Umami Mart Registry

The early 90s...

I was distancing myself from my Sandylion stickers while making multiple trips to the Wherehouse to make sure that I got tickets to see Radiohead at the Edge in Palo Alto. It was a confusing time, but it shaped me.

Foodwise, I was tiring of the hambagu, Japanese curry and and gratin that my mom would make me and wanted to taste freedom in Taco Bell double decker tacos, apple pie a la mode at Marie Calendars and the orange chicken at Panda Express.

Although I have come full circle, making the things that my mom made -- now in my own kitchen -- it's hard to deny the occasional food cravings of suburbia. Suburban American food is just as much a part of my food culture as the Japanese home cooking my mom would make.

I had a housewarming party the other day, and I wondered what to serve as the main attraction. It came intuitively, naturally. I simply asked myself, "What would I like to eat, with friends, at my new home?" And for some reason "orange chicken" popped into my head. I was planning to fire up the grill, so I decided I'd make my own version of it. I call it Grilled Oriental Chicken. Oriental because when I was 10, people were still using that word quite liberally.


4 chicken drumsticks
4 chicken thighs
1 gallon Ziploc bag

5 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp honey
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 orange zest and juice
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp sesame oil



1. Combine the marinade ingredients together.


Grating garlic


2. Put chicken parts into a Ziploc bag. Pour of the marinade into the Ziploc bag.


3. Lay as flat as possible in a tray and leave in the fridge for at least six hours.

4. Flip the bag over and leave for another six hours.

5. Grill!


Enjoy with rice and a side of grilled corn.

There's something in this marinade that yeilds some seriously juicy chicken.


Party attendees after being well-fed and partaking in Whisky Time.

Column: Japanify


  • I really enjoyed this post. It reminded me of how mundane our suburban childhood was, but how we found ways to entertain ourselves.

    The Wherehouse! I went there religiously, the one across the street from DeAnza College, and flip through their used cds. I skipped class during my sophomore year in high school to go buy the Liquid Swords album by GZA the day it came out. I also bought my first Bjork cd at The Wherehouse.

    The Edge! I saw Weezer there for their Pinkerton tour. I wore my hemp necklace.

    Good times! The suburbs shaped me for sure. I still enjoy going back to Cupertino, it’s a multi-cultural treat.

    Kayoko on

  • Ha ha, we are not so different, you and I.

    Will on

  • And, the Wherehouse is now a Panda Express! Oh, the irony.

    I always spell donut with a “u”, never doughnut. In fact, I never knew there was a variation on the spelling until recently. I blame Donut Wheel for this.

    Remember when the place across from Bombay Oven used to be Whole Foods? It’s a Staples now.

    Kayoko on

  • Yes, life was mundane and magical at the same time. I remember staying out late until 2am eating chicken fingers at Carrows, hanging out at gas stations and dreaming about the day I was going to get the hell out of there with no particular place to actually go to, in mind.
    Cupertino has changed so much since then. I feel like the only thing that’s left relatively untouched is the Donut Wheel. Even the Bonsai Nursery is gone and the Bombay oven changed their logo… It’s just not the same anymore.

    yoko on

  • duh i hate orange and my shitty supermarket sometimes doesnt have orange so i substitute orange with pineapple juice and lime zest and honey with sugar.i knowwwww too weird already but ill let you know the result

    effy on

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