Isakaya snacks for dinner! Easy yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) with a quick marinade and grilled scallions. I serve this with plain white rice and grilled veggies for an easy, FAST healthy Japanese dinner.
HELLO, easy Japanese bar food at home.
Yakitori is probably in the top 10 of my all-time favorite meals, and DEFINITELY my fav Japanese bar (isakaya) food. The great thing is, it's EASY to recreate at home and tastes just like the real thing, promise. These grilled chicken skewers make a really fun, healthy weeknight dinner that everyone will love!
Hibachi Style Chicken Skewers
This recipe comes from Simple and Delicious Japanese cooking, one of my favorite cookbooks for basic, classic Japanese recipes.
When we lived in Tokyo, my mom took a cooking class by the woman who wrote this book - a cookbook that I still ALL the time. The recipes are incredibly simple, and much like other countries' cuisines, if you have a few staple ingredients and spices you can make a ton of different dishes.
This dish uses mirin, a sweet cooking wine, and sake, rice wine, and if you have those on hand you can make tons of Japanese sauces and dips. Mirin and sake are found almost anywhere, but if you don't feel like buying sake you can sub white wine - I've done it before and it's just fine!
Besides the sauce, we char some veggies and chicken, make some rice, and we have dinner. This whole meal can be made in WELL under an hour, and it's just so tasty and delicious - Keeping things separate also means that everyone can choose the ingredients they'd like to eat and build their plate however they want!
Yakitori Recipe FAQ
Translated directly, yaki means grilled, and tori means bird, or chicken in this case. So, calling something that isn't chicken yakitori isn't really correct, although I see it on menus and I think the intended meaning in that case is "grilled stuff with soy based sauce." Which, you know, is fine.
Honestly, I wouldn't. The traditional flavor here comes from the mirin, soy, and sugar, and wouldn't be the same without it. However, if you'd like to make this without refined white sugar you can use raw sugar or agave in place of the white sugar.
Step By Step Instructions
Let's get right to this. Gather up some chicken, peppers, green onions, mirin, soy sauce, sake, and sugar. That's it! You can use any veggies you like, so sub whatever you have. For the chicken, I like boneless skinless chicken thighs - I find that they have more flavor than breast meat and aren't as likely to dry out on the grill.
First, preheat your grill to HIGH while you prep the sauce and the ingredients. For the sauce, add all the ingredients to a small pan and bring to a boil, stirring every few minutes. When the sauce boils, turn it off and let it cool and thicken in the pan.
Now, the veggies! I LOVE grilled scallions just plain and whole, but feel free to skewer them if you'd like. For the peppers, I cut them into bite-sized chunks and thread them onto long skewers.
Then I repeat with the chicken. Squish the chicken close together so it'll char nicely but not dry out on the grill.
At this point, we should have a hot grill, cooling sauce, and prepped meat and veggies. Go ahead and start some rice if you want to eat some and if you haven't done so already.
Grilled Green Onions
I grill the green onions first because they take SECONDS on a hot grill, then let them rest on the top warming rack or just on a plate.
To grill the green onions, lay them over the grates, turn just once when they start to darken, then remove almost immediately. We want the outsides to char but the insides not to get too mushy.
Then, the chicken and skewered veggies go on, and we're using the same method. There's no seasoning of any kind used yet, and we really want to blacken the edges of the chicken and veggies. The key here is a very hot grill.
Let the chicken cook for about 6 minutes on the first side, then flip it once some of the edges have charred. The chicken will still be raw on the middle but dark on the outside - that's OK since we aren't done cooking it yet.
Cook the chicken for about 5 more minutes. When it's ALMOST done, brush the sauce you made on the chicken and veggies, turning once more to char the sauce just slightly.
We add the sauce at the end so that the chicken gets cooked through but the sauce doesn't burn.
And that, my friends, is it. We have rice, charred veggies, chicken brushed in the most delicious sauce, and there's just nothing better in this life whatsoever.
Definitely serve any extra sauce you have on the side for dipping - it adds a great richness to the dish. That's another benefit of brushing the sauce on at the end of the grilling time: no cross contamination issues with dipping the grill brush in the yakitori sauce.
Yakitori Side Dishes/Serving
I like to portion about half a skewer of meat per serving with some of the veggies, rice, and sauce in a small dish for dipping. GORGEOUS.
Other Side Dish Ideas:
Even if you've never cooked with sake or mirin before, trust me and try this fun yakitori recipe. It's SO simple and delicious - add some sake or Asahi to drink, and BOOM. Japanese pub food (isakaya) all the way.
Enjoy this easy, healthy Japanese dinner!Print
BEST EVER hibachi chicken skewers at home! Charred chicken and veggies, white rice, and a delicious sweet and savory homemade yakitori sauce recipe that you will adore.
FOR THE SAUCE
- ½ cup mirin
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup sake (sub white wine if needed)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
FOR THE GRILL
- 1 bunch scallions, whole
- 2 large bell peppers, cut into bite sized pieces
- 4 small boneless, skinless chicken thighs, about 4 ounces each (or larger, you'll have leftovers!)
- cooked rice, for serving
- For the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a small pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stir, then turn the heat off. Let the sauce sit and cool while you prepare the rest of the meal.
- Preheat the grill to high. Thread the peppers onto long skewers. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and thread them on skewers as well. To cook, grill the scallions whole for about 30 seconds on each side just to char, then remove from the grill and set aside. Grill the skewered veggies and chicken for about 5 minutes on each side until black edges form. When the chicken is nearly cooked, brush with the cooled sauce all over, then remove from the grill. If the veggies cook faster than the chicken, remove them first.
- Serve the skewers and scallions with cooked rice and extra sauce for drizzling and dipping.
Use any veggies you like for grilling - mixing it up is always fun!
This dish is traditionally served with chicken, but other proteins would be delicious with the sauce.
When skewering the chicken, fold up any longer pieces or tuck in any stray edges to form neat skewers of meat pressed closely together. This will ensure that the chicken stays moist.
I prefer to grill the veggies and chicken separately since they tend to have different cook times. Skewers look pretty all mixed up, but they cook better when you stick to one ingredient per skewer.
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 30
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