Ryan Tatsumoto
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Since we’re well into summer when friends and family tend to throw more barbecue get-togethers, I know most of you already have your go-to proteins. Whether it’s your “famous” chicken recipe, grilled or smoked pork or your “award-winning” beef brisket, I won’t bore you with any of my usual protein recipes. And because we often ignore the sides by simply noshing on plain rice, the usual macaroni salad or simple green salad, I decided to highlight side dishes that can be added to your repertoire of tasty sides for your next barbecue party.

Grilled Rice Balls

Instead of simply serving plain cooked rice, what about mixing flaked, bottled salmon (sold at Marukai and Times), tsukudani (bottled, shoyu flavored seaweed) or even cooked, chopped bacon to your rice then making musubi and finally grilling them or yaki onigiri. You can grill onigiri directly over charcoal; broil them in the oven or, my favorite, in a non-stick frying pan, which makes them easier to flip. Leftovers can be refrigerated and turned into a delicious o-chazuke the next day.

Grilled rice balls. (Photos by Ryan Tatsumoto)

A Textural Contrast

Coleslaw is the perfect partner, whether mayonnaise or vinegar-based, as it brings a contrasting crunch and acidity to balance the rich and fatty flavors of grilled or smoked proteins. I first sampled a variation of this coleslaw at national pizza chain California Pizza Kitchen after they first opened at Ala Moana Shopping Center. As usual, if I enjoy a dish at any restaurant, I try to recreate it in my kitchen, which is a good thing as CPK hasn’t had this coleslaw on their menu for years.

Asian Coleslaw

  • ½ large head cabbage, thin sliced
  • 1 small head purple cabbage, thin sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and long grated
  • 1 bunch green onion, sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro flavored oil (1 tablespoon vegetable oil mixed with ¼ cup chopped cilantro)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons Tabasco shoyu
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon tonkatsu sauce
  • about cup mayonnaise
  • salt & black pepper to taste 
Asian coleslaw.

Toss the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the next eight ingredients until a smooth dressing forms. Add enough mayonnaise until you have one cup total of dressing mixture. Pour over cabbage and toss until evenly coated. (I ran out of my cilantro-infused olive oil so I simply added one tablespoon of vegetable oil and tossed the veggies with roughly chopped cilantro.) Chill and serve. Makes four to six servings as a side dish.

Broccoli Slaw

If you’re like me and can’t get past the herbal grassiness of raw broccoli, toss the pre-packed slaw with this miso vinaigrette and let it sit for about an hour. The flavors of miso and sesame oil masks the “green” raw flavor so that it seems like you’re simply munching on a carrot slaw.

  • One 12-ounce package of broccoli slaw (about 4 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used garlic flavored macadamia nut oil)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon shoyu
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Whisk the last seven ingredients then toss with the broccoli and refrigerate for one hour before serving.

Broccoli slaw.

Not Only for Sandwiches

Since you already have those coals fired up for your proteins (or musubi), you might as well also grill some veggies for a grilled veggie bread salad. Bread in a salad? The Italian panzanella or bread salad is the perfect side dish as the vinaigrette has the palate cleansing acid in the way of both red wine and balsamic vinegars and is the perfect way to use up stale bread.

Grilled Veggie Panzanella

  • 2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 large red onion, sliced in 1-inch slices with rings kept intact
  • 1 green, red, orange and yellow bell pepper, seeded then quartered lengthwise
  • 1 pound fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ pound fresh button or cremini mushrooms
  • ¼ cup light olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

One long whole wheat baguette, split lengthwise and cut roughly 1-inch cubes (make sure bread is stale, the bread can be rock hard). Place in a large mixing bowl.

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • About 20 pitted Kalamata or Niçoise olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rinsed, drained and roughly chopped capers
  • Fresh black pepper
  • Julienne fresh basil, about ¼ cup

Place veggies in a plastic bag with oil, Italian seasoning and salt and black pepper. Grill veggies except tomatoes on a very hot grill until grill marks appear – don’t overcook veggies, they should still be a little firm. When veggies are done, roughly chop into 1-inch pieces – mushrooms can be whole, halved or quartered depending on size – then place all veggies over stale bread cubes (along with juices from veggies) then cover mixing bowl with shrink wrap. The residual heat, veggie juices and steam will penetrate, soften and flavor the stale bread. Mix next nine ingredients into a vinaigrette and pour over bread/veggie mixture. Toss with the strips of fresh basil and cherry tomatoes. Make sure the bread has softened then serve at room temperature or chilled. Serves 10 to 12 as a side dish.

Grilled Veggie Panzanella.

Korean Style Potato Salad

And of course, one of the best things about Korean barbecue is the banchan or variety of side dishes and one of our neighborhood Korean take-out places features this delicious take on potato salad.

  • 5 Russet potatoes, cubed into bite sized pieces
  • About 2 tablespoons of grated or finely minced garlic
  • Oil for cooking
  • About ¼ cup grated carrot
  • About ¼ cup chopped chives
  • Mayonnaise

Cook the potatoes in the oil over medium heat like you would cottage fries. When the potatoes are about halfway done, add the garlic and continue cooking until the potatoes are golden brown. Cool the cooked potatoes and garlic then add the grated carrots, chives and mayonnaise as well as salt and pepper to taste. Makes about eight to 10 side dish servings.

Korean style potato salad.

Ryan Tatsumoto is a clinical pharmacist by day. In his off-hours, however, he and his wife enjoy seeking out perfect marriages of food and wine. Ryan is a certified sommelier and a certified specialist of wine. The Windward O‘ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet” (nichi-bei.org/columns/gochiso-gourmet/).


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here