Yakitori is a traditional Japanese street food made with skewered and grilled chicken. The name itself breaks down into ‘yaki,’ meaning grilled, and ‘tori,’ which translates to bird or chicken. This popular street food has evolved into a beloved cultural icon, reflecting the simplicity and artistry of Japanese cuisine. Yakitori can be made with different parts of the chicken, such as the breast, thigh, wing, liver, heart, or skin.
Yakitori traces its roots back to the bustling streets of Tokyo during the Edo period (1603-1868). Vendors began skewering and grilling small pieces of chicken over charcoal fires, offering a convenient and flavorful snack for the locals. Over time, this humble street food gained popularity and made its way into restaurants, becoming a staple in Japanese dining culture.
How To Make Yakitori?
Here is a yakitori recipe
For the Chicken Skewers
- 500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs or a mix of thigh and breast meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
- Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
For the Tare Sauce
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
- 1/4 cup sake
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Sliced green onions
- Shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend)
Step By Step Yakitori Recipe
- In a small saucepan, combine soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar.
- Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves.
- Allow the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes or until it thickens to a glaze-like consistency.
- Remove from heat and let it cool. This will be used for basting the skewers.
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, ensuring they are uniform for even cooking.
- Thread the chicken pieces onto the soaked bamboo skewers, leaving a small gap between each piece.
- If using a charcoal grill, prepare a medium-high heat fire. For a gas grill, preheat to medium-high.
- Place the skewers on the preheated grill and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, turning regularly.
- Begin basting the skewers with the tare sauce during the last few minutes of cooking, ensuring a glossy glaze forms.
- Ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). The edges of the skewers should have a slightly charred appearance.
- Remove the skewers from the grill and place them on a serving platter.
- Garnish with sliced green onions and a sprinkle of shichimi togarashi for an extra kick.
- Serve the yakitori hot, either as a standalone dish or accompanied by steamed rice and pickled vegetables.
How To Serve Yakitori?
- Serve yakitori hot off the grill. The contrast between the warm, juicy chicken and the slightly charred exterior adds to the overall enjoyment.
- Enhance the presentation and flavour with creative garnishes. Sprinkle sesame seeds, chopped cilantro, or finely sliced nori (seaweed) for an extra touch.
- Complement your yakitori with traditional Japanese drinks like sake or a crisp lager. The pairing of flavours can elevate the dining experience.
- Customize the tare sauce to your liking. Adjust the ratio of soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar based on your taste preferences.
- Grill fruit skewers alongside the chicken for a sweet and savoury combination. Pineapple, peach, or figs work well and add a refreshing element.
- Consider adding toppings like grated daikon radish or a sprinkle of furikake (Japanese seasoning) to the yakitori just before serving.
- Additionally, diners may enjoy a range of dipping sauces, such as wasabi-infused soy sauce or a zesty yuzu-based concoction, to elevate the overall dining experience.
Some Tips To Enhance The Flavors
- If you prefer, you can make extra tare sauce for dipping when serving.
- Before skewering, marinate the chicken pieces in the tare sauce for an hour or more. This allows the flavours to penetrate the meat, resulting in a richer taste.
- Opt for high-quality, fresh chicken. Consider free-range or organic options for a more robust flavour.
- Combine different cuts of chicken for varied textures. Mixing thigh meat with breast meat can provide a balance of juiciness and tenderness.
- Mix the chicken with vegetables like green bell peppers, onions, or mushrooms. Grilled pineapple or other fruits can add a delightful sweetness.
- Add minced garlic, grated ginger, or a dash of sesame oil to the tare sauce for an extra layer of complexity in the marinade.
- If possible, grill your yakitori over charcoal. The smoky aroma from charcoal enhances the overall flavour, providing an authentic touch to your skewers.
- Pour the skewers generously with the tare sauce during grilling. This not only imparts a beautiful glaze but also intensifies the savoury-sweet flavours.
- Experiment with alternative dipping sauces. Consider serving yakitori with a side of ponzu sauce, a mix of soy sauce and citrus juice, or a spicy mayo for a unique twist.
How Long Can You Store Yakitori?
Yakitori is best enjoyed fresh off the grill due to its grilled nature and the use of moist and juicy chicken pieces. However, if you happen to have leftover yakitori, here are some general guidelines for storage:
- If you have leftover yakitori, refrigerate it promptly. Place the skewers in an airtight container or wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. Properly stored, yakitori can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
- While it’s possible to freeze yakitori, the texture of the chicken may be affected when thawed. If you choose to freeze it, do so as soon as possible after cooking. Wrap the skewers individually or in a single layer in plastic wrap and place them in an airtight container or a freezer bag. Freeze for up to 1-2 months.
- To reheat refrigerated yakitori, gently warm it in the oven or on a grill until the internal temperature reaches a safe level (165°F or 74°C). Be careful not to overcook, as this can dry out the chicken.
- If reheating from frozen, thaw the yakitori in the refrigerator overnight before reheating to ensure even cooking.
- Keep in mind that the texture of the chicken may change after refrigeration or freezing. While it might not be as juicy and tender as when freshly grilled, proper reheating can help maintain its flavors.
Enjoy your homemade yakitori, and savour the delicious flavours of this iconic Japanese grilled dish!