Tracing The Origins Of Yakitori, A Popular Japanese Street Food
- Aprajita Sharad
Updated : June 13, 2022 20:06 IST
Did you know that there’s a proper food etiquette that one has to follow in Japan while eating street food like Yakitori?
A dish that is said to be the most popular Japanese delicacy after sushi and ramen globally, is the Yakitori. Yakitori is a Japanese skewered chicken that’s grilled over a charcoal fire and seasoned with salt or tare sauce. Tare sauces are dipping sauces that are used in the Japanese cuisine while grilling dishes. The skewer used to grill the Yakitori is special. The skewer, referred to as Kushi is typically made of a thin metal or a bamboo stick. Did you know that initially Yakitori was only availble at night as buying chicken and preparing the meet to be grilled on a skewer from scratch took time, rendering it impossible to open a serve Yakitori in daylight.
In Japan, if you’re eating Yakitori after buying it from a street stall, you shouldn’t walk around the city, carrying it in your hand and eating it while walking. That is considered as poor etiquette as the Japanese feel that in public places it could lead to the spilling of the meat and sauces on to the other person. Therefore, even if one doesn’t want to sit by the street stall and relish the meat, one must stick to the eating etiquette.
History of Yakitori
The story of Yakitori gets back to the early 1900s when Yakiton or grilled pork and Kushikatsu or fried pork on skewers were created. Since the past century before that chicken were becoming extinct in Japan, resulting in a sky high price for the few left. It was during world war two that Yakitori stalls around Japan majorly sold pork yakitons, as that was a more budget friendly option.
It was only in the 1950s thence, that Japanese chicken farmers started breeding healthy and disease resistant chicken at a reasonable cost. It was around the same time that the Americans who occupied Japan, introduced broilers or chicken that are bred and reared specifically for the purpose of meat production, to Japan. After this Yakitori became popular as the cost of production of this dish came down reasonably.
The taste of Yakitori
Yakitori can taste either salty or salty with a dash of sweetness. This depends upon the ingredients that are used to grill Yakitori. There are primarily two types of ingredients that are used, one being plain salt and the other being the tari sauce. Tari sauce is what gives the Yakitori it’s sweet and salty taste as it is made from mirin - a type of Japanese rice wine, sake, soy sauce and sugar. Chefs also season the yakitori with wasabi, a Japanese spice called Shichimi, Japanese pepper, cayenne pepper or black pepper.
Where can I get Yakitori in Japan?
The Yakitori were traditionally grilled using portable grills. However, as the dish gained popularity in Japan, restaurants started serving Yakitori by using stationary grills in their shops to cook it. Yakitori has become a popular street food in Japan because of the ease with which they can be cooked. Yakitori-ya are small shops that specialise in giving only Yakitori take outs. If you were in Japan, looking to eat the best Yakitori possible, you could try it at various street stalls and small carts or alternatively at any restaurant in the city.