Japanese Food: Yakitori

Chicken Yaitori with Sesame seeds and Seaweed

Yakitori (焼き鳥) are grilled chicken skewers made from bite sized pieces of meat from all different parts of the chicken, such as the breasts, thighs, skin, liver and other innards. Usually made to order and cooked over charcoal, yakitori is a popular, inexpensive dish commonly enjoyed together with a glass of beer. The best yakitori is served at specialty restaurants, known as yakitori-ya, but it can also be found at many other types of restaurants across Japan, such as izakaya, and at festival food stands.


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Popular Yakitori

Negima (ねぎま) is one of the most popular types of yakitori and consists of pieces of chicken (usually thigh meat) skewered with pieces of leek in between.

Momo (もも) refers to the thigh meat, so momo skewers are made up of pieces of chicken thigh.

Tsukune (つくね) are meatballs made of minced chicken, egg, vegetables and spices. They are typically formed into multiple small balls or made into one long patty.

Torikawa (とりかわ), sometimes called just kawa (かわ), are strips of fatty chicken skin, which have been grilled until crispy.

beef yakitori
beef yakitori

How to eat yakitori?

Yakitori is an inexpensive and informal food that is easily found at specialized yakitori-ya, as well as at most izakaya and many other restaurants across Japan. At a typical yakitori-ya they are sold by the stick or a set of two sticks, and cost around 100-200 yen per stick. Many restaurants also offer combination plates with multiple types of yakitori (moriawase). Since yakitori are cooked to order and served hot off the grill, it may be better to order them in small batches rather than in a single large order.

When ordering yakitori, you usually can choose whether you want your skewers seasoned with a sweet and savory yakitori sauce (tare) or with salt (shio). Yakitori is meant to be eaten with your hands. You may directly eat them off the skewer or use your chopsticks to remove the meat from the skewer before consuming it. A small cup may be provided on the table to discard used skewers into.