NIPPON DREAMZ: YAKITORI

10-roka-yakitori-large11It wouldn’t be the first time that I misquoted something, but I believe there’s an ancient proverb out there that goes, “a man who eats meat from a stick can laugh at any storm a comin’ “.  No?  Well, there should be.  After all, there is definitely something carefree, simple, primal even, about yakitori, one of my favorite Japanese fast foods.  Yes, it’s true that there are foods like it around the world, the Turkish kabob for instance, carrying that same elemental vibe; a mission to satisfy hunger minus the frills and pretentious pomp.  Still, sitting at the dark wooden counter, I find myself quietly mesmerized as the cooks string chicken, beef and pork on small sticks before carefully rotating them over and over above a crackling fire.  You can’t help but notice a glimmer of the same elegance that pervades much of Japan’s culture seeping into the making of this dish like the juices onto red-hot coals.

Yakitori-ya in Azabu Juban, Tokyo.  - Courtesy of Borderlessculture.com

Yakitori-ya in Azabu Juban, Tokyo. – Courtesy of Borderlessculture.com

What Yakitori actually means, “grilled chicken”, has gradually become a general term for various other meats and vegetables prepared in this way.  Said to have originated in Nagano prefecture during the Edo period, it was served as a dinner course to a certain Lord of Komoro Castle.  With the later Meiji period of the 19th-20th century, eating of certain meats previously deemed taboo by Buddhist Japan were now becoming more popular with the many nations entering the country.  However, the best parts were reserved for the royal and wealthy.  The undesirables; hearts, tendons, even skin, made their way to the commoners on a stick in the markets.

Diagram of the chicken parts available at a Yakitori-ya.

Diagram of the chicken parts available at a Yakitori-ya.

So imagine, you’re taking a night-time stroll somewhere in Nippon, when a sweet aroma of cooking meat draws your attention to a narrow side street.  You follow the scent to Yakitori-ya, ya meaning “shop”, and you have a seat, wiping your face and hands with the hot towel given to you.  You’re given a menu listing dozens of possibilities in Japanese, so if you can’t read it, you should ask for English.  Some places may have it.  Some of your options may be; momo– chicken thigh, negima– chicken and spring onion, tsukune-chicken meatballs, (tori)kawa-grilled, crispy chicken skin and nankotsu-chicken cartilage, among many others.  There are also non poultry alternatives like butabara-pork belly (uncured bacon), gyutan-beef tongue and ikada-Japanese scallion.  After creating your perfect treat on a stick, you’ll have your choice of two flavors; shio (salt) or tare (mixture that includes soy sauce and sugar).  Which is best depends on your individual tastes and the meats involved.

"Butabara", or pork belly before grilling.  It's basically uncured bacon.

“Butabara”, or pork belly before grilling. It’s basically uncured bacon.

If your home happens to be beyond Japan’s borders, fret not.  As Japanese cuisine grows in the public eye, Yakitori is also finding its way to restaurants, bars and cozy side streets in cosmopolitan cities around the world.  So, maybe now is the time to decide which delectable one is right for you.

 

 

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5 responses to “NIPPON DREAMZ: YAKITORI

  1. I sure needed this music Brother. May The Most High continue to bless you in His work and yours. I so miss you Ken. I miss the times we used to spend together. I love you so much and Im so sorry I was too wrapped up in things that didnt reaally matter when u were here last time. I look forward to your return and remember that I love you. Your neices and nephews miss and love u as well. This music is so good for my soul. Thank you. You are doing beautifully and your website is very exquisite and beautiful as well. I am very proud of you! The Most High is blessing us and Showing us Him and all of His truths day by day so continue your prayers for us as we will continue ours for u. Peace.

  2. Hey Shun! Thanks so much for the blessed encouragement for the site and work of the Lord. I am forever blessed to have you as my sister, flesh and blood, as well as family in Christ. You, my nieces, nephew and all the family are truly in my prayers, continually. The music is just an extension of what my spirit loves about the living God, and so it’s my pleasure to share it. I know your spirit will jive with it too! This current list is only a small part of the library, which I’ll be switching up weekly. Come on back for more, love you!

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