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Yakitori is arguably the favorite fast food in Japan. If you’ve been to Japan you’re familiar with the ubiquitous & meaty street-treats called Yakitori. You are not a whole person until you’ve these delicious chicken skewers. They are very good.
Yakitori ( 焼き鳥 ) are skewers made up of bite-sized pieces of chicken grilled over charcoal. The name translates as “chicken over fire.”
The preparation of the chicken for making Yakitori is a near nose-to-tail process. Skin, breast, thighs, liver… all are used in a variety of different skewers.
Cheap and popular, it’s a favorite after-work snack for the Japanese Salaryman – and best enjoyed with a big mug of Asahi, Kirin or my fave, Ebisu. Grilled chicken and cold beer at a little joint near the train station (Iazakaya)is a popular meet-up for friends.
There are traditionally 11 parts of the chicken used to make the different types of Yakitori skewers.
They are: thigh ( momo, もも ), breast ( mune, むね ), thigh & scallion ( negima, ねぎま ), tender ( sasami, ささみ ), skin ( kawa, 皮 ), wings ( tebasaki, 手羽先 ), tail ( bonjiri, ぼんじり ), cartilage ( nankotsu, 軟骨 ), heart ( hatsu, ハツ ), liver ( rebā, レバー ), gizzard ( sunagimo, 砂肝 ).
Yakitori sauce is similar to Teriyaki sauce. A key difference: yakitori sauce is only for chicken. Teriyaki sauce can be used for grilling other meats and vegetables.
Traditional yakitori sauce is made of soy sauce, sugar, mirin, sake, garlic, ginger and a bit of cornstarch and water.
The recipe over at Genius Kitchen is a good place to start if you want to make your own yakitori sauce. You may need to go to a specialty spirits store for the mirin and sake.
In this video, from the folks at Eater, Kono-san demonstrates the ceremonial process of separating the chicken into… wait for it… 13 different skewers. Kono-san is the Spinal Tap of the culinary world going beyond the traditional 11 chicken parts.
“Yakitori allows you to enjoy specific parts of the chicken separately. Customers can enjoy the different flavor, texture, and fat of the chicken.” Kono says.
Yakitori is delicious. It makes people happy. It’s a friendly, shareable snack perfectly cooked and perfectly suited for good times and laughter with friends.
Enjoy your Yakitori!
For more exciting food adventures check out our Guide to the Best Cookbooks!