Yakitori comes from two words: yaki meaning grilled and tori meaning bird. Simply put, yakitori is chicken that is skewered in bamboo sticks, steel sticks and other types of sticks and then grilled. However, nowadays it is not limited to just chicken but basically anything that can be put in a stick and poked around in the heat. It is popular in Japan especially in places such as izakaya and other restaurants all over the country.
The story behind
The origins of this food, yakitori is something that goes back a long time ago around the Edo period which was about 1603 to 1867. It was written in a book dated in 1643 as bird meat that is stuck on skewers then grilled and flavored with sake and soy sauce. It is also described to be from the influence of European missionaries and also of traders that breed chicken.
Around the latter part of the 18th-century, yakitori was being made from the leftover scrap meat at restaurants because chicken was high-class stuff due to its price. However, after the Second World War, the price dropped and yakitori started being more available boosting its popularity. It maintained its position until now because it is also good when paired with alcohol.
Way to make it!
It is quite simple to make the so-called yakitori, the heart of making it being charcoal grills. It is traditionally cooked with portable grills but in most restaurants, the use of a stationary grill is more likely to be seen. To make the cooking easier, the meat will be cut into uniformly small pieces and then skewered. Charcoal is used because it gives off strong flames and even heat. It helps the dish be cooked in a quick manner while still giving crunchiness to the skin of the meat.
Seasonings are also an important part of the dish. There are two main types of seasoning: salty-sweet and salty. For the salty type, it usually uses salt for the seasoning. On the other hand, for the salty-sweet type, tare, which is a special type of sauce made of sugar, sake and soy sauce is used. Different restaurants make use of different spices like wasabi, pepper and more to enhance the flavor of their yakitori.
Sorting it out
With its popularity, different types of yakitori were eventually introduced into the market. If you are still undecided on what you want to eat, here are 5 types of yakitori that you might want to try out.
If you like wings, then this should be the yakitori for you as it is a pair of chicken wings grilled until it is crispy and golden brown in color.
Egg, spices, vegetables and minced chicken rolled into balls forming round shape meat and then skewered into a stick and grilled.
The word reba means liver in German and that is what this yakitori is: chicken liver skewered and grilled.
This is made of skewered pieces of chicken thighs as momo literally translates into thigh.
Also called kawa, this yakitori type is composed of strips of chicken skin that are grilled to crispiness.
Search of the best place to eat
As the popularity of yakitori is very obvious, there are many places in which you can eat them especially in restaurants around Tokyo. Should you happen to be here or visit it, here are some of the best restaurants that you can go hopping from one onto the other for the search of the best yakitori.
Kanda station has it in for you if you are a yakitori lover as they have this restaurant just under its railways. You get to experience how a typical Friday night goes for businessmen as you visit this place. It is just a one minute walk from the JR Chuo line and they are open during the whole week.
This restaurant is located in Azabu Juban which is where most of the expensive restaurants are but make a note because this place is different from them and have cheap prices to go with their delicious food. It is only two minutes away from the train station and they are open every day with the exception of Sundays.
Because yakitori goes so well with alcohol, be sure to make a reservation in this restaurant that serves high quality of food and alcohol in an affordable budget. They are around Shinjuku-ku so if visit them in their restaurant days from Monday to Friday and on holidays as well with the exception of Sundays.
- Yakitori Shinka
This is definitely one of the best in terms of Yakitori that is obvious by its name. To add to that, it is very hard to make reservations for this restaurant but if you are lucky to place one, then you get to enjoy their yakitori courses which are simply like art and definitely delicious to the taste buds. They are open from Monday to Sunday but closed during the second and the fourth Sunday of the month.
Should you happen to have a lot of money on hand and would like to have a night to remember, visit this restaurant in Ningyo-cho which is a high-class restaurant where you will be able to have unique yakitori that have different parts of the chicken such as their lymph glands. They are open from Monday to Saturday.
Finding the right one
With all those types of yakitori and the different restaurants that were mentioned, it would definitely be an adventure to try and taste the different faces of yakitori because every yakitori is a stick full of surprise. Nevertheless, as you try and taste them all you will eventually figure out which is your favorite. There is no general right one, you decide which is the right for you. So go restaurant hopping, enjoy the ride and go figure it out!
Alecksandra is a food hobbyist and otaku who has a deep interest in Japanese culture and cuisine. She likes knowing how every food out there in the open came to be, the meaning of their very names, why they taste the way they do and the diverging concepts that are behind every dish. One day she will travel to different countries to go restaurant hopping and share her food adventures to the world.