Translated by GonzalezLaura
How Well Do You Know Yakitori? Let's Find Out!
Written by Shinnosuke Saito
New to yakitori? Do you fancy yourself an expert? Read on to find out just how much you knew, or didn't know, about this popular Japanese dish!
"Yakitori" is an old-time favorite dish, with a traditional taste, for Japanese people. Nowadays, you can even enjoy it everyday, if you'd really like to. Walking along the bustling streets in Japan, you've probably been surrounded by the smell of yakitori wafting about you.
Unfortunately, for those visiting Japan who have not yet mastered the Japanese language, navigating the all-Japanese yakitori menu can be a mission all on its own. Even amongst Japanese, there are some people who can't properly explain all the menu items.
For those of you thinking, "Yakitori is delicious, but I don't know what part I'm eating!", or "I don't know what to order!", then with the help of Torikou, we bring you this article, in order to explain in detail, what's really on that yakitori menu.
Here's a picture of the yakitori before its cooked. How many cuts can you figure out, just by looking at this picture?
1. Sabiyaki (white meat+wasabi)
This menu item is "sabi yaki", which is white meat with a little bit of wasabi on top. "Sasami", or "white meat", is a cut that is similar to chicken breast, and has just a little bit of fat. This cut is really soft, and is very popular with most people. Also, when this cut isn't very fresh, the yakitori doesn't taste very good, so it's a good way to get a an idea of that restaurant's quality. For this reason, we recommend you eat this cut first. This yakitori goes exceptionally well with wasabi.
Hatsu (heart), Seseri (neck meat), Sunagimo (gizzard) *pictured from the left
2. Hatsu (heart)
Hatsu is, well, the chicken's heart. You can only get one heart from each chicken. This meat's texture is quite chewy, and the meat also has a slight 'iron' taste to it. The heart pictured above is called "Hatsu" (heart), and here, the heart's membranes are flipped inside out, and made to look like a cone shape. These whole hearts have more fat than regular hearts, and it's softness is one of its characteristics.
3. Seseri (neck meat)
Seseri, is the chicken's neck meat. This part of the chicken usually gets used a lot, so like the Hatsu, it's a little more tough than the breast, for example. This cut's meat is formed tightly, so it's a little chewy, and has a lot of flavor.
4. Sunagimo (gizzard)
Sunagimo is part of the chicken's digestive organs. This meat is characterized by it's firm, crunchy texture. It's not very juicy, and doesn't have any particular odor, so you can essentially enjoy meat in one of its simplest forms. This cut goes well with the deeply rich tare (soy sauce based sauce) sauce, or even with shio (salt seasoning).
5. Tsukune (meatballs)
Tsukune, or meatballs, are handmade round balls of meat. Meatballs take a little more preparation than other menu items. This store seems to use cartilage, Japanese basil, and Japanese yam mixed together with some chicken fat, which is then put to grill. Tsukune is one menu item that varies greatly from restaurant to restaurant, and most cooks can tell the quality of a particular restaurant's food by trying this one dish. If you ever find yourself at a yakitori restaurant, this is one item you absolutely must order.
Sorire-su (oyster), Kokoronokori (aorta), Negima (meat with spring onion) *pictured from the left
6. Sorire-su (oyster)
In French, sorire-su translates to, "Only fools leave this behind". This is the meat from the lump that's on top of the chicken's breast. This is the part of the chicken that moves the most, therefore it's firm and flavorful, to the point you'd think it wasn't chicken. You can only get two pieces from one chicken, so this is a really valued cut.
7. Kokoronokori (aorta),
Kokoronokori is meat made from the joint tying the heart and liver. This is essentially the "leftover" parts from the "hearts", which is why it is called kokoronokori (the name of this cut varies from restaurant to restaurant). This cut has quite a bit of fat on it, so the tare sauce sticks to it easily. For this reason, we recommend the tare over shio.
8. Negima (meat with spring onion)
When talking about yakitori, this is probably the menu item that most people will first think about. This is a standard yakitori menu that pairs up the chicken's upper body parts with the slightly bitter spring onion.
9. Kawa (chicken skin)
The "kawa" or skin's best part is that you can enjoy the soft texture of the chicken, and still enjoy the flavor of the fat. Depending on which restaurant you go to, they use different areas of the chicken for the skin. The kawa pictured above is skin from the chiken's neck.
"Liver" is a part of the chicken's liver. This cut is characteristic for its firm texture, and thick, yet soft feel. Now, while it's true that a lot of people are typically turned off by liver, this is one menu item we'd really like for you to try when going to a yakitori restaurant. Fresh, high quailiy liver does not smell as much as usual liver would, and it fills your mouth with a rich flavor.
Furisode (shoulder), Bonjiri (tail), *pictured from the left
11. Furisode (shoulder),
Furisode is meat from the chicken's shoulder. It's the meat located right in between the chicken's breast and wings. This is a fairly lavish cut, at it is really good at bringing out the flavor of the skin and meat. It also tastes really good with genuine soy sauce.
*The name of this item varies according to the restaurant.
12. Bonjiri (chicken coccyx)
This cut is taken from the chicken's rear. This part of the chicken actually has a lot of plump, juicy fat, that'll really help you forget the fact your chowing down on a chicken's rear end.
13. Otafuku (thymus)
Otafuku consists of the esophagus, lymph nodes, as well as the side of the neck. The outside is fatty and juicy, while you can enjoy a more crunchy texture on the inside. This cut allows you to enjoy two textures as the same time.
*The name for this item varies according to the restaurant
Extra: Enmusubi (thymus with ovary)
"Torikou" offers up this special menu item: the aforementioned otafuku, with some "kinkan", or chicken ovaries attached. This special menu item is called "enmusubi". Chicken ovaries are often used in "tsukudani", which are dishes boiled in soy sauce. It seems that most yakitori places offer up their own original dishes using kinkan, so it might be a good idea to try the various dishes whenever you go to a yakitori restaurant.
Enjoy yakitori, in all it's various forms!
How much had you already known about yakitori? Trying the yakitori dishes, after having acquired knowledge on each particular dish, will help you enjoy the food all the more. Of course, the flavors all vary from dish to dish. Now, keeping what you've learned in mind, go out and enjoy some yakitori!
Even Japanese People Don’t Know? What’s the Best Way to Eat Yakitori?
For more details:
How to Eat Yakitori/ Best Yakitori in Tokyo 乃木坂 鳥幸
The restaurant that helped bring you this article
Address: 9-6-30, Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo Nogizaka Place 1F
Lunch 11:30 am – 2:00 pm (L.O. 1:30 pm)
Dinner 5:00 pm － 11:30 pm (L.O. 10:30pm)
Wi-Fi Available: Not yet confirmed
Credit cards accepted: All credit cards accepted
Multi-lingual support: English menu available
Nearest station: Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line Nogizaka Station
Access: 3-minute walk from Nogizaka Station Exit 2
Price Range: 1,000 yen- 6,000 yen
Official Website: Nogizaka Torikou