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~ Japanese 'Yakitori no Tare' (BBQ/Basting Sauce) ~

IMG_0514It's hard to comprehend, but there are Americans who claim to love Japanese food and won't give sushi a try.  When asked what Japanese food they like best, aside from deep-fried tempura, the answer is a resounding yakitori or teppanyaki:  which are both forms of grilling.  Americans love to grill.  "Yaki" is the Japanese word for "grill/grilling".  In the case of yakitori ("tori" is the japanese word for "bird/chicken"), pieces of chicken are skewered and grilled over an open-grate, charcoal or gas, hibachi-type grill.  In the case of teppanyaki, all sorts of food (meat, poultry, seafood, rice, eggs and or vegetables) are cooked on a flat-topped, solid-surface, iron plate called a teppan, which is better suited to smaller-sized and/or finely-chopped ingredients.

Welcome to Part II of III of yakitori week on Kitchen Encounters. 


On Tuesday, I posted ~ My Yakitori Story & All the Facts Jack ~.  It is a rather lengthy, but extremely informative commentary describing the art of cooking yakitori.  While doing the research, I was amazed to find out how involved the process/method can be, and, in true Japanese-style, not a single part of the chicken goes to waste.  To read it, just click into Category 16 or on the Related Article link below.

Every cuisine/culture has it's own time-honored, traditional method for skewering and grilling kabobs:

What sets yakitori apart from all other grilled chicken kabobs?  It's all about the sauce:  Yakitori no Tare.

IMG_0416"Tare" is the Japanese word for "sauce", and, a good homemade yakitori sauce, like any other sauce, will always be richer, thicker and more flavorful than store-bought sauce.  That being said, there are some pretty good brands on the shelves of Asian markets, which, in a pinch, will save you quite a bit of time (about 2 hours).

Even though yakitori sauce is time consuming, yakitori no tare is easy to make, using easy-to-find ingredients:  sake, mirin, dark soy sauce, tamari sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and occasionally roasted chicken leg bones (which add a lot of extra flavor).  The tare is a nice balance of salty and sweet, with soy and tamari sauces providing the salty.  The sweet comes from the sake and mirin, which are both sweet rice wines.

Similar to American barbecue pitmasters, it is said that some yakitori chefs just add ingredients to the sauce on an as-needed basis, and, some have (astonishingly) kept their pot of sauce ongoing for over ten years.  

This type of "ongoing sauce" process/method produces a particularly rich and flavorful tare (sauce) because Japanese chefs customarily dip the skewered food into the pot of sauce, rather then brushing it on, so the tare accumulates a lot of additional flavor from the chicken juices.

Like many things, recipes for yakitori no tare vary from cook to cook (there is no secret formula). There are quick-mix versions and slow-simmered ones.  I prefer the slow-simmered ones for their intense, complex flavor.  Like many things, I think yakitori no tare tastes best if left to cool for several hours or overnight, to give all of the flavors time to marry.  Also, it keeps in the refrigerator almost indefinitely and freezes well too.  Here is my version:

IMG_05034-6  bones from 4-6 chicken legs after removing skin and meat 

2  cups mirin

1  cup sake

1 1/2  cups dark soy sauce

1/2  cup tamari sauce

4-6  tablespoons firmly-packed dark brown sugar

1  cup coarsely-chopped green onion, white and light-green part only

4-6  large garlic cloves, coarsely-sliced

1/2  cup of peeled and 1/4"-1/2" diced fresh ginger

IMG_0483 IMG_0478~ Step 1. Remove the skin from the chicken legs.  

The easiest way to do this is to loosen the skin at the plump bottom end and pull the skin upward, in one piece, towards the thin top end.

Using a paper towel, firmly grip the skin and give it a good tug.  Its kind of like removing a sock from someone elses foot.

IMG_0490~ Step 2.  Using a sharp filet or paring knife, carefully trim the meat away from the bones.  Do your best to keep the meat in large chunks.  

Note:  Each chicken leg will yield enough of chunked leg meat to yield one yakitori negima (the meat of the leg).  Save the skin too, when the Japanese skewer and grill the skin of the leg, thigh, breast &/or neck, that's called yakitori kawa.

Refrigerate the chicken chunks until ready to use.

IMG_0500~ Step 3.  Position oven rack about 5" underneath the preheated broiler of oven.  Place the chicken leg bones on a small broiler pan.  I'm using a small, toaster-oven size disposable aluminum broiler pan. Broil, until bones are browned all over, using a pair of tongs to turn them every 8-10 minutes.  This will take about 25-30 minutes.

IMG_0507 IMG_7598                                               ~ Step 4. Prep the green onion, garlic and ginger as directed placing them in a 4-quart saucier or 4-quart saucepan as you work.  Note:  A saucier is a pot with a flat bottom and rounded sides that promotes reduction.

Add the mirin, sake, soy sauce, tamari sauce, brown sugar and chicken bones. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat...

IMG_0536... adjust heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook until mixture is reduced by about half, 1-1 1/2 hours.  In my saucier on my stove this took 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Note:  This mixture contains sugar and sweet liquids.  Regulate the heat as needed.  It can and will boil over if the heat is too high.

Remove pot from heat, cover and allow to cool and steep, several hours to overnight.

IMG_0600 IMG_0587~ Step 5. Place a fine mesh strainer over a 1-quart measuring container or food storage container. Strain the yakitori no tare through the strainer into the container.

Store in the refrigerator indefinitely. Return to room temperature prior to using at room temperature or warmed slightly. 

IMG_0570Japanese Yakitori Sauce:  Recipe yields 2 1/2 cups yakitori no tare.

Special Equipment List:  paper towels; cutting board; sharp filet or paring knife; kitchen shears; 9" x 6 1/4" x 1" disposible aluminum broiler pan w/corrugated bottom; 4-quart saucier or 4-quart stockpot; 4-cup measuring container &/or food storage container w/lid; fine mesh strainer

IMG_4625Cook's Note:  Looking for another unique sauce common to Asian cuisine?  You can find my recipe for ~ A Chinese Staple:  Real-Deal Basic Brown Sauce ~ in Categories 8 or 13.  Like its cousin, yakitori no tare, this is a sauce you will not want to be without!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)


Patrice -- Thank-you for taking the time to tell me this. You made my day! ~ Melanie

5 years later, this is still my favorite yakitori sauce. I have been making it many many time and it is always the best. Thank again.

Patrice! It is my understanding that a new batch of sauce gets prepared separately. It is added to the old batch, which never leaves the side of the grill, and continues to accumulate and deepen in complex flavor from the grilled chicken being dipped into it. ~ Melanie

Hello! Thanks for that recipe, this is just what I was looking for :). Now I'm interested in the "ongoing" way. Let's say you want to do this, how would you boost the sauce? would you make a new batch from scratch and add it to the first? would you add all ingredients to the old batch and reduce it again?

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