It’s summer and the grill is hot! I’m on a quest to learn about Japanese grilling. The chicken in the pictures on this post was not grilled; it was the by-product of making the yakitori sauce. Very delicious, if a bit strongly flavored!
It’s part of the cooking method yakimono, which also includes toasting, broiling, roasting, and pan-frying. The yaki cooking method could be generalized as high and dry heat—confusing because sometimes oil is involved, but remember that oil is not “wet.”
Kushiyaki is the general term for food grilled on a skewer. Dengaku is skewered food (such as eggplant, tofu, taro, rice cakes, small fish, etc) that is roasted over charcoal, dipped in a miso-based sauce, then roasted again. Tori means chicken, so yakitori is small pieces of chicken (or meatballs, wings, skin, or livers) on skewers, grilled and often dipped in a sauce made with sake, mirin, and shoyu. Yakitori restaurants also serve a variety of kushiyaki, and sometimes all the food they serve is referred to as yakitori. Confused yet?
The recipe today will show you how to make your own yakitori sauce. Then I’ll post about a couple of yakitori recipes soon. Yakitori Chicken Wings
Several Japanese recipes include the word “yaki” in their names, though the foods are not usually skewered for cooking: yuan yaki, which includes a sauce made with citrus juice, and teriyaki , which includes a shiny glaze made with mirin, sake, shoyu, and sugar. Here are the yakimono recipes on my blog.
Yakitori basting sauce is based (I love homophones!) on a mixture of sake, mirin, and shoyu. During cooking, skewered chicken is dipped into the tare (sauce) pot. The sauce acquires some chicken flavor every time a skewer is dipped into it. This continuously adds flavor to the sauce, so don’t dispose of extra sauce when you make yakitori—keep it for next time. To refresh your heritage tare, cook up some more sauce with just the other ingredients.
This recipe gives you a head-start on the chicken flavor for your sauce by cooking some wings in it! When the sauce was cooked, I saved the chicken wings to eat for dinner with plain rice and some nice chard from our garden. Mr. Tess grew amaranth last summer and it volunteered this spring so I cooked some of those leaves as well. They are very pretty dark red.
Basting Sauce for Yakitori
- 8 chicken wings (drummets with the single bone)
- 3/4 cup sake
- 1 1/3 cups mirin
- 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/3 cups shoyu
Broil or grill the chicken wings until they are charred over about half their surfaces.
In a medium pot, bring the sake and mirin to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the sugar, and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Stir to prevent burning. Add the shoyu and chicken wings, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook over low heat for 30 minutes. At the end of the cooking, the sauce will be thick and glossy.
Strain the sauce through a strainer lined with cotton cloth, reserving the chicken wings. Let the sauce cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for as long as a month. Reheat the tare before using it, and once every week between uses. Notice how rich and thick the cold sauce is?
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