Japanese Grilled Yakitori Chicken and Vegetables Recipe

Updated on November 17, 2017

Japanese food does not have the same prominence in the United States as Chinese food. This is a pity, but understandable. A cuisine that rests so much upon freshness and quality, where bullet trains sprint to carry freshly caught fish to Tokyo, where food preparation work shifts begin frantically at midnight to ensure that food is available for sale with the shortest possible expiration date, and which relies upon high-quality ingredients that can be safely eaten raw, such as with the most famous Japanese food, sushi, naturally puts a check on its mass popularity.

This is well-evident in my local area. A sushi restaurant of marginal quality exists, and there is a single lonely Japanese restaurant in our county capitol (Eureka). Other than that, I'm not aware of any Japanese restaurants. It was upon visiting France, a country almost on the other side of the world from Japan, that I had seen more Japanese restaurants, which is unsurprising given the mutual affection that the French and Japanese cuisines hold for each other. I had been graced with having a Japanese roommate, and he was able to recommend to me certain dishes when we visited a Japanese restaurant. The affection that the French felt for Japanese cuisine was evident too, and I remember vividly the father of the homestay that we stayed with telling us that Japanese restaurants were his favorite of all because of their freshness and quality.

For me, I had picked out a Japanese cookbook because of my family's culinary needs. My mother is on a diet, and so I thought Japanese food, which is known for being lighter and using less oils and fats, would be good for her. Unfortunately, one of the staples of Japanese cuisine, fish, is something for which she has little affection; so to start off with something she might like rather than to indulge immediately in raw fish and other recipes that appear exotic, I presented a more logical course of action. This recipe, which produces an excellent grilled chicken and sauce, combined with superb grilled leeks and onions, seemed like an excellent introduction for less-adventurous eaters.

This is an adaption of a recipe found with Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji. Although this is the first recipe I have made from this book and adapted here, I already think I will like it. The discovery of barbecued leeks, a surprisingly wonderful vegetable prepared in such a fashion, is definitely something that will stick around. Easy and delicious, always great.

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Cook Time

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 15 min
Ready in: 45 min
Yields: 4 servings


  • 2 - 2 1/2 lb chicken
  • 3 medium / 6 small bell peppers
  • 1 leek
  • Japanese spices such as sansho pepper or shichimi, (optional)
  • 7 tablespoons sake
  • 3/4 cup dark soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons sugar


  1. This recipe can either be grilled or broiled. If using a grill, prepare the coals, which will take around 30 minutes (at least in the fashion I do it). During this interval prepare the rest of the meal. If using a broiler which will heat faster, reverse this order of steps. If one desires a stronger taste, then one can also prepare the chicken before hand and marinate it, which will be covered in step 3.
  2. Mix together the sake, soy sauce, and sugar, in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil which will eliminate the alcohol.
  3. Cut up the chicken into 1-inch cubes. Cut up the bell peppers and the leeks as appropriate. Then proceed to skewer them. For marinating the chicken, which is easier and imbues more of the sauce into the chicken, cut up the chicken a few hours before, prepare the sauce, let it cool, and then marinade the chicken in it. Reserve some if one wants a purely dipping based sauce.
  4. Place the skewers onto the grill or into the broiler, cook a few minutes, then either dip the chicken into the sauce or brush the sauce on. Repeat when the chicken is turned. It should taken around 15 minutes at most to cook the chicken. Don't overcook as the chicken becomes dry.
  5. Either slide off skewers onto individual plates or eat from skewers. Serve with the sauce to apply to the chicken, and with Japanese spices to further enhance the flavor if desired. In all probability, serve with rice.

© 2017 Ryan Thomas


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