Chicken yakitori is an ever so popular and easy Japanese grilled dish served on skewers. The marinade is of course the star here. It’s a combination of umami and sweet flavors, soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), sake, brown sugar, fresh ginger and garlic. All of which give this simple dish an Asian-inspired flair. One that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
What is Yakitori (焼き鳥)
Yakitori can be literally translated to “grilled chicken,” from the Japanese words yaki (grill) and tori (chicken). Yakitori consists of bite-sized pieces of meat (usually chicken) served on skewers. Yakitori can easily be combined with vegetables (mushrooms, green onions, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, etc.) or even fruit like pineapple.
How to serve chicken yakitori
I personally love to serve these tasty chicken skewers with steamed rice and grilled vegetables (such as bok choy / pak choi, asparagus, or green onions) as well as grilled pineapple as an asian-style bowl meal. But you could also serve it with a daikon radish and carrot salad, or an asian-style cucumber or tomato salad for a light meal. I wouldn’t skip the rice, as the marinade is so good, you’ll want to drizzle extra flavor on every single bite!
Yakitori Chicken (Japanese Grilled Chicken Skewers)
- 500-600 g boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 2,5-3cm pieces
- 1/2 cup soy sauce (125 ml)
- 1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice wine) (60 ml)
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- Olive oil or grapeseed oil
For the skewers:
- Green onion, cut into 2,5-3cm pieces (or red onion, quartered)
- 1/2 small pineapple, cut into 2,5cm pieces
- Steamed jasmine rice
- Steamed or grilled bok choy
Place the chicken pieces in a medium glass or ceramic bowl, and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, mirin, sake, brown sugar, garlic and ginger. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium and cook for 7-8 minutes, until reduced slightly. Reserve 5-6 tablespoons sauce for serving and pour the remaining sauce over chicken, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour (longer is even better).
When ready to cook, thread the chicken onto skewers (folding thinner pieces in half as you skewer them), as well as pineapple, and onion pieces, switching off between ingredients until each skewer is filled.
Preheat the grill (or a grill plate or grill pan) and brush the skewers lightly with oil.
Grill each skewer until chicken has just cooked through, about 5-6 minutes per side.
Place skewers over steamed rice and serve with steamed or grilled bok choy. Drizzle with a little of the reserved sauce and enjoy.
- Mirin is a sweet rice wine, not to confused with rice vinegar. It can be found at Asian food stores or well-stocked grocery stores.
- Sake can be replaced with dry sherry if needed.
- For maximum flavor and tenderness, I recommend that you marinate the chicken for 4 hours (up to 12 hours). The longer you marinate it for, the more flavorful it will become.
- If using wooden skewers, and grilling on a gas or charcoal BBQ, soak them in advance.
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