RecipeTin Eats x Good Food: Chicken Yakitori

Yakitori is best cooked over charcoal for the traditional smoky flavour.
Yakitori is best cooked over charcoal for the traditional smoky flavour.  Photo: Nagi Maehashi

Yakitori parties are just an excuse to make everyone DIY cook their own meat – less work for me! Yakitori is best cooked over charcoal for the traditional smoky flavour. But it's still excellent done on the barbecue (which is how I do it most of the time) or, in the event of an emergency, under the grill in your oven. This is our family recipe, which first appeared on my mother's website, japan.recipetineats.com. You'll need 48 short bamboo skewers (about 18cm long) and a pastry brush.

Yakitori

INGREDIENTS

Yakitori sauce (tare)

  • 185ml (¾ cup) Japanese soy sauce (see note)
  • 185ml (¾ cup) mirin
  • 2½ tbsp white sugar

Plain chicken (Momo) (15 skewers)

  • 750g skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into 2.5cm pieces

Chicken and spring onion (Negima) (15 skewers)

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  • 750g skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into 2.5cm pieces
  • 15 spring onions stems, cut into 3cm lengths (30 pieces)

Onion ring (8 skewers)

  • 4 small onions, cut laterally, into 1.3cm thick round slices (4 from each onion)

Bacon and asparagus (10 skewers)

  • 14 rashers streaky bacon (360g thin streaky English bacon), each cut into 5cm x 3cm pieces
  • 10 thick asparagus spears, ends trimmed then cut into 5 x 3cm pieces

METHOD

  1. Soak the skewers in water for at least 30 minutes (to prevent burning) before cooking.
  2. Make the yakitori sauce by placing all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes or until it reduces by one third to a thin syrupy consistency
  3. Prepare the skewers as follows. Plain chicken: thread 5 pieces of chicken onto each skewer. Chicken and spring onion: starting and finishing with chicken, thread on 3 pieces of chicken and 2 pieces of spring onion. Onion ring: Thread 2 slices crosswise on each skewer. Bacon and asparagus: Place the asparagus tip and the piece cut from next to the tip side by side and wrap in a piece of bacon. Then wrap each remaining piece of asparagus with bacon. Thread the bacon-wrapped asparagus onto skewers (4 on each skewer).
  4. To cook over charcoal (chicken and onion skewers), heat the coal and place it 6cm under where the chicken and onion skewers will be. Place yakitori over the charcoal and cook for 3-4 minutes until the underside changes from pink to white. Flip skewers, then brush with yakitori sauce using a pastry brush. Cook for 3 minutes, then turn and brush with sauce. Cook 30 seconds, turn, brush with sauce, cook for another 30 seconds, then repeat once more. They're ready when cooked through and bronzed with sauce. Cook the bacon and asparagus yakitori for 3 minutes on each side, without basting with sauce, until the bacon is golden.
  5. To cook on a gas barbecue, brush the grills with oil. Heat the barbecue to medium. Cook yakitori as above.
  6. To cook with an oven grill, preheat on high and position the shelf so the meat will be 5cm from the heat source. Place a lightly oiled rack over a tray and place yakitori skewers on the tray. Brush the chicken and onion skewers with sauce (not the bacon-asparagus skewers) and place under the grill for 5 minutes. Turn, baste with sauce, place back under the grill for 4 minutes. Turn then baste, grill 1 minute, then repeat once more or until you get little charred bits and the yakitori is golden.
  7. Pile all the yakitori onto a platter and serve immediately, preferably with ice-cold sake.

Makes 48 skewers

Notes:

  • Kikkoman is my go-to Japanese soy sauce. Chinese light soy sauce will also work just fine. But whatever you do, don't use dark soy sauce! It is far too intense.
  • Leftover yakitori keep for 4-5 days in the fridge, and only need a quick reheat in the microwave. But honestly? We eat leftovers straight from the fridge. It's the RecipeTin way.

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