Many Japanese restaurants offer izakaya or sharing plates. One of the dishes that is frequently offered, is skewered meat grilled over coals. This is called yakitori and it is delicious!
Chicken is a popular food in Japan. When chicken was considered expensive, the animal carcass or gristle was used to make the kebabs. This material was generally dumped as garbage from high-class restaurants, so using this helped bring the price down. Kebab stalls offered a cheaper version of a chicken meal.
Typically these stalls were set up at the entrance and pathways to temples/shrines, at the ends of bridges, or at traditional fairs. Skewered food was already popular in the Edo Period. Since then it has evolved and some suggest there is an emerging yakitori culture now!
A little more research has yielded 19 different kinds of yakitori.
- Gyutan – beef tongue
- Shiro – check small intestine
- Reba – chicken liver
- Toriniku – all white meat chicken
- Piman – green pepper filled with cheese, meat and other ingredients
- Ginnan – seeds of the ginkgo biloba tree
- Enoki maki – emoki mushrooms wrapped in thin sliced pork
- Nankotsu – chicken cartilage
- Sunagimo – chicken gizzard
- Asuparabekon – asparagus wrapped in bacon
- Tebasaki – chicken wings
- Shiitake – shiitake musshrooms topped with katsuobushi flakes (umami flavour)
- Negima – chicken and negi (type of leek)
- Mentaiko – cod roe (topping for pork or chicken yakitori)
- Chorizo – Spanish pork sausage
- Atsuage – deep fried tofu
- Bonjiri – chicken tail
- Tsukune – chicken meatballs made with small pieces of chicken cartilage
- Butabara – pork belly
We found a tiny restaurant in Hirafu village called Yosaku. Despite it looking tiny on the outside it was actually quite spacious. In there we tried the chicken, pork and beef yakitori. Options are for having it served with sauce or salted. Our waiter’s recommendation was salted pork, chicken and beef with sauce.
This proved a very tasty and tender treat – all washed down with some dry, cold sake (reishu). YUM (yamu)! Definitely one to try when we are home.
Isn’t about time you tried some yakitori?