yakitori 焼き鳥 – grilled chicken skewers made with bite-size pieces of meat that come from all parts of the chicken.
The preparation of Yakitori involves skewering the meat and grilling it over a charcoal fire. During and/or after cooking, the meat is typically seasoned with tare sauce or salt.
Yakitori first appeared in the middle of the 17th century, despite the fact that chickens were fairly scarce in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1867). Pheasant, quail, and pigeon were often used instead of chicken as Buddhism essentially prohibited the consumption of chicken and beef during this time. During the Meiji Era (1868-1912), chickens were bred in larger numbers and yakitori stalls started to pop up.
During WWII (1939-1945), food in Japan was highly regulated; therefore, yakitori stalls had to open on the black market. The meat used was predominantly beef and pork, but the skewers used a sweet sauce made from a soy sauce substitute and artificial sweetener (thought to be the origin of tare sauce). Until the end of WWII and a stable supply of chicken was established, yakitori remained a delicacy. The eventual commercialization of poultry farming led to cheaper supplies of chicken and made yakitori a commonly eaten food.
Today, Yakitoriyas are fixtures in Japan where salarymen frequent after work for a quick snack and drink. All parts of the chicken are prepared and skewered, including the liver, thigh, neck, skin, heart, cartilage, and tail. They are grilled over binchotan charcoal, which burns slowly and clean, giving the chicken a smoky flavor without emitting high volumes of smoke. Yakitori skewers are minimally seasoned with salt or tare and typically accompanied by beer or Whisky highballs.