Fit Food: Japanese Chicken & Soba Noodles and Kirin Light

*I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Millennial Central for Kirin. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.*

I’ve tried Kirin Ichiban beer before, but it’s been quite some time since my last sip. Believe it or not, I really like beer! The Boyfriend began brewing his own beer around the beginning of the year, and I’ve learned a lot from him about the process and the complexity of flavors. That’s part of the reason I jumped at the opportunity to try different Kirin Ichiban beers, while also trying out a Kirin-inspired healthy recipe by Candice Kumai.
Chef Kumai and Kirin Ichiban partnered up, and she came up with some great, healthy recipes to try. I love Japanese food, so I was super excited to try something new. Of the recipes developed by Chef Kumai, I had a choice between homemade gyoza, maki sushi rolls, and chicken & yakisoba noodles. I really wanted to try to make the sushi, but since it was my first time, I didn’t want to embarrass myself on this blog! Instead, I chose to make the yakisoba noodles, which turned out to be a great choice, since it paired well with the Kirin Light and it was a good, hearty dish post-volleyball playoffs.

I’d never cooked yakisoba or soba noodles, but I was really happy with the end result! I’m definitely going to be cooking more with these noodles, because they’re so quick and easy to make. They even came wrapped in bundles for each serving, which was crazy cool! I wish they did this with other noodles (like spaghetti and fettuccine). It would make cooking so much easier!

I started the noodles, and then prepped all of my veggies and sauces. I always love trying out new sauces and flavors, because it helps me come up with ideas for future recipes. For this recipe, I tried black bean sauce for the first time. I love the flavor of black beans and soybeans, both of which were prominently featured in this dish. The Boyfriend didn’t originally care much for his little taste of the sauce, but once I minced up the garlic and sliced up some onions and threw them in the pan, he changed his opinion.

Kirin Ichiban and Kirin Light.

After I finished cooking the dish (recipe below), it came time to take the chilled beer out of the refrigerator and prepare to taste. Fortunately, I read a little bit about the beer before cracking it open and drinking it out of the bottle. Apparently, it is custom to drink Kirin Ichiban beer from a glass, and that you should not pour your own glass. So, I poured The Boyfriend’s beer into his glass, and had him pour mine. “Kanpai!” we said, and got to sampling.

He preferred the 100% malt Kirin Ichiban beer, while I preferred the Kirin Light. It was really interesting trying them with the food, because it really changed the flavors — in a good way! The Kirin Light was just that – light. It was very subtle and delicious. Sometimes, for me at least, beer can change the way my food tastes in a way that either makes me not want to drink much of the beer, or not want to eat much of the food. The Kirin Light didn’t do that at all! It really enhanced the flavors, especially the carrots and kale. The Kirin Ichiban beer brought out saltiness of the soy and black bean flavors, which was also delicious. I was really impressed! 

Also impressive? The fact that The Boyfriend remembered during our sampling that he actually took a tour of Kirin Ichiban when he studied abroad in Japan during college! Brewery tours are so fun!

All in all, I really enjoyed the opportunity to cook and enjoy good beer. Now, they have me thinking about how I can pair beer with other dishes. I love to make stir fry, so I think the Kirin Ichiban will taste great with it. I’m also happy to have found a light beer that doesn’t taste watered down, instead bringing out the flavors of my veggies.

Here’s my adapted version of the original recipe, which was developed by Chef Candice Kumai. I made a few adjustments due to the availability and preference of certain ingredients, but it was still super yummy! Make sure you prep the garlic and onions before you begin cooking, and that the soba noodles are at least in the pot before you begin combining the sauces. Enjoy!

The finished product. Kanpai!

Japanese Chicken & Soba Noodles
Serves 4 very hungry people as an entree, or 6 people if paired with appetizers

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons black bean sauce (I used this one)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce and 1 tablespoon sugar, whisked and divided
  • 2 – 1/4 cups chopped kale 
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2 servings of soba noodles, cooked and drained
  • Optional Garnish: Sesame seeds
  1. Cook soba noodles according to package instructions.
  2. Combine sesame oil and black bean sauce over medium heat.
  3. Add the garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds.  Add the onion and cook for about 8 more minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and half of the soy sauce/sugar mixture, and stir-fry until chicken is no longer pink.  Remove the chicken from the pan, set aside, and keep warm. Add a little of the sauce to moisten the pan (about a 1/2 teaspoon)
  5. In the same pan, saute the carrots and kale until the kale it wilts.
  6. Stir in remaining soy sauce, then add the cooked noodles and chicken to the pan and toss well to combine all the ingredients. Make sure that you get an even coating of the sauce.
  7. Plate up with tongs and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional).

Be sure to check out the Kirin Ichiban Facebook page. They’re going to be sharing recipes and pairing tips from Candice Kumai throughout the year.

How do you decide which new recipe to try? Is there any sort of cuisine that you’d really like to try to cook, but worry you don’t have the tools necessary to cook it? What’s your favorite beer for the spring/summer?

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