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March 15, 2009

Josie’s Japanese

Filed under: Asian Food — Mr. Henry @ 2:39 pm


In 1920 when great grandma arrived from Japan she had not yet become a flapper. (Her given name was Toshiko but everyone called her Josie.) Five years later she was pure roaring twenties American, the modern girl sporting beaded skirts and bobbed hair with bangs.

She gambled, swore, smoked with a cigarette holder, drank with the men, danced kabuki, fought kendo, and died standing up.

She also cooked great teriyaki chicken. (The secret ingredient is sugar.)

Josie’s teriyaki chicken

8 skinless chicken thighs and legs
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup sake
½ cup sugar
grated ginger

Marinate for as long as you like, for one day or even two if you are clever enough to plan ahead.

Bake in the marinade at 400 degrees until the chicken begins to blacken, about 45 minutes. (Mr. Henry likes it a little burnt.) Be prepared for everyone to eat more than usual.

Nowadays, truth be told, you can cut down the sugar a little without altering its beneficial effects. The marinade’s combination of salt and sugar not only flavors the chicken but effectively cures it, too. It will keep cold for days after, the perfect picnic for a burgeoning spring afternoon.

Josie loved mayonnaise and habitually prepared a dipping sauce for vegetables composed of regular bottled mayonnaise mixed with a splash of soy sauce, a staple today on the Henry household table. Surprisingly mayonnaise has been a Japanese favorite since the 1920’s and can be found in dozens of standard “traditional” Japanese sauces.

Striving to prepare a dressing for green salad that might complement teriyaki chicken, Mr. Henry mixed a tablespoon of white miso with sushi vinegar (rice wine vinegar mixed with sugar). After some hesitation at the prospect of culture clash, he added Italian olive oil.

The results matched splendidly with teriyaki.

When Josey’s daughter Martha came to town, Mr. Henry boasted to her of his new salad dressing. She said, “Oh yes, we’ve been making that for years. Try topping it with little cubes of tofu. It looks like cheese but tastes much lighter. Even Grandpa Gary, an old Nevada cowboy, likes it.”

1 Comment

  1. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make that damn salad dressing for years! Thanks, Mr. Henry!

    Comment by raincoaster — March 20, 2009 @ 7:49 am

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