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Yakitori: A Japanese Shishkabob


Yakitori is a grilled chicken cut into small pieces which is pierced with small bamboo stick. “

Yaki” means grilled, and “tori” means chicken. It is a traditional form of barbecue which is popular among all generations in Japan. Aomori prefecture is the region with the highest consumption rate of yakitori.

The first yakitori in Japan used grilled whole sparrow on a stick. It was sold at festivals on the road that is directed to shrines, and people made long lines. It gradually started to use chicken instead of sparrow. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), yakitori started to be sold at “yatai” which means food stalls on the street.

Yakitori uses various parts of chicken, and there are called in different names. The basic parts are thigh “momo” and breast “mune” meat. There is “negima” which uses thigh and breast meat in between Japanese green onions alternately. “Kawa” uses chicken skin, which is chewy and tasty. “Tsukune” is a meatloaf that is rolled around the bamboo stick. Lever is also used as a popular part.

There are two different tastes for yakitori; “tare” which means source, and “shio” which means salt.
When “tare” is used, the chef dips the yakitori into a source before broiling, and the taste of “tare” different depending on each restaurant.

Speciality restaurants, food stalls, and super markets sell yakitori, but the most famous place that sells yakitori is yakitori-yokocho, where is an alley where small yakitori restaurants are gathered. The Shimbashi area in Tokyo where is a well known business district has this alley, and businessmen drop by after work to enjoy yakitori with beer and sake.

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