Don’t we all agree that Yakitori Chicken is irresistible and finger licking delicious? I love them. But have you thought that to recreate that addictive taste at home is impossible? I will show you how to make Yakitori 焼き鳥 successfully at home.
What is Yakitori?
Yakitori, literally meaning “grilled chicken”. You probably knew what “Yaki” means if you read my previous post “Understanding Japanese food terms“. Yaki is Grilled or fried and Tori means bird. Though in cooking terms, Tori usually refers to chicken. It is usually skewered on skewers with or without vegetables such as thick slices of scallions or capsicums. Often grilled on charcoal at Yakitori speciality shops in Japan. So simply put, Japanese grilled Chicken on skewers.
Izakaya and street food menu
Yakitori is a classic and typical menu of Izakaya and Street food stalls. You will find alleys and lanes of Tokyo full of Yakitori restaurants. They are the “go-to” shops for salaryman (office workers) for after work snacks and drinks. The customers can watch the chefs grill the chicken over open charcoal fires. I am sure you will find similar shops in your city, as we have one or two in Brisbane, Australia now.
Yakitori is Perfect accompaniment to drinks
Izakaya is the equivalent to pubs in western countries. People enjoy small plates of delicious Japanese food such Yakitori chicken, Agedashi tofu, Kushikatsu and Nasu dengaku while they also enjoy drinks of sake and Japanese beer with friends and work colleagues. They are popular because it is reasonably cheap and also so tasty!
More than just a grilled chicken
There are many types of Yakitori. The speciality restaurants categorise their Yakitori menus by the parts of chicken used and also the kind of seasoning used. For example, you can get Chicken thigh(momo), Chicken breast(muneniku), Wings (tebasaki), and Chicken Skin (kawa). Or, Chicken liver (kimo), Sunagimo (gizzard), Hearts (shinzou), and Cartilage (Nankotsu). You can even have it as Ground meatballs (Tsukune).
2 ways Yakitori Chicken
There are generally two ways of seasoning Yakitori chicken, Shio (salt) and Tare (yakitori sauce). After deciding which part of the chicken you want, then you need to choose the seasoning. Usually either simple salt or Tare. Some parts such as Hearts and Gizzard, taste better with just salt. Also, each shop has its unique recipe of Tare sauce (special sauce).
Tare Yakitori sauce
Special Yakitori sauce used for seasoning skewered pieces of chicken is called “Tare”. At Yakitori restaurant, it is usually made of soy sauce, sake, and glutinous malt sugar syrup or honey. Skewered chicken is cooked on preheated grill then the chicken skewers are dipped into the Tare sauce. They repeat the process and keep adding sauce ingredients. It become delicious because it combined with oil and Umami from chicken dipped in the sauce. It is similar to Teriyaki sauce.
Negima recipe with tare
Now I am going to share chicken and scallions called ‘Negima’ here. This is a classic chicken skewer recipe that many Japanese love including me. Negi means scallions and -ma is ‘in between’. Negima skewers have thick cut scallion pieces in between chicken meat. Cook it on a bbq grill, and then brush with special “Tare(sauce)”.
5 Tips to make Yakitori successfully at home
Ok, so at home, we don’t often cook over charcoal. We don’t have Chicken oil and umami concentrated Tare but we can still create delicious Yakitori chicken following the tips below.
- Use chicken thigh and cut chicken thigh into even sized strips as much as possible. So that the chicken cooks through evenly.
- Soak the bamboo skewers in water for 20 minutes beforehand. This is important and prevents the skewers from burning. Presentation is important, we don’t want to see burnt skewers.
- Skewer Chicken tightly leaving no gap between (that’s why cut chicken into strips)
- When the chicken is roughly 80% cooked, start brushing with the sauce. The sauce will easily burn otherwise. This is because it contains sugar.
- Do not move around the skewers, wait until one side is browned, then turn over and cook the other side.
Hope you like the recipe. If you liked the recipe, please rate it and leave a comment below. Check out my Chicken recipes that Japanese love such as Teriyaki chicken, Chicken Katsu Curry and Chicken Nanban.
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- 1 kg chicken thigh
- 1-2 green shallots
- 12 skewers
- 1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce *2
- Soak 12 skewers in water for 20 minutes so that the skewers don't get burnt when they are grilled.
- Heat teriyaki sauce in a small saucepan medium-high heat. Bring to simmer and reduce to thicken the sauce. Set aside.
- Cut the chicken into about 2 cm (0.8 inch)
- Cut the white end part of the shallots into about 2 cm (0.8 inch) long pieces.
- Put 2 chicken pieces on to a skewer then 1 shallot alternately and repeat same for all 12 skewers.
- Preheat the BBQ grill and coat with olive oil. *1
- Place the yakitori chicken skewers on the grill side to cook the chicken till browned.
- Turn the skewers over and cook till other side browned or chicken meat change whitish colour.
- Brush the Teriyaki sauce over the chicken skewers. When one side is coated, turn the skewers over and Brush Yakitori sauce over the side.
- Repeat the above process one more time then turn the heat off.
- Serve the yakitori skewers on rice or serve with green salad.