Yakitori are Japan's ubiquitous chicken skewers, cooked over special charcoal barbecues that spread their irresistible scent across the entire block.






Skill level

Average: 5 (1 vote)


Yakitori tare

  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) soy sauce
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) mirin
  • 50 ml (1¾ fl oz) sake
  • 100 g (3½ oz) raw (demerara) sugar
  • 2 spring onion (scallion) tops

Negima (spring onion and chicken thigh)

  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 bunches spring onions (scallions), white and light green parts only, cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) lengths
  • salt, to taste

Tsukune (chicken meatballs)

  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) minced (ground) chicken (see Note)
  • 50 g (1¾ oz) chicken cartilage, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 egg white
  • 50 g (1¾ oz) silken tofu
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), for thickening (optional)

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


  1. First, make the yakitori tare. Place all of the ingredients, except the spring onion tops, in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until reduced by one quarter. Add the spring onion tops and simmer for another 10 minutes, then strain into a bowl. The tare can be cooled and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
  2. If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water so they do not burn during cooking.
  3. To make the negima, cut each thigh into four pieces and thread onto skewers, alternating between the meat and the spring onion. Season with salt and cover and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook.
  4. To make the tsukune, soak the chopped onion in water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the chicken mince and cartilage (if using) with the egg white, tofu, salt and pepper, until everything is well incorporated. Drain the onion and pat dry with paper towel, combine with the cornflour, then add to the chicken mixture. If the mixture is too soft to work with, add 1 tablespoon of panko and incorporate, repeating the process if necessary until the mixture is firm enough to be shaped.
  5. Shape the mixture into balls about the size of ping-pong balls, and thread onto skewers, two per skewer. Cover and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook.
  6. Grill the skewers over charcoal. Just before the negima are completely cooked through, brush with the tare and continue cooking until done. Dip both the tsukune and the negima in the tare and serve.
  7. Alternatively, if you do not have a charcoal grill, pan-fry the negima and brush with tare as above. Bake the tsukune in a 180°C (350°F) oven for 8 minutes, then pan-fry until browned on the outside. Dip both the tsukune and the negima in the tare and serve.



• For a richer, gamier tsukune, substitute the chicken mince for duck mince.


Recipe from Tokyo Local by Caryn Liew and Brendan Liew, Smith Street Books, RRP $39.99