Sunday, September 21, 2014

Yakitori with Yaki Onigiri (Grilled chicken with grilled rice ball)

Grilling chicken tends to dry out the meat easily, so these chicken skewers are best made with drumstick or thigh fillets, and never breast fillets.  If you want to add some chicken skin on the skewers, that's even better (but entirely optional). Yakitori ("grilled chicken") is typically Japanese grilled chicken on bamboo skewers, and could either be plainly seasoned with salt ("shio") or basted with "tare" sauce, which is what I've done here. The kids love it, and it's just something about food served on a stick that makes it so appealing.

Yakitori (Grilled chicken skewers)
500g (1 pound) chicken thigh fillets, cut into 1 inch cubes
Vegetable oil
Salt and black pepper
4-5 scallions, light green / white part only, cut into 1 inch stems
Yakitori sauce:
1/3 cup Kikkoman soy sauce
1/3 cup mirin
3 tbsp cooking sake
2 tsp white sugar
2 tsp brown sugar
10-12 bamboo sticks
Barbecue grill or oven grill
Basting brush
Soak the bamboo sticks for at least 4 hours before using.
Prepare the sauce by combining it in a saucepan, and then boil it over medium heat until it's reduced by less than half.  Leave to cool, and it should thicken slightly to a syrupy consistency.
Skewer the chicken on the bamboo sticks alternating with a piece of scallion. Brush with vegetable oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.
If using an oven, turn on the grill to high.  Place skewered chicken on a baking tray lined with foil, and grill for about 8 minutes each side (turning once) until lightly browned. Baste the chicken halfway through with some of the yakitori sauce. Continue to grill for 2-3 minutes until chicken is lightly charred. If the bamboo sticks start to brown/burn, you can place a piece of aluminium foil over the bamboo sticks to prevent it from burning. Alternatively, wrap the ends of each stick with foil.
Serve the chicken skewers with white short-grain rice or yaki onigiri (Japanese grilled rice balls). 
To make grilled onigiri, cook some sushi or short-grain rice (in a rice cooker). Shape the rice into triangular cakes and lightly compress them so that they don't fall apart. Grill the rice balls in a lightly greased non-stick pan for about 10 minutes until all sides are lightly browned.  Lower the heat and brush some yakitori sauce over the rice balls. Return the rice balls to the pan and briefly grill them again (only for a few seconds as they burn easily) on each side until lightly charred.