Yakitori is a dish made from grilled chicken, however, it is unique in that it is intended to refrain from waste and as such, uses all parts of the chicken. This includes the liver and the heart of the chicken. This idea of using all parts of the chicken (or other ingredients) is connected to a specific concept in Japanese culture to avoid waste.
Origins of Yakitori
Yakitori, where the chicken is cut into small pieces and grilled on a skewer over coals has been part of Japanese cuisine since the middle of the 17th century. Like tempura, Yakitori is considered a convenient food in that it can often be portably prepared, however, it does require some preparation. The chicken is cut into bite-size pieces that are all roughly the same size and then placed on a skewer making it easier to grill. The skewer itself can be made from steel, or sometimes bamboo The type of seasoning put on the Yakitori chicken may vary but most commonly falls into to categories of sweet yakitori or salty-sweet yakitori. Oftentimes, spicy elements can be added incorporating wasabi and cayenne pepper along with the soy sauce, sake and mirin to create marinades for the meat.
How to cook Yakitori
The manner in which the Yakitori meat is cooked can also range, but evolves from the same simple principle of cooking over hot heat. Traditionally, Yakitori is prepared over charcoal but in modern-day cooking, gas and electric options provide convenience and ease. In fact, there are several at-home kitchen devices that are designed specifically to prepare Yakitori at home. From mini-grills to larger scale electric elements, many Japanese homes own these appliances to prepare Yakitori. However, the best practice and arguably the most delicious way to prepare Yakitori is over hot charcoal which adds an extra subtle, grill flavor.
The taste and flavor of yakitori can range, as the specific pieces of meat often different textures, and the sauces can really elevate the overall flavor and experience of enjoying yakitori. Yakitori is a staple of Japanese cuisine and can be enjoyed as both a quick and inexpensive street food or in fine-dining restaurants. It is worth sampling Yakitori in a few different places to sample the unique varieties and nuances of different sauces and grilling techniques. Try pairing it with an icy cold Japanese beer.