DBD 09-01-2022: Hibachi

“Hibachi” (‘fire bowl’, 火鉢 – ひばち) is a traditional Japanese brazier. It comes in different forms, but it’s conceptually no different than a European brazier - a fireproof container to contain fire charcoal. At its simplest, it’s a ceramic pot. Later versions had an open top to warm tea or cook food like this:

Lot-Art | Japanese Naga Hibachi Brazier Table, RE9Y

Meanwhile, there were shichirin (“seven rin”, 七輪 – しちりん). At their simplest form, they are ceramic chimneys with a grill on top. Later versions are box-shaped and now start to look like the familiar for yakiniku (literally “grilled meats”). “Rin” means “loop” or “ring”, but in this case has to do with low denomination coins. Shichirin means that the grill was efficient enough that it only used seven rin coins worth of charcoal to use.

Grill on Shichirin « Tokyo Photo Japan

Yakiniku Shichirin Rectangular Grill | Milk Street Store

Arianna Grande created the song “Seven Rings” and she tattooed seven rings onto her palm. Actually, she tattooed “shichirin” onto her palm. She later changed the tattoo. I would have kept it because I love yakiniku.

Later, veterans from WW2 returned from the Pacific and wanted to recreate the outdoors. They imported shichirin back to the US west coast and they were quite popular. They were marketed as “Hibachi”. These were later overtaken by “Weber” and their famous dome-shaped grills.

Meanwhile, Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki came to the US to study restaurant management. He eventually created Benihana (“safflower”), which introduced the concept of teppanyaki (table grilling) to the US. Benihana became a hit and spread across the US. While Benihana has faded as a brand, tepanyaki cooking has not. On the East Coast of the United States, hibachi means griddle fried “Japanese” food - either the giant tables meant for live entertainment or in-the-back griddle cooking. Hibachi is supposed to be Japanese food, but it’s essentially Chinese chop suey made with Japanese style ingredients. Some people love it and who am I to tell them what they should like. I think it’s gross.