Yakitori, in Japan, is grilled at the table using beef, pork or chicken. For a guy like me, any dish that combines chiles and grilling is okay, in my book. This easy dish is so flavorful. It’s great as an appetizer or as a main course served with rice.
If you have access to a big Asian market (I go to Lee Lee in Chandler) go there to buy your ingredients. If you’ve never been, it’s a real hoot, vegetables and fruits from all over the world, live fish and shellfish and depending on the market thousands of ingredients to stock your pantry. Yes you can use regular soy sauce, marin and saki, but the more authentic the ingredients the more authentic the sauce. When buying soy sauce remember the lighter sauce has more sodium!
7 boneless skinless chicken thighs
10 wooden skewers, soaked in water over night
Non-stick vegetable oil spray
½ cup premium Sake
2/3 cup Dark Japanese shoyu or dark Japanese soy sauce
3 Tbl. Super fine sugar ( the baking isle of your grocer)
1 Thai chile, chopped fine
2 Tbl. Marin
1 Tbl. Corn Starch
2 Tbl. Water
10 lemon wedges
Shichimi Togarashi also known as Japaneese seven spice which is no relation to Chinese five spice
Cut the chicken thighs in half, the long way, and then in thirds. Yielding six pieces about 1-½ inches square from each thigh. Remove the outer layer of flesh from the leek and then cut off the green tail where in spreads apart. Look at the cut end if it has any dirt or sand cut off a few more inches and then rinse well. Cut the leek stalk into 2 inch pieces. Repeat process with all of the leeks. Thread a piece of chicken on a skewer and then a leek piercing it the short way. Repeat this until each skewer has 4 pieces of chicken and three pieces of leek.
Light the grill, while it’s warming up make the Yakitori sauce. In a medium saucepan combine the Sake, Shoyu, sugar, chile, and marin. Whisk and bring to a low boil. While it’s heating up whisk together the cornstarch and water. As soon as the sauce starts boiling (not simmering) add the cornstarch slurry and whisk well. Allow to boil for about 15 seconds, remove from heat.
Take the skewers and sauce out to the grill along with the oil spray and a brush to apply the sauce. Spray each skewer and then turn them over and spray the other side. Over medium high heat place the skewers on the grill, wait about ten seconds and then pick them up and set them down. This keeps them from sticking. Grill the first side of the skewers for three minutes and then turn them. (I find it much easier to turn them with tongs even though, being a guy, there’s something about reaching into a fire to turn smoking meat with my bare hands that seems right to me). Baste the skewers with sauce. Grill the second side for three minutes and then turn and baste. Then it’s two minutes on each side basting with each turn and then two minutes more each side once again basting with each turn.
Remove from heat and serve with lemon wedges and a sprinkle Japanese Seven Spice.
If you bought the premium Saki remember, it can be served the traditional way of warming it gently in a little warm water or many restaurants are now serving it ice-cold.
Makes 10 skewers