The minute I saw this delicious looking recipe in Cuisine at Home magazine I knew I would have to try it…… I did a little online research and found many other versions of Yakitori and also discovered some fun history about this fabulous Japanese specialty…..

It seems that Yakatori is very popular in Japan, yaki meaning “grilled” and tori translated “chicken”. The origin of this delicious traditional sweet and savory chicken dates back to the 1600’s and continues to be popular with people of all ages today. It’s not only typical “street vendor” fare, but there are actually Yakatori Bars; often tiny, dark, smoky, eating/drinking establishments, much enjoyed for their atmosphere, quick service and no-nonsense tasty dishes.

The sweet, sticky, delicious Tare Sauce is an important element of Yakatori and, as with most ethnic specialties, has many variations. They are always soy sauce-based and the common denominators are some type of sweetener, a variety of other flavor enhancers; often mirin, rice vinegar and/or sake (a traditional Japanese rice wine), almost always fresh garlic and ginger.. The tradition is told that this sauce is made and kept in a pot on the back of the stove. When the sauce is getting low, they make more and add it into the same pot instead of making it all aver again. In this way the sauce is kept for a long time and is, believe it or not, often passed from generation to generation!

I’m not sure that I’ll follow that tradition and pass the Tare Sauce on to my children, but the Yakitori recipe (along with the yummy sauce) is a definite keeper that I’m sure I’ll share with family and friends. I’ve adapted the recipe a bit using mostly honey instead of sugar for the sweetener. I also added rice vinegar and lime juice for a little more “zing”. Give this yummy recipe a try – I think you just might be making this a family tradition in your home too!

P.S. I served my Yakitori with Perfect Jasmine Rice from this post – ENJOY!

Japanese Grilled Yakitori Chicken with Tare Sauce

1 cup low sodium chicken broth
¾ cup soy sauce
½ cup mirin
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
6 thin slices fresh ginger, smashed
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 ½ tablespoons corn starch
1 ½ tablespoons water
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs), cut into 1″ strips
2 bunches scallions, cut in 1″ pieces, discarding top 2-3 inches

1. Combine the chicken broth, soy sauce, mirin, honey, rice vinegar, lime juice, sugar, garlic, ginger slices and sesame oil in a medium size saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Combine cornstarch and water; stir vigorously till there are no lumps. Add to soy mixture and continue to simmer for 4-5 minutes, until bubbly and thickened. Strain the sauce and reserve 1/2 cup for dipping. Set aside to cool.

3. Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush or spray grill grate with oil.

4. Alternately skewer chicken pieces then two scallions onto 4 sets of double skewers, about 5 pieces of chicken per set. Grill skewers, covered, about 2 minutes on each side.

5.Baste the side of meat facing up with sauce. Grill, covered, 2 minutes more and turn. Continue grilling and basting chicken until cooked, 10-14 minutes total, depending on hotness of grill. (Watch chicken carefully; don’t over-cook or chicken will be dry and tough. We like to use an instant thermometer and cook to a temp of 165˚F.)