Yakitori literally means “grilled chicken,” but the name does not do justice to the dining and cultural experience one enjoys with friends – old or newly acquired. Traditionally, yakitori is a street food or casual dining experience served in an izakaya (informal bar/restaurant that serves alcohol beverages and food). Yakitori consists of bite-sized pieces of meat, skewered on thin metal or bamboo sticks and cooked on a rectangular clay box with charcoal. All parts of the chicken from breasts, thighs, wings, skin, to liver are available to the adventuresome guest. Although yakitori and beer are the main course at an izakaya, other types of food are usually available.
What is it?
More than just Meat on a Stick
Eat Directly from the Skewer
Restaurants will invariably give you the option of shio (salt) or tare (sauce) when you order yakitori. Tare is a distinct sauce made with soy sauce, sugar, sake and mirin (rice wine). Sake and mirin are both rice wines differing in terms of alcohol content. Chefs normally recommend eating directly from the skewer. There is good reason to have bite-sized pieces and chefs might find it tad disrespectful if you fail to eat directly from the skewer. It is also recommended that you try a small portion of yakitori before adding other seasonings available on the table.
Variety of Choices
Although chicken is the mainstay among all yakitori choices, morsels of chicken may be skewered separately or interspersed with pieces of leek or other kind of vegetables. Some of the common choices include momo (chicken thigh), tebasaki (chicken wings), tsukune (chicken meat ball) and kawa (chicken skin). Non chicken items include asparagus, green peppers, shiitake mushrooms, ginkgo nuts and quail eggs.