Frugal Foodie: Kushi’s Muneihiro Yonemoto

Lighting up the grill doesn’t also have to burn up your budget. Kushi chef Muneihiro Yonemoto shows us how to put together a six-person barbecue for less than $25.

By: Kelly DiNardo

>>For more photos of Muneihiro Yonemoto in action, click here. 

I love to grill. But as summer winds down, I find I’m in a barbecue rut. Slow-roasted ribs, quick-fired tuna steaks, pork loin with chimichurri are like Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”—a little too heavy in the rotation.

To bust through my barbecue boredom, I turned to Muneihiro Yonemoto, the chef behind the DC izakaya and sushi restaurant Kushi. Yonemoto accepted the Frugal Foodie challenge and agreed to whip up an Asian barbecue for six for less than $25.

At the store, we pick up ground chicken breast, ginger, corn, scallions, and two cucumbers. Our meager groceries come to just $14.76. At my apartment, I watch Yonemoto unpack small containers of plum sauce, miso paste, wasabi, Kagayaki rice, and soy sauce, and I understand. Yonemoto admits he was concerned that the grocery store wouldn’t carry those ingredients. He was right on some counts. After a quick price check at two stores—Hana, an Asian grocery store on U Street, and H Mart in Virginia—I agree that buying these ingredients would still keep him within the budget.

He gets to work, chopping the scallion, slicing the cucumbers, whisking wasabi with mayo, and mixing the chicken with ginger. Next, Yonemoto fashions the ground chicken around a skewer and works the steamed rice into triangles with a dab of plum sauce in the middle.

The ingredients prepped, Yonemoto heads to the grill. He lays the rice triangles on the grill to give them a smoky finish. Then he adds the chicken, cooking what’s known as tsukune, or a chicken meatball. Finally, he adds the corn, basting it lightly with soy sauce.

Bright-green cucumbers dipped in wasabi mayo, rice balls with slightly crisp tsukune—it was like switching from Katy Perry to Katie Herzig.

Cucumber Sticks With Wasabi Dip

2 English cucumbers, sliced into matchsticks
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon wasabi paste

Mix the mayonnaise and wasabi until thoroughly combined. Serve with cucumber sticks for dipping.


Tsukune (Chicken Meatball)

1 pound ground chicken
1 teaspoon peeled and grated ginger
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
1 tablespoon white miso paste

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Take about 1⁄3 cup of the mixture and form a tube-shaped meatball around a skewer. Repeat until the mixture is used up.

Cook on grill over medium-high heat until done, about 8 to 10 minutes.


Grilled Rice Ball

1½ cups Kagayaki rice
2 tablespoons plum paste
Salt as needed

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Cook rice according to package instructions.

Put a little salt in one hand. Dip your fingers in water, then rub them with salt (this makes it easier to work with the rice). Take a handful of rice and roll it into a ball. Before finishing the ball, place a dash (about 1 teaspoon) of plum paste in the center. Form the ball into a triangular shape.

Place on grill and cook about 3 minutes on each side.

Grilled Corn With Soy Butter

3 ears of corn, shucked and cut in half
¼ pound butter, softened, plus more as needed
¼ cup soy sauce

Boil corn in pot for ten minutes. Remove corn and spear with skewer. Mix butter and soy sauce. Brush on corn.

Cook corn on grill 3 to 5 minutes and rub with more butter.

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