Yakitori – The Art of Skewered Food

We all know Japan for it’s Ramen, Sushi and jiggly cheesecakes….but there’s one food from Japan that’s not so mainstream, although seen as a simple snack it is far from it and that is Yakitori. Juicy, smoky, skewered chicken usually paired with an ice-cold beer has become a staple in Japan’s food culture.

Yakitori has been sold in Japan for many years, starting in the Meiji era (1868-1912), when street stalls started selling chicken cooked over hot charcoal, but only became truly mainstream in the late 1950s, when fast-growing broiler chickens were introduced from the United States and started to be raised on an industrial scale in Japan.

During that time Yakitori-ya (grilled chicken skewer shops) became ubiquitous fixtures near train stations and other places where tired salarymen could stop after work for a drink and a quick snack. These days yakitori is as popular as ever, sold at cheap and cheerful chain restaurants and gourmet yakitori-ya that use high end  jidori chickens. 

While making Yaitori seems easy enough to do, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out its farm from it. Knowing when to turn them over the coals, when you should hit the skewers with the right amount of seasoning, and having an innate sense of when they’re done (lest they get dry) is what separates novices from masters. 

Yakitori is often offered with a choice of shio (salt) or tare (pronounced tah-reh), a thick, sweet sauce that’s a key seasoning ingredient in Japanese cuisine.