my favourite genres of Japanese food and one that I’m fairly well-versed in. Izakaya are my favourite places to eat and drink in Japan, and throughout the lockdown I realised it’s not that hard to recreate a good, chilled-out izakaya atmosphere at home. Japanese drinking food makes dinner quite a lot of fun, even if you’re not drinking.

We're very excited about your upcoming Cook Along on 24th August when you'll be barbecuing Yakitori style - do you always go Japanese style when hosting Barbecues?

I do Japanese barbecue about half the time, and American low-and-slow barbecue the other half. It’s not traditional, but I sometimes add a bit of aromatic wood to the coals even when I’m doing Japanese barbecue because it adds an interesting dimension of flavour. I have had great success using citrus tree leaves and cedar wood with Japanese barbecue.

Do you always man the barbecue, or are you happy to hand over the tools sometimes?

I’m always on the grill, but the ideal Japanese barbecue setup is to have a grill that you can all sit around, turning the skewers communally and taking them off when they’re ready.

What's your all time favourite marinade and whats it made with?

Japanese barbecue doesn’t typically use marinades. Instead, seasoning is usually added late in the cooking, in the form of a tare, which is typically a soy sauce-based glaze with sake, mirin, sugar, and often stock made from the chicken carcasses and aromatic ingredients like spring onions and ginger. The finished skewers are dunked in the tare before a final caramelisation on the grill, and then the tare is kept like a master stock for future use. The more grilled chicken that gets dunked in the tare, the smokier and richer it becomes. But as for actual marinades, I keep it simple – one of my very favourites is a mixture of sake, salt, yuzu-kosho and MSG.

What's the most important thing to remember when hosting a Japanese Barbecue Party?

Keep yourself and your guests close to the barbecue! Yakitori is quick, hands-on cooking, so you need to be tending the grill almost constantly. If your guests are far away it can become fairly anti-social. Other than that, get the best chicken you can afford and the cheapest, coldest beer you can find.