The term “hibachi party” can cause head-scratching, too (especially with Americans using it to describe private teppanyaki gatherings), but, semantics aside, it essentially involves cooking over coal in a highly social way. And that’s something Australians can get on board with.
Although Tanaka describes cooking with a hibachi, she clarifies that she means a shichirin, a portable charcoal stove that’s also sold at her Japanese café and store. Charring yakitori-style skewers or thin yakiniku-like cuts of meat over a barbecue are low-key but fun ways to keep everyone fed while socialising outdoors.
Tokiwa took a similar approach with friends in Kagoshima, for one of the “best” hibachi parties he’s been to. They packed the shichirin in the back of the car, along with food and fireworks, and drove to the location at night. “I thought that was pretty romantic, with the sparklers,” he says. They dressed up in traditional summer-friendly clothing (yukata for women, jinbei for men) and hit the beach. For similar fun, replicating their exact wardrobe isn’t totally necessary – any lightweight clothing that goes over swimwear will do the trick.
Her husband Kazuki lived in snowy Akita, so his hibachi-party equivalent involved a warm, open-hearth irori that people sat around: they’d enjoy simmering hotpots, such as nabe with miso-glazed kiritanpo (rice sticks). The couple’s contrasting experiences reflect how flexible the format can be. “It is as broad as putting on a barbecue,” says Tsuya. A hibachi party on a tiny balcony can work for roommates. “Or it can be a bigger version with friends or family.” Just up the amount of food accordingly. Her preference is for seafood (“prawns, oysters, scallops, clams”) and vegetables (“shiitake mushrooms, shishito peppers”) charred over coal. Got prep time? Tokiwa recommends soy-marinaded chicken wings and foil-wrapped garlic-butter corn as low-stress dishes that pay off over the grill.
Should you bust out the karaoke for a hibachi party? Tsuya thinks if you’re set on some (sake-fuelled) singing, plan it for later on. “Karaoke demands the audience to participate in the activity, like dancing, clapping, swaying, cheering – even if they are not singing. So people can’t be too busy with cooking and eating when karaoke is happening.” On the plus side, you won’t need a smoke machine for atmosphere – you’ve already got a fire.
Indulge in Japanese-style grilling anytime, anywhere. The thick clay and steel construction of this grill heats up quickly, reaching up to 350°C on both sides, and features dual charcoal chambers for simultaneous cooking. With excellent insulation, the clay firebox retains heat and the elevated steel stand minimises heat transfer. Portable and compact, this grill uses minimal space and comes with two carry handles for easy transport.
The natural construction of this handmade grill optimises heat retention while the stainless steel grates ensures quality cooking. With its portable design and elevated stand, it’s a perfect pick for flavourful camping, picnics and beach days.
This article originally appeared in the May 2023 print edition of Gourmet Traveller and has been edited for online.