I’ve always thought of Yakitori as the Bad Boy cousin to Teriyaki. He rides a Harley and he isn’t sweet, except in a kind of dangerous complicated way. This feast is the bad boy of Japanese BBQ. These skewers of little umami bombs have a wonderful tension between deep soy flavors from the Dark Soy (we use the Chinese version of Dark Soy, less salt, more aging), the tasty fresh unique flavor of sake, the nutty sesame, and the complex layered sweetness of the mirin.
I vividly remember going into Japanese BBQ grills in downtown Los Angeles back when I was starting out as a screenwriter and being blown away by the rush of umami flavors. The charred bits on the chunks of chicken thigh are a huge part of the flavor, and are best done over charcoal on a Hibachi or a very hot grill.
8 chicken thighs (free range, air chilled) cut into bite sized pieces, about 1 inch
8 green onions (scallions), cut into 1 inch sizes (optional)
8 – 10 bamboo skewers
Ingredients for Yakitori Sauce
1 cup Tamari, soy or our favorite, Chinese Dark Soy
1/2 cup mirin
1/4 cup sake
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
2 teaspoons chili oil
Soak the bamboo skewers for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour.
Mix ingredients well. In a 10 inch sauce pan, heat on medium until bubbling, then reduce the heat to low and allow to bubble gently for about 10 minutes until thickened and married. Allow to cool.
Lightly salt the chicken thighs and cut them into bite sized pieces. Skewer them onto the bamboo skewers, leaving a half inch space between, and lay them over a shallow pan. (If you are also using the green onions, place one green onion piece between each chicken piece.)
Using a brush, thickly apply the Yakitori sauce, reserving 1/4 cup for drizzling over the chicken and rice while serving.
Turn all burners to high and heat the interior of the BBQ grill for about 10 minutes so it’s quite hot. Turn all the burners to low and place the skewers over the hottest flames on the grill. Once one side is seared and slightly scorched, turn them over and sear the other sides. Each side should take about 5 minutes.
Remove and serve while hot, with jasmine rice and vegetables. If you are making a rice bowl, place the rice in the bottom of the bowl, add the vegetables and chicken, drizzling the reserved sauce over the top. Enjoy this intense umami bomb from Japan.