Chicken Breast Fillets with Umeboshi

Umeboshi (Japanese: 梅干; literally “dried ume”) are pickled ume fruits common in Japan. Ume (Prunus mume) is a species of fruit-bearing tree in the genus Prunus, which is often called a plum but is actually more closely related to the apricot. Umeboshi are a popular kind of tsukemono (pickles) and are extremely sour and salty. They are usually served as side dishes for rice or eaten on rice balls (sometimes without removing their seeds inside) for breakfast and lunch. They are occasionally served boiled or seasoned for dinner.

Sasami are the slender muscles you find on either side of the breast bone, beneath the large breast muscles when you bone a chicken. They are the leanest parts of the chicken. In Japan, breast fillets are sold separately from the rest of the chicken breast. They are also sometimes sold separately in U.S. super markets, where they are usually labeled “tenders.” … When sasami are really fresh they may be eaten raw as sashimi, and they are served in this fashion at restaurants in Japan. … from Hiroko Shimbo’s The Japanese Kitchen

Chicken Breast Fillets on Skewers with Pickled Plum and Shiso
Yakitori: Sasami no Ume-shiso

from: The Japanese Kitchen
•250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit•
by Hiroko Shimbo
page 407
serves 4
  • 8 bamboo skewers, soaked for at least 1 hour
  • 8 chicken breast fillets
  • 4 umeboshi (pickled plum), pitted and chopped (about 2 Tablespoons)
  • 1 Tablespoon sake (rice wine)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon mirin (sweet cooking wine)
  • 8 shiso leaves, julienned
  • Yakitori basting sauce

Remove the white string-like tendon from each chicken tender.
Note: While chicken fillets are very tender, the tendon is not. Tendons attach muscles to bones so they are very strong. Use needle-nosed pliers to hold the end of the tendon and a sharp knife to cut and pull it out. This fussy step is well worth doing: the cooked chicken is much more pleasant to eat!

Cut a long pocket in the side of each fillet.
Do not cut all the way through. Alternately, you can pound the fillets to make them wider and thinner.

Mix the umeboshi, sake, and mirin in a small cup.

Apply a thin layer of the umeboshi paste inside the pockets. (If you have flattened the fillets, apply the paste to the top.) Sprinkle with shiso. Close the open edge of the pockets with a skewer. (Or fold the fillets in half and thread them onto the skewers to keep them closed.)

Heat a grill or broiler. If you are not using the basting sauce, salt the chicken before cooking. If you are using the basting sauce, dip and shake off excess. Cook, turning the skewers often.

Don’t overcook. Serve hot.

Sula is keeping an eye on the set-up in the kitchen…

20 thoughts on “Chicken Breast Fillets with Umeboshi

  1. Hi Tess, I have recently discovered your blog, have been preparing to congratulate you on the inspiring and interesting blog and couldn’t stop myself from writing today. It’s incredible , but about a week ago I made a very similar recipe, it was from the Izakaya: the Japanese Cookbook by Mark Robinson and have immediately fallen in love with shiso-ume-chicken combination! (It was the first time I tasted the three together). My recipe (skewered chicken rolls) was a bit tricky to make (I am not a very meticulous or patient person, so the rolls were all different in size and shape). Your recipe looks a bit easier, but must be equally good (at least it looks delicious). Maybe I can make both at the same time… I am very happy I have found your blog!

  2. I don’t have that book but it sounds good, on your recommendation. Your skewered chicken with umeboshi and shiso are absolutely beautiful.

    Now something that is a sort of incredible is that I had a dream about making this recipe for a party. Making it as pretty pinwheels as you did. Yes, I do sometimes dream about cooking… Using the chicken fillets and having to remove the tendons, that is tedious and time consuming.

    I dreamed about using skinless boneless chicken breasts (with the tenders removed). What if you cut the big old breasts int half (to make them thinner), Then you could line them up lengthwise on a big work surface, between plastic wrap, and pound them thinner (I’ve done this for other recipes and they meld together). A glass or round-bottomed jar works well. So I dreamed that one could apply the shiso leaves and uemboshi paste down the length and use the plastic wrap to make a long spiral tube. All you would have to do is to slice the whole thing, then put the slices on to the skewers. Would that work? Maybe.

    The other part of my dream thought that was too much work.
    Flatten the chicken breasts so they are like layers of filo, then apply the ume and chix to each layer. Then bake the whole thing. To serve, cut the layered chicken into squares and apply toothpicks to each.

    I do get carried away sometimes, but now I’ve written this, thanks to your comment, it might be worth trying…


    • Tess, thank you very much for the compliments and for visiting my blog. Your dream sounds really incredible. Maybe it’s telepathy? Just joking! I suppose you must have seen it somewhere maybe? I also sometimes dream about cooking, I’m happy I’m not the only one!
      It’s true, I have only butterflied the breasts, I haven’t pounded them, so they weren’t extremely thin. On the other hand my main problem was the equal size of the “wheels”. Otherwise I did as you say, I made long rolls and then cut them.
      The second idea is much much easier! Both are worth trying.
      I find the book great. Most recipes are very easy and I want to do most of them.
      By the way, I have never heard about the book you have been using for the recipes here (a great challenge! congratulations!), but will probably buy it. It sounds different from the Japanese cookbooks I have.
      Have you ever heard of the “Japanese Cooking. A Simple Art” by Shizuo Tsuji? I love it. It’s for me the nr 1 Japanese cuisine reference (although I haven’t found the umeboshi skewers there ;-) ). Even reading it is a pure pleasure.

      • Oh yes, I have that book. It’s comprehensive! I like the way it is organized by cooking method. I got it when it first came out (now that tells you how old I am!) back in the days when finding Japanese ingredients was nearly impossible. I found it difficult back then because I was so unfamiliar with such basic things as kombu and katsuobushi! Our little town has come a long way in the past 30 years—now there are quite a few places to find “ethnic” foods. And lot of restaurants!

        Shizuo Tsuji also has another book (P.R.A.C.T.I.C.A.L Japanese Cooking), with beautiful pictures of each dish on the page with each recipe—it doesn’t have so many recipes, but it includes a section with “how to” pictures. Easier for a beginning cook. My copy of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art has line drawings on some recipe pages, with a section of “color plates” showing colored pictures of a number of dishes—printing technology has come a long way: it used to be common to have a signature with all of the colored pictures.

      • I think pounding the breasts would not only make them thinner but also make the “wheels” more likely to be the same size, thus cook more evenly.

        It’s nice to know I’m not the only one to dream about cooking…

        • Thank you, Tess, for this explanation. I haven’t thought about it of course…
          I have hesitated about the Practical Japanese Cooking, but saw some people advising against it and saying it’s only full of photos and if someone already has the first one, this one doesn’t bring anything new.
          Your 80s edition’s description corresponds perfectly well to mine (bought a couple of months ago); it also has drawings (very well made I think!) and, at the beginning, some colour plates. I like it a lot because it’s a real cooking manual and it goes well beyond the cooking activity. I also appreciate the strict but not pompous approach to food.
          I imagine your frustration while reading the recipes and being unable to buy the necessary ingredients! I am really lucky to live in Switzerland where apparently a lot of Japanese and Koreans live and where people like foreign cuisine in general. In my city there are several Japanese shops, two quite big, and I can buy most of the ingredients (apart from the fresh fruit and vegetable, but these appear sometimes in season). I know I would have lots of problems even in much bigger European cities.

          • Practical Japanese Cooking was a gift—nice book but it wouldn’t be the one I’d recommend to a serious cook.

            These days, there are lots of Japanese ingredients available here, mostly from stores owned by Koreans. I think the change happened because the auto-companies have more Japanese people working for them than in the past. Also, there is a huge university which attracts quite a few international students. I feel lucky to benefit from these changes.

  3. Those plums look like they came from the refridgerated isle. I wonder that they must taste less strong than the dried kind I once bought and found too salty? hhhmmm.

    • Yes, they are quite plump and moist. Very tasty.

      The first time I had umeboshi it was the sort you are describing: very dry, very salty and very sour.

      These are very nice: they are made with red shiso to make them red.
      Some umeboshi are red because of added food coloring.
      These are more expensive, but they are the kind I look for.

      Sort of like olives, you know?

      Salty but not so much that your mouth burns as the dried ones do…

      These are really worth looking for. Good just with Japanese rice.

        • Yes, do.
          It’s not that they taste like olives you understand, but there is some similar saltiness and umami.

          I sort of wonder if the dried umeboshi are Chinese? But my daughter’s friend from Japan brought some packets of dried ume when he visited here: from his mother, in case he got homesick…

          Or maybe they are an acquired taste? Let me know what you think!

  4. Mine came in a very pretty but gaudy gold wrapped jar. Thats a trademark of chinese origin I think. (the gold wrap)

    I read in one of my japanese cook books I cant remember its name: She described making pickled items using salt and some type of dry pressure jar. She implied it was a common item used almost daily to make pickles out of anything and everything in just 4 days or so. Its something I would be interested in. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

  5. Now that the conversation has turned somewhat to how hard or easy it is to find ingredients. Well… Ive often looked for fresh citrons. Books tell me that while they are related to lemons, and can be used in place of citron… Citron is not in fact a lemon.

    I have only 3 places within 30 miles of me and I find typical fruits but no Citrons? Someday, I want to have a shopping spree in China town, Boston or NY. Oh what wonders I’ll find Im sure. :)

  6. Yuzu! YES!!
    I can find Buddah’s hand cirton in mid-winter here (I have a post about it on this blog somewhere—a very weird looking fruit, and apparently lucky for New Years) but it is not the fruit you are talking about. It’s more like kumquats in that there is little or no juice in it. You use the rind.
    Yuzu must be very fragile or rare. I found some once, fresh, in a Japanese grocery in the Detroit burbs, but just as lemons and limes get that acetone sort of smell when they go bad, that was how these smelled. No sign of mold, but that very chemical smell. They were very expensive and with that odor I didn’t try them.
    I can find bottled juice of yuzu, but it’s very expensive. And lots of dressings and marinades in bottles include a bit of their juice, along with lots of other ingredients…
    I do keep my eyes open to see if I’ll ever see yuzu again.

    Some recipes say to mix lemon, lime and grapefruit juice, with a tiny pinch of salt (the salt may be my imagination) to approximate the flavor. For yuan yaki dishes we mostly just use lemon juice.

    I’ll bet you could find it in NYC though I’ve never been there. Boston, the one time I was there, they had amazing ricotta pies… mmm and lobster ravioli.

  7. Yuzu.. Im jotting that down. Armed with my new vocabulary word perhaps I’ll have better luck searching.

    Roast duck from Boston China town is the best I have ever tasted. Nowhere else have I had it so yummy as there. Yes!

    Your blog is like a bottomless treasure chest to me. One day If I ever get the kinda time and organization to be able to, I plan to delve into the archives and explore. Thank you Tess :)

  8. Pingback: Variation of Chicken with Umeboshi « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

  9. Pingback: Thighs: onion, umeboshi and shiso « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

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