Asado, Teppan-yaki, Braai

by Jeanne

Grill Cooking food over open flame is an activity that most of us participate in during the late spring and all throughout the summer.  As mentioned in an earlier post there is a difference between grilling and bbq-ing. To further complicate things, word barbeque itself can be employed as a verb as in, “Please barbecue the meat now."; it can be a noun as indication of the equipment used, “Is the barbecue is ready, yet?”; and it can be an adjective, “We ate barbequed ribs last night.” And finally it can signal a social occasion as in "Y’all invited to a BBQ."

Everywhere around the world it’s called something different but it still stands for good food cooked over an open fire.   

Annette Kesler, the “doyenne of South African food writers”, in writing about the cultural history of barbeque states that perhaps “the Spanish were the first to give a name to the method of cooking over the coals. On their expeditions to the Americas they saw Indians cooking venison and fish over the coals, using a contraption of green twigs and termed this cooking method; ‘barbacoa’. Others say the name is borrowed from the word “barabicu” (‘the sacred fire pit’) from the Native American Timacua/Taino people of the Southeastern United States.” 

Here’s but a small tasting from around the world of fire:

With year-round sunny skies and temperate climate South African braais–pronounced as BRY, rhyming with “eye”—is Afrikaans for barbecue and is a frequent method of preparing food. Originating in the late 17th century as spit-roasts at fairs held for celebrations, they became part of the culture when in the mid-1800s a group of Afrikaners, “voortrekkers” left the Cape Colony to make the Great Trek into the interior, hunting, shooting and cooking over open fires to survive. Over time, this rugged image of the braai became etched in the minds of South Africans. In the Seventies and Eighties, the advertising jingle "Braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolet" more or less defined the Afrikaner lifestyle.

In Japan the act of grilling is known as teppan-yaki. Loosely translated teppan means an iron plate or a steel sheet, and yaki, stir-fried food or stir-frying. Together teppanyaki is stir-fried meat and vegetables cooked and eaten off a large, tabletop grill. High-quality beef in this country is produced by cows fed a daily diet of apples and beer while listening to soothing music with ample massages.  Most of us were introduced to this method of tabletop dining in the early 1960s through the Benihana Restaurant. Picture a big stainless steel grill, surrounded by a counter where diners are entertained by the knife skills of the table chef.  Common menu items are yakitori–grilled chicken served on skewers.  Today’s grilling trend is for robata-yaki, a traditional form of cooking from the northern seaside villages where fishermen grill the catch of the day.

Argentines adore meat, and cooking over a huge spit of red-hot coals, in the gaucho tradition, on a parrilla (grill) at an asado is the way to go. Much like our multipurpose word asado carries several meanings as it also refers to the end product–roasted meat. The secret to a successful asado lies in both the skill in which the meat is cut and the fire tending skills—traditionally and usually a male– of the cook.  In this part of the world menu items will be achuras (offals, entrails, sausage, kidneys, liver, sweetbreads) morcillas (rich blood sausage) and parrillero (chorizo) sausages. Regional asado specialties include lamb in Patagonia and kid in Córdoba. Also on the plate is usually bread and simple sauces such as the chimichurri (spicy parsley sauce) or salsa criolla (chopped tomato salad) to complement the beef flavors. If you travel to Argentina you’ll want to find a parilla, casual establishments specializing in BBQ.

For more in-depth exploration here are a few links to other food blogger posts around the world: 

Meathenge offers a virtual education on grilling meat, chicken and even chile peppers.

An overview on braai and a recipe for Stuffed Beef Fillet via Cook Sister

Yakatori yakatori yakatori and more from Too Many Cooks

Norman Van Aken’s Argentine Red Sauce (New World Kitchen)

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