Yakitori is made up of small pieces of chicken meat, liver and vegetables skewered on a bamboo stick and grilled over hot coals.
Bite size chicken pieces on a skewer are roasted above a charcoal flame and eaten with sauce or salt. This food is so popular as a side dish with drinks that people often say “beer with Yakitori” to mean “go out for drinks”. Most Yakitori shops are down-to-earth shops centered around counter seating, but there are also high class restaurants available as well. Some meat shops grill and sell Yakitori at the storefront to take home and eat with rice.
The chicken selections are not only meat, but also include almost all portions of the chicken like the organs and skin. Thigh meat or breast meat are the most orthodox choices. The tenderloin (sasami) portion near the breast is low in fat and healthy.
A “negima” is a type of Yakitori with “negi” (Japanese chives) and meat staggered on the skewer. “Rebaa” Yakitori is the liver portion, but compared to the liver of other animals, chicken livers are not as bitter and have a full bodied flavor. “Tsukune” Yakitori is ground chicken meat which is rolled into balls or kneaded into thick stick like shapes to give a tender texture that is also easy for children to eat.
If you want to enjoy a firmer texture, try the “sunagimo” (a part of the stomach) or “nankotsu” (cartilage). Deep fried “tebasaki” (wingtips) are also popular. Tebasaki are fragrantly deep fried and flavored with salt, pepper, and sweet and zesty sauce. And if you want to try some kind of odd parts, some shops serve up things like “hatsu” (heart), “ponjiri” (hind end), “seseri” (neck) “tosaka” (chicken comb), and “kogan” (testicles). Each part requires its own different kind of fine tuning on the grill, so a master griller technique is very important.
The prices can be for each skewer or a set of two skewers. If you want to try different flavors, ordering a mixed skewer plate is a good idea.
When you order, the wait staff might ask if you want sauce or salt.
“Tare ni shimasu ka? Shio ni shimasu ka?”
The sauce is a blend of ingredients like soy sauce and mirin with a sweet and zesty flavor. If you want a lighter feel, try the salt instead. You might also be offered miso flavoring as well. If you want something a little more spicy, try sprinkling on some “shichimi togarashi” (seven chili pepper blend).
Recently, more and more Yakitori shops are including pork on their menus under the catchphrase “yakiton” (“yaki” is grill and “ton” is one way of saying pork). These pork selections include an assortment of parts just like the chicken selections.
If you come to Japan, make sure you try this!
I wouldn’t exactly call it traditional, but it’s something Japanese eat almost everyday.
Try experiencing the daily life of a Japanese, you won’t regret it!
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