Negima_Yakitori (Grilled Chicken and Scallion Skewers) and Japanese Beer Pairing / Photo by Adrian Mueller / Food Styling by Takako Kuniyuki / Prop Styling byVanessa Vazquez
Yakitori in Japan is an elevated artform where specialty stores procure pedigreed chickens and cuts vary—thigh, skin, innards or even bonchiri (the little pad of fat above a chicken’s tail). Yakitori is typically served two ways—shio, meaning simply salted, or glazed with a soy-based sauce called tare.
In restaurants, tare is often enriched by simmering with chicken carcasses or roasted scallions, but at home, a simpler process can achieve delicious results in minutes. This basic recipe relies on equal proportions of soy sauce, mirin and saké boosted by sugar. Negima translates to scallions, which are placed in between the chicken thighs and provide alternating bites of juicy meat and grassy, sweet green onion.
Chicken thighs are best because of their higher fat content and richer flavor, but if you must substitute with breast meat, check for doneness a minute or two earlier, as it cooks faster and dries out quickly. If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for at least 30 minutes.
This article originally appeared in the June/July 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!
Combine soy sauce, mirin, saké and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the alcohol has evaporated and glaze has thickened enough to lightly coat a spoon.
In a large bowl, season chicken pieces with one teaspoon salt and a few dashes of white pepper. Toss to combine.
Cut white and pale-green portions of scallions into 1-inch pieces. Place in a small bowl with vegetable oil and toss to combine.
Thread each skewer tightly with alternating pieces of chicken and scallion.
Oil grill. Place skewers of chicken over the hottest portion of the grill. Turn every 2 minutes, lightly seasoning with additional salt and white pepper, until chicken is lightly browned and nearly cooked through, about 8–9 minutes.
Lightly season with additional salt and white pepper, to taste. Baste each skewer with glaze and sear briefly, allowing glaze to caramelize before removing from grill. Drizzle with additional glaze. For an added boost of flavor, sprinkle with shichimi togarashi or sansho powder. Serves 4–6 as a side dish.
How to Pair
Yakitori and beer go hand-in-hand in Japan, and national brands like Asahi and Sapporo are staples in even the most storied yakitori restaurant. Yet, since the 1990s, the craft beer industry has flourished in Japan and brands like Coedo, Hitachino and Echigo can be found stateside too.