Otsumami is the Japanese term given to snacks and simple dishes, designed to be eaten alongside a drink. (“Tsumamu” means to grab something with your fingers or chopsticks so any foods that can be eaten easily in this way came to be known as “otsumami.”)
They are common at izakaya bars, pubs, and at house parties in Japan—even if you are at home having a snack with your evening drink, you are still enjoying otsumami! There are countless delicious flavour pairings to be enjoyed and included here are small bites and dishes to tempt everyone, from existing devotees of Japanese food to newcomers keen to discover more.
Popular ingredients such as dashi, ponzu, miso, soy, teriyaki, and more, all make an appearance in a myriad of mouth-watering morsels including dips, pickles, salads, gyoza and tempura, sushi and sashimi, plus beautifully presented meat, fish, vegetarian, and vegan plates. Also included is a basic guide to Japanese beverages, and deliciously inventive cocktail recipes.
Balsamic Chicken Wings
There’s nothing more comforting and satisfying than sitting across a plate full of glazed chicken wings ready to be picked apart with your fingers, whether you’re amongst friends or alone! Chicken wings or tebasaki are a hugely popular dish in Nagoya where they are coated in a peppery glaze. In my recipe, I prefer to keep the heat out but I add some balsamic vinegar for a moreish sweet and sour taste. Let’s see now if you can pick up the skills of Nagoya residents who are famous for eating them without leaving any meat on the bones!
750 g/1 lb. 10 oz. chicken wings
40 g/generous ¼ cup plain/all-purpose flour
750 ml/3¼ cups vegetable oil, for frying
fine salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp white sesame seeds, to serve
2 tbsp sake
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp light brown soft sugar
1 tsp garlic purée/paste
1 tsp Tobanjan
(Chinese chilli bean paste)
Wipe off any excess water from the chicken wings with kitchen paper and season them with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken wings in flour all over, then set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-based saucepan to 170°C (340°F) over high heat. To check that the oil is ready, stick the end of a wooden cooking chopstick (or wooden spatula) into the oil. If it creates bubbles around the utensil, your oil is ready for frying. If it is bubbling hard, the oil is too hot; let it cool a bit and check the temperature again. Once the correct temperature has been reached, reduce the heat to medium to maintain it.
Add the chicken wings, 6 pieces at a time, and deep-fry for about 10 minutes per batch, turning over a few times in the oil until golden brown. When each batch is cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer the wings from the hot oil to a cooling rack to drain the oil.
To make the amagara sauce, add all the ingredients along with 60 ml/¼ cup water to a large frying pan/skillet, stir to combine them and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium. Add all the fried chicken wings to the pan and turn them over a few times to coat in the sauce until sticky and slightly caramelized all over.
Tip the chicken wings out onto a large serving plate and sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Ryland Peters & Small.