Posted: June 15, 2010
I like to walk along the colorful backstreet stalls under the railway near the Imperial Hotel. A good time is between 5-8 pm, when office workers are scurrying to catch their trains home and sometimes break their stride to perch on a streetside stool for a quick beer and yakitori and bit of gossip. I passed a tiny yet cozy stall, literally a hole in the railway, with the deliciously fragrant smoke from the grill in the air irresistible and enticing. The place was packed and looked chaotic from the sideline. Anyway, I decided to crowd in for the world renowned Japanese specialty that is yakitori - grilled chicken. I ordered chicken wings, balls, anus skin (you only live once), gizzards, liver, and you just name it, accompanied with delicious shiuko - Japanese style pickles. I had a choice of having it served with shio (Sea salt) or with tare (which is a glaze generally made up of mirin, sake, soy sauce and rock sugar). I chose both styles and it was grilled right in front of me.
The secret of good yakitori is great skill and technique from the yakitori chef, the quality of the chicken, the charcoal flame and the tare glaze into which hundreds of grilled skewers are dipped daily, adding more flavor to the sauce. Replenished with new additions and heated daily, the sauce goes on for up to 10 years or more, lasting from generation to generation. The great process is: grill without sauce till 80 percent cooked, dip skewers in sauce, grill again till completely cooked, dip in sauce again, and grill again briefly. The hot juices from the grilling chicken add a unique flavor background to the original sauce mixture. I enjoy it most when it’s served piping hot straight off the grill, Oiishi…!!!
Tokyo is without a doubt one of the most exciting cities on Earth for food. There are no single “bests” in Tokyo, there are simply too many “excellents”.
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