Yakitori is grilled skewered chicken. It can be any part of the chicken. I’ve had liver (not my favorite), gizzards (not my favorite), cartilage (definitely not my favorite), and the regular parts like thighs, legs, breasts, and skin (not my favorite either, but Aya loves it!). It’s one of my favorites and I always make sure we get some when we visit Aya’s folks in Japan.
One of my first solo dining experiences in Japan was with yakitori. Aya’s parents suggested a place where I could just look at pictures on a menu and order by number. That way it would be easier for me since my Japanese vocabulary is very limited. But hey, I can count to ten!
When looking at the menu I immediately recognized yakitori and decided that is what I would order. The only way I’ve had yakitori is with sauce. And that’s the only way I thought people eat it. So when the server asked me questions after I proudly ordered “hachi”(number eight), I began to panic. Why is she asking questions? I told her eight! That’s all she needed to know! Oh, and I only know how to say numbers, “yes,” and “no thank you” in Japanese.
“Do you want salt or sauce?” she asked in Japanese(and I only found this out later when I was telling the story to Aya and her parents).
But all I heard was a bunch of unfamiliar syllables that sounded like a question. After a long awkward pause, I looked blankly at her and said, “hai (yes).”
She looked puzzled and asked again in Japanese, “do you want salt or sauce?”
I straightened up and looked at her more confidently and said again, “hai (yes).” Only this time I added a ‘yes’ head nod so she would for sure know my answer.
“Salt?” she asked in Japanese.
“Hai (yes),” I nodded again with a proud smirk.
Little did I know I was agreeing to “salt” instead of “sauce” on my chicken and was thoroughly confused when the skewered chicken arrived with no sauce. Why is it do dry? I thought. It wasn’t until Aya and her family explained this to me while they roared with laughter at my story that I understood what was being asked. Now I know. And I also know that I like it better with sauce.
So with that in mind, I used two small chicken breasts and cubed them instead of slicing them thin. I also cooked mine under the broiler in the oven. If you use this method, I think soaking the skewers in water for at least a few hours beforehand might be a good idea. Mine caught on fire (oops).
I served this with miso soup, seaweed salad, steamed broccoli with sesame dressing, enoki mushrooms sauteed in butter and soy sauce, and rice. Not a bad meal.
Oh yeah, and I made the sauce to go with it too.