By Freya Ensbey.
Primarily eaten as a snack to accompany a crisp beer,
Yakitori restaurants and bars are easily found spread across every part of
Japan. It is not uncommon for locals to leave the office or workplace and head
straight for these bars or for the street markets commonly known as Yakitoriyas,
to grab some tasty skewers and enjoy an afternoon wind down before heading
Traditionally cooked over a charcoal fire, these skewers can
be put together with ingredients to your liking or any type of off cuts, as
it’s the sauce that really makes the skewer a Yakitori. It is known throughout Japan that a great Yakitori
sauce may be simple with its ingredients list but takes a lot of practice to
execute properly. The sauce is also used throughout the cooking process as a
glaze to ensure the protein or vegetable you are barbequing is coated in the
deliciously sweet, yet savoury sauce, making for a sticky, finger licking
Chicken Skewers with Spring Onions
Being the most sought after of all of the Yakitori recipes,
these chicken skewers are a sure crowd pleaser. The addition of spring onions
makes for a flavoursome burst, whilst the teriyaki sauce makes for tender and
succulent chicken pieces.
Yakitori Style, Tofu
This is an ideal recipe for vegetarians, replacing the
traditionally used meat with a firm tofu. Tofu, made from soy bean, is used in
abundance in Japan due to its availability. It is an ideal protein to use when
cooking as it has a unique subtle taste and absorbent texture, taking on and
soaking up any flavour you mix with it, creating a crunchy outer texture whilst
leaving a soft and chewy centre.
Chicken with Ginger, Garlic and Soy Sauce
Calling for the addition of ginger, garlic and soy sauce,
this recipe adds a flavour punch to the normal. The ginger adds a perky lift to
the chicken, whilst the dry cherry and brown sugar harmonise well together, creating
a sweet finish, leaving you wanting more.
Pork Belly Skewers (called Yakiton in Japan)
Reba (pork liver) is another type of meat that is commonly
used to make Yakitori. It’s high in protein and low in fat, making it a healthy
alternative. Ideally, Reba should be grilled on the outside and left rare in
the centre, so that the creamy texture of the meat remains – this recipe uses
pork belly, with similar preparations.
In addition, Enoki
Mushrooms Wrapped in Bacon are just one of the many non-skewered options
offered at Yakitoriyas, including vegetables wrapped in a protein, easily eaten
with one hand whilst enjoying a beer. Those who don’t enjoy mushrooms can easily
alter this recipe with the inclusion of another vegetable, like julienned baked
sweet potato or carrot.
Skin at Bird Land,Tokyo. Lead image thanks to City Foodsters.