The Sauce: Yakitori Marinade – Simmered soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, honey and garlic, this sauce is the traditional flavor base that prepares the chicken thigh pieces for grilling just above the heat.
‘Great Sauces Transform Good Food into Gourmet’
Each August while our family lived in Okinawa, Japan we participated in the Obon Festival. This holiday is a 500 year-old Buddhist tradition honoring ancestors by reuniting living family members with the spirits of their ancestors. During the day they go to the graves to call their ancestors back home. After dark bon odori dancers and taiko drummers wind through the streets in brightly colored traditional garb with large domed hats. Cheering spectators line the streets.
Commemorative performances are combined with feasts of traditional dishes. Yakitori, udon noodles, takoyaki (octopus dumplings), fried ika (squid), grilled corn on the cob, dango balls (sweetened rice flour balls) and donuts fried in fish oil. Yakitori is roasted over fire suspended atop a double line of bricks to cook the threaded chicken sticks.
You can make Yakitori on your own barbecue. All you need is four bricks covered in foil, a hot grill and a few bamboo skewers. Soaked in simple sauce, juicy chicken thigh and leek pieces treaded on bamboo skewers roast to perfection. Baste the sauce as it roasts for succulent flavor. Brings back memories.
You might also enjoy Sushi on the Fly, Pork Tenderloin with Oriental Express Sauce, Sirloin Steak with Pepper Vinegar BBQ Sauce, Chicken Thighs with Smoky Sweet Dry Rub, Mandarin Orange Chicken and Pearl Balls with Ponzu Dipping Sauce.
Prep Time: 30 Minutes | Inactive Time: 30 Minutes | Cook Time: 25 Minutes | Yield: 14-16 6-inch Skewers | Level: Moderate
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, about 3 large
- 1 leek
- Japanese Seven Pepper Seasoning
Special Equipment – 4 bricks covered in foil, grill, 16 bamboo skewers
Instructions 5 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside to cool.
1 Combine soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, honey and garlic in a small saucepan. Bring to boil. Skim off foam when it appears. Reduce heat and simmer for
5 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside to cool.
2 Meanwhile, trim the fat off the chicken thighs with kitchen scissors or a small knife. Lay the chicken thighs open flat. Using the back of a knife, pound the meat to tenderize it. Cut it in 1-inch pieces.
3 Add the cooled yakitori sauce to the chicken pieces and marinate for 30-60 minutes.
4 Meanwhile start the charcoal in the barbecue. Partially gray coals should be fairly hot by the time the yakitori is ready to roast.
5 Meanwhile cut the green tops away from the white and light green tubular leek bulb. Slice the bulb in half lengthwise then in 1-inch pieces. Place them in a bowl of water and swish around to release the grains of sand. Drain on a towel.
7 Cover 4 bricks with foil and lay on the grill with enough space to suspend the yakitori skewers. When the coals are ready, place the skewers with the tips balancing on the bricks. The yakitori should not have contact with the grill. Baste with yakitori sauce while cooking. Sprinkle with a dash of Japanese Seven Pepper Seasoning. Let the chicken roast to expose both sides to the heat turning as needed, about 12 minutes per side. Serve with rice.
Mirin is a Japanese sweet wine used for cooking. It has a fairly low alcohol content that cooks away when the sauce is simmered.
Traditionally chicken thighs are used for this dish because it’s juicier than breast meat but either one you prefer.
Garnish yakitori skewers with black, white or toasted sesame seeds. You can also sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
Japanese Seven Pepper Seasoning, also called Nanami Togarashi, is a combination of chili pepper, orange peel, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger and seaweed. You can find it at an Asian grocer.
Yakitori could be served with any Japanese dinner especially for outdoor barbecues.
- Exchange thigh for breast meat.
Inspiration – Helen Horton
Cook with Sauces
Written by Helen Horton
Photographs by Helen Horton
Updated: August 1, 2013