There’s a symbiotic relationship between drinking and snacking perfectly expressed in the Japanese izakaya. Jason Ang, co-owner of Surry Hills’ classy Japanese bolthole Tokyo Bird, knows it well.
“The izakaya experience is to drink, snack, drink, snack,” Ang says. “It’s a wonderful concept.”
The tradition back in Japan, Ang explains, used to be a plate in the middle of the table filled with everyone’s spare change. “They would order snacks throughout the night and the waitress would come along and pick off the plate until it was finished,” he says.
Appropriate drinks can range in anything from beer, to whiskey to highballs, such as the Koyomi yuzu and lime shochu highball. We asked Ang to tell us about four drink-friendly Tokyo Bird snacks that anyone can attempt at home, no coins required.
Edamame and lotus root chips
Ang says these are super easy, salty snacks designed to get your palate going and the prep can be as simple as you like. Edamame seasoned with salt is a winner, or you can sprinkle them with shichimi togarashi (a seven-spice seasoning found in many Japanese homes and restaurants) as they do at Tokyo Bird.
Lotus root chips at Tokyo Bird come with a spicy kewpie mayo. But simply using a little salt goes a long way, also. Ang says it’s all about balance.
“For something quite salty [and] quite moreish we’d suggest a yuzu and lime [highball] to balance it out,” he says. “It’s a refreshing palate cleanser.”
Negima is a popular type of yakitori that mixes chicken thigh with shallot, giving the skewers a sweet, salty and smoky profile. At Tokyo Bird, the negima is cooked on a charcoal grill.
“We then glaze it with a soy and mirin and chicken stock sauce,” says Ang. “It’s something really very simple … The grill is your teacher and over the past seven years we’ve gotten pretty proficient at it.”
The salty, savoury and crispy nature of Japanese fried chicken demands something fresh to help wash it down. At Tokyo Bird, they like to pump up the flavour to keep you coming back to the drink – “drink, snack” is the mantra, after all.
“We marinate it with a lot of different ingredients, from apple, soy, ginger, garlic, onion, pretty much the whole shebang goes into it,” says Ang. “Everyone’s always quite amazed when they taste our karaage.”
Simply salting your karaage and serving it with a little mayo on the side is ideal here. With food like this, a light but citrusy drink pairing like the shochu highball encourages you to snack some more. “It’s just there to help refresh each time so you can keep eating,” Ang says.
Pan-fried, steamed, boiled – it’s all good with gyoza. At Tokyo Bird, the chefs dial up the flavours of their gyoza with a drink pairing in mind.
“It’s a whole bunch of different spices and flavours that go into the actual filling,” says Ang. “There’s cabbage, there’s ginger, there’s garlic and then we make a soy vinaigrette to go on top. There’s a lot of flavours in that [so] you don’t want to drink anything that’s going to have a high flavour profile.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Koyomi. Koyomi Highball is available now in BWS, Dan Murphy's and selected independent stores.