If you love Japanese food chances are you’ve already enjoyed yakitori. Whether eaten in Asian restaurants here in the UK or in the traditional izakayas (pubs) of Japan, these popular barbecued nibbles make for really tasty finger food anywhere! If you haven’t come across them before here’s an introduction…
What is Yakitori?
Yakitori are grilled chicken skewers served as a small bite to eat along with a beer in casual dining establishments across Japan. They are also a common festival street food.
Small pieces of chicken are threaded onto bamboo skewers then cooked to order, typically over a charcoal grill. As they cook, they're brushed all over with a delicious sweet-salty barbecue sauce (tare) made from soy sauce, wine and spices until glossy and glazed. Or you can simply choose a salt seasoning (shio) instead.
Kikkoman produce a quality ready-made Yakitori sauce which you can conveniently use straight from the bottle for making your own yakitori at home. It is sold through Asian stores and online from Japan Centre. If you can't get hold of any then make your own version by simmering 100ml Kikkoman Soy Sauce with 100ml mirin, 50ml sake, 2 tbsp dark brown sugar and 2cm grated root ginger for about 15 minutes until rich, reduced and shiny.
Types of Yakitori
There are different types of yakitori according to which part of the chicken is used.
Momo - skewered chicken thigh meat only
Negima - chicken thigh skewered with thick pieces of spring onion in between
Reba - skewered chicken livers
Tebasaki - skewered crispy chicken wings
Torikawa - skewered strips of fatty chicken skin grilled until crisp
Tsukune - skewered chicken meatballs made from minced chicken, egg and various other flavourings such as spices, garlic and spring onions
Some restaurants also sell other types which are not made from chicken such as skewered shiitake mushrooms and cherry tomatoes or enoki wrapped in bacon.
In Japan, yakitori is an inexpensive snack and usually sold by the skewer or pair of skewers. They are supposed to be eaten off the skewer with your hands so it is ok to get messy! Alternatively, you can pull the meat off the sticks to eat with chopsticks. The used skewers are then placed into a pot on the table.
In the UK you will find Yakitori on the menu in most Japanese restaurants, plus there are also some places which actually specialise in Yakitori dishes (known as Yakitori-ya in Japan). But if you would like to try making your own at home it couldn’t be easier. We’ve put together a few recipes below which, while not totally authentic, would be perfect for a party!