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Japanese Food
Hibachi
Hibachi (Japanese: 火鉢, ひばち, literally "fire bowl") - A traditional Japanese heating device. It consists of a round, cylindrical or a box-shaped open-topped container, made from or lined with a heatproof material and designed to hold burning charcoal.

In North America, the term "hibachi" is used to refer to a small cooking stove heated by charcoal (actually called shichirin in Japanese), or to an iron hot plate (teppan) used in Teppanyaki restaurants.

Although the word is Japanese and the device is strongly associated with Japan, the hibachi originated in China as a type of portable charcoal brazier used to heat the homes of the nobility. It is not known when the hibachi was first used in Japan; however written records suggest that it was used by the Heian period (798-1185AD). Owing to the low availability of metal in China and Japan, early hibachis were made from dug-out cypress wood lined with clay. However, craftsmen soon began to make more decorative versions with lacquered finishes, gold leaf, and other artistic embellishments. Stronger materials such as metal and ceramics became popular over time. Traditional hibachis can be very attractive objects in themselves and are today sometimes sold as antiques. They were originally used mainly by the samurai classes and aristocrats but gradually spread among ordinary people. Their design developed throughout the Edo period. It is a flat surface of heat, to be more specific.

For most of its history the hibachi was used for heating, but it has been put to many uses; for example, as a cigarette lighter and portable stove for Japanese troops during World War II.

The hibachi was once a common sight in Japan before the Second World War (and was often seen in waiting rooms at train stations), but it became a rarity and was gradually replaced by the oil heaters now commonplace in Japan. (Central heating is relatively rare in Japanese homes.)

The traditional Japanese hibachi is a heating device and not usually used for cooking. In English, however, "hibachi" often refers to small cooking grills typically made of aluminium or cast iron, with the latter generally being of higher quality. Owing to their small size, hibachi grills are popular as a form of portable barbecue. They resemble traditional, Japanese, charcoal-heated cooking utensils called shichirin. It has been suggested that these grills were confusingly marketed as "hibachi" when they were introduced to North America because that word was easier than "shichirin" for English speakers to pronounce.

Alternatively, "hibachi-style" is a North American term for Japanese teppanyaki cooking, in which gas-heated hotplates are integrated into tables around which many people (often multiple parties) can sit and eat at once. The chef performs the cooking in front of the diners, typically with theatrical flair -- flipping shrimp tails into his hat, for example, or lighting a volcano of onions on fire with his fingers. The popular Japanese restaurant chain Benihana uses hibachi grill cooking as its trademark.

Information source: “Hibachi.” wikipedia.org. Article date: 17 Jan. 2008. Retrieved: Wikipedia. 8 Feb. 2008 <Hibachi>.
 

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