Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Shichirin" - Japanese Hibachi is it Better Than a Weber BBQ?

In the west, when folks have a barbecue, they wheel out barbecue monsters! Fire up one of those big western barbecues up and you're grillin' for a killin'... Er, I mean, often able to grill for 6 to 15 people no problem. Heck, in the states, I used to have a huge Weber barbecue that could handle 30 folks, no problem....Oh, I don't mean that we could grill 30 folks! I mean that we could easily grill enough food for 30 folks... And that is 30 folks with huge western appetites too!

Japan is a crowded and narrow place. Since few people have the space for a backyard barbecue, folks don't usually enjoy that tradition like we do in the States. Nevertheless, in Japan, we have these tiny barbecues called Shichirin..

Shichirin is perfect for two or three people and drinking and snacking.... And they are perfect for the petite Japanese appetite.

After my huge Weber got rusted out from so many massive American style barbecues in my back patio (to the neighbors chagrin), I went out to buy a new one but also convinced myself that a Shichirin is good enough for the 3 or 4 folks (including my family of three) for just about any barbecue.

It's perfect when the barbecue is just me or two of us! A Weber burns too much charcoal and is too much of a hassle when the participants are only two.

Long ago, a Japanese person once said to me, "You cannot compare Japan and the USA. Both have their good things; In the USA, you have a big house with lots of space... But you also have the troubles of cleaning and yard work and keeping your home from looking dilapidated. In Japan, my home is small; it is convenient and everything is easily within reach. Also, since homes are so small, people tend not to accumulate junk."

He is right. Being lazy, I find this philosophy fits me well; I do sometimes enjoy doing the lawn and cleaning and doing the garden. But during my work productive years, I'd rather make money and enjoy my free time .... Someday, I do want to go back to living on a farm... But now, Tokyo is convenient and everything is easily within reach and easy to clean... The Shichirin is good for me (even though I do have a Weber to use for a large group of guests!)

Shichirin (literally "seven wheels") from Wikipedia:

The shichirin is a lightweight, compact, and easy-to-move cooking stove. Charcoal is chiefly used for the fuel of shichirin. It has had prototypes since ancient times, and it is said that shichirin roughly the same as today's were made in the Edo period.[1] Old shichirin are mainly ceramic and many can be found in old houses. Most modern shichirin are made by heating diatomaceous earth, but the raw materials are not uniform. There are also shichirin such as those made with a double inside and outside ceramic structure. The shape is mainly cylindrical, square, or rectangular, and the size also varies. Many varieties of shichirin are made for different uses. In the Kansai region, they are also known as "kanteki".

In my back patio. I've had many parties with 30 people or so, but when there's just 4 or 5 of us, the Shichirin fits the bill perfectly...

So, while I sucked it up and forked over $500 USD for another Weber, I bought a Shichirin for $30!

Gee, even though I had thought, "We could never barbecue on this wimpy thing!" I am glad I bought it. It fits Japanese lifestyle well; it is small, convenient; not a major production to break it out and it is extremely easy to clean..... AND! (And this a very important AND!) A Shichirin is OK to barbecue for one person and have a few drinks by oneself.

...Now, it's another story if there's 20 guests and you wanna barbecue 30 steaks and 40 hotdogs! But for me, my Shichirin is a gift from heaven! 

Thank god for my Weber BBQ and thank god for Shichirin!

I love BBQ squid... A Shichirin is perfect to BBQ this sort of small thing! On a Weber, it would fall through the cracks in the grill... Unfortunately I cannot imagine that become part and parcel of the typical American BBQ or July 4th BBQ celebration!


Jimbo said...

That's a pretty cool little grill. I'll check around the local Asian food marts and see if any of them sell these. Even on my tiny three-foot wide walkway, I might be able to grill stuff with that.

On another note, I'm disappointed to see you wearing a Laker's t-shirt, Mike. Honestly, I thought you were better than that. :)

Zanchito said...

Mike, thank you for this post! I've been looking for small alternatives to a full sized barbeque for just a couple of people and this fits the bill so perfectly. It's even cheap!

Do you use regular coal on them? Does it create a lot of smoke?

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Zanchito! Regular coal is fine and, since there's not som much coal, not so smoky.... Just make sure that meat or chicken doesn't catch on fire like a regular BBQ and you're fine.

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