Tradition and detail are time-honored qualities in Japanese culture and yakitori is no exception. Although grilled chicken is a seemingly simple concept, the proper techniques and methods are meticulous and each step, from skewering to seasoning, must be done with care. Yakitori is usually only seasoned with a few ingredients: salt and sake or tare sauce. Tare is a traditional Japanese sauce used for grilled meats, generically known in the Western world as teriyaki sauce.
Tare sauce is mostly made up of soy sauce, mirin, and sake. Different ratios of these three ingredients create different tare recipes. To an extent, unagi sauce, quail tare, duck tare, etc. are all just different ratios of those three ingredients, and the result can be more savory, more sweet, more thin, or more viscous and sticky. A restaurant’s tare sauce usually tells the story of its journey. Traditionally never thrown away or used up completely, tare sauce is continuously built upon by adding the end of one batch to the beginning of the next, in order to create layers of flavor. Therefore, the flavors of the tare constantly evolve over time and bring together moments from the past with the present.
Yardbird‘s current tare sauce still contains traces of the original tare that was created when the restaurant first opened. To add a depth of flavor, roasted chicken carcasses and Tokyo onion tops are added to each new batch that is simmered weekly. Not every yakitori skewer is seasoned with tare, but the ones that are (including the meatball, thigh, and rib) are first lightly grilled to develop some color, then dipped into the tare sauce throughout the cooking process.