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Yakitori-ya: The Charcoal Charm

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Published: Aug 1 2023

Envision a haven of warmth and cheer in the bustling heart of Japan. You're welcomed by the tantalizing aroma of grilling chicken and the comforting sight of skewers gently spun over a lively charcoal fire. This captivating dance is the essence of yakitori-ya, the realm I fondly call "The Charcoal Charm."

Your path to a yakitori-ya is marked by signs featuring the kanji characters 焼き鳥 or hiragana やきとり. Once inside, you're ushered to your seat, often with a ringside view of the chef's mesmerizing grilling ballet. A welcoming oshibori, a moist towel for cleaning your hands, further enriches this immersive introduction to the meticulous tradition of Japanese dining.

'Yakitori' written in two common styles.

Let's embark on the heart of our culinary exploration: the delights gracing a yakitori-ya menu.

Skewered Chicken (Yakitori)

Negima (ネギ間, ねぎま) - Chicken and Leek Skewers: A classic Yakitori featuring juicy chunks of chicken thigh skewered with pieces of crisp, sweet leek.
Tsukune (つくね, つくね) - Chicken Meatballs: Deliciously savory meatballs made of ground chicken, lightly seasoned.
Tebasaki (手羽先, てばさき) - Chicken Wings: Crispy, juicy chicken wings seasoned and perfectly grilled.
Momo (もも, もも) - Chicken Thigh Skewers: Tender chicken thighs skewered and seasoned before grilling.
Hatsu (ハツ, はつ) - Chicken Heart Skewers: For the adventurous, chicken hearts are surprisingly tender and full of flavor.
Gizzard (ギザード, ぎざーど) - Chicken Gizzard Skewers: Skewers of chicken gizzard that are crunchy in texture and savory in taste.
Torikawa (鶏皮, とりかわ) - Chicken Skin Skewers: Chicken skin is skewered and grilled to a crisp, providing a crunchy and flavorful experience.
Bonjiri (ぼんじり, ぼんじり) - Chicken Tail Skewers: A delicacy featuring the tail end of the chicken, known for its tender and juicy texture.
Sunagimo (砂肝, すなぎも) - Chicken Gizzard Skewers: Chicken gizzards are skewered and grilled to a perfect balance of crunchy and chewy.
Nankotsu (なんこつ, なんこつ) - Chicken Cartilage Skewers: A chewy delicacy, the cartilage offers a unique texture that's a favorite among many Yakitori enthusiasts.
Soriresu (ソリレス, そりれす) - Chicken Oyster Skewers: This term refers to the small, oyster-shaped pieces of dark meat that lie on either side of a chicken's backbone.
Yagen Nankotsu (やげんなんこつ, やげんなんこつ) - Chicken Breastbone Skewers: The breastbone is known for its crunchy texture and delicate flavor.
Shiro (シロ, しろ) - Chicken Intestine Skewers: An unusual choice for the adventurous, the intestines are cleaned and grilled to a soft texture.

Vegetable Skewers

Shiitake (シイタケ, しいたけ) - Shiitake Mushroom Skewers: Large shiitake mushrooms grilled to release a deep, savory flavor.
Pīman (ピーマン, ぴーまん) - Bell Pepper Skewers: Sweet, crisp bell pepper skewers, a wonderful vegetarian option.

Other possible dishes you might see on many Japanese menus:

Rice Dishes
Yakitori Don (焼き鳥丼, やきとりどん) - Grilled Chicken Skewer Rice Bowl:
A comforting rice bowl topped with succulent chicken skewers.
Ochazuke (お茶漬け, おちゃづけ) - Rice with Green Tea: Steamed rice served with green tea, often with pickles or grilled fish on top.
Noodle Dishes
Yakisoba (焼きそば, やきそば) - Stir-fried Noodles:
Wheat noodles stir-fried with a selection of vegetables and a savory sauce.
Soba (そば, そば) - Buckwheat Noodles: Thin buckwheat noodles served cold with a dipping sauce or hot in a soy-based broth.
Matcha Ice Cream (抹茶アイスクリーム, まっちゃあいすくりーむ) - Green Tea Ice Cream:
A rich, creamy dessert featuring the distinct flavor of matcha green tea.
Dorayaki (どら焼き, どらやき) - Sweet Red Bean Pancake: A pair of sweet pancakes filled with sweetened red bean paste.

Kansai Fixer

With a smorgasbord of skewered specialties at your fingertips, you may find yourself in a delicious dilemma. But fret not! The true delight of yakitori resides in the exploration of this vast selection, allowing you to uncover your own gourmet favorites.

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