Wed | Apr 25, 2018

Cooking Japanese in Jamaica

Published:Thursday | March 8, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Ai and her husband operate a Jamaican/Chinese food takeout restaurant and she also managed a Japanese restaurant in Soho, London.
Finger-licking Teriyaki Chicken

Welcome to the second piece in our new Food series, Cooking Japanese in Jamaica. Now you can prepare and enjoy your favourite Japanese dishes in the comfort of your own home. Join us twice each month as we teach you how to make some simple but delicious Japanese dishes the Jamaican way with contributor Ai Irisawa-Coney. Try them and let us know how they turn out! Send comments or questions to: or post on our facebook page

I often get asked why Japanese love Jamaican street culture and music so much. My dear friend Taka, the owner of East Japanese and the recently opened Majestic Sushi & Grill, is the biggest Stone Love fan I have ever met. And Jun, who owns B & B, is like an encyclopaedia of old-school dancehall.

I will not even try to understand the reason why they love reggae and dancehall so much, but I see many similarities between Japanese folk music and Jamaican music. In Osaka where I was born, there is a type of folk music called Kawachi-ondo. It is one of the traditional music forms preserved with devout passion by people in southern parts of Osaka.

Kawachi-ondo is a combination of common melodies, in more familiar terms 'riddims', and lyrics which tells epic stories and talks about current events, what is carried in the media, and even yakuza - Japanese mafia, which is said to be one of the biggest mafia organisations in the world. It often sings about "being free from institutionalisation".

Most times, performances take place outdoors and singers will have to improvise on the spot - sounds familiar?

Always something new

A format of its dance is also similar to that of Jamaican street dance as large group of people dance together, usually proceeding clockwise in the circle, and it involves a lot of footwork and hand movements. People are always coming up with new dance routines.

Stereotypically, Japan and her people are still considered mystical, and the fact that Japanese relate so well to Jamaican culture, may confuse many Jamaicans. But the truth is that those stereotypes bear little resemblance to reality. We are just as fun loving, curious and family oriented as Jamaicans. So it does not come as a surprise if our people relate to Jamaican people, culture and music the way they do.

Today, I am going to introduce a Japanese recipe, perhaps most loved by Jamaicans, Teriyaki chicken.

Preparation time: 30 minutes (for marinating) Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients (for 1 person)

1 large breast or 2 pieces of thigh

pinch of salt

1/2 cup sake (Japanese rice wine) or any white wine

1/4 cup soy sauce

1tbs brown sugar


Cut chicken into bite size and rub a pinch of salt into meat.

Marinate the chicken in mixture of sake, soy sauce and sugar for 30 minutes.

Pan-fry the chicken over medium heat for five minutes on each side until golden brown.

Add the sauce used to marinate the chicken in the pan and cook for another minute on each side until sauce start to caramelise.

Serve with white rice, broccoli or shredded cabbage and sliced tomatoes. Itadakimasu!

NB: Sake can be purchased at Loshusan Supermarket in Barbican, MegaMart on Waterloo Road, Sovereign Supermarket and Fresh Approach

Ai and her husband operate a Jamaican/Chinese food takeout restaurant and she also managed a Japanese restaurant in Soho, London.