What does yaki mean and what is yaki style cooking in Japanese food?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  August 29, 2022

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You might’ve heard about yaki foods. When it comes to Japanese cooking, this cooking style is among the most popular.

But what exactly is it?

What does yaki mean and what is yaki style cooking in Japanese food?

Yaki is a Japanese word that means grilled or broiled.

In Japan, the term yaki has come to be associated with Western-style cooking methods such as grilling and pan-frying in addition to traditional Eastern-style cooking methods like deep frying.

Yaki-style cooking can include yakitori (grilled chicken), teppanyaki, or delicious sweet dorayaki (red-bean paste filled pancakes).

This Japanese style is a quick and easy way to prepare food, and the result is often a flavorful and tender dish.

If you are interested in trying yaki-style cooking, there are many great recipes available online or in cookbooks.

Experiment with different ingredients and flavors to find your perfect yaki dish!

What does ‘yaki’ mean and what is yaki-style cooking?

The Japanese term “yaki” means “cooked over direct heat, grilled, or broiled”.

It refers to a cooking method in which food is cooked over direct heat. This can be done on a grill, in a broiler, or even on a simple stovetop burner.

Yaki-style cooking is very common in Japanese cuisine, and many popular dishes are prepared using this method.

It’s basically a method of cooking where you cook the food over high heat so that it gets seared on the outside while remaining juicy on the inside.

Popular yaki style foods

You’ll see that the word “yaki” is part of the name of many Japanese dishes or cooking methods.

I’m sharing the most popular yaki foods you should try!

Yakitori

One of the most well-known yaki dishes is yakitori, which is made up of grilled chicken skewers.

Yakitori is typically seasoned with soy sauce, sake, and mirin, and can be enjoyed as a snack or a full meal.

These are the 8 best yakitori grills: from electric indoor to charcoal for home

Yakiniku (Japanese BBQ)

Yakiniku is the term for Japanese barbecue and refers to beef, pork, or chicken that is grilled on a skewer or in a pan.

The meat can be coated in a wonderful yakiniki sauce made from soy sauce, sake, and sugar before grilling.

Grilled meat can be cooked at the table on a tabletop grill, or the meat can be pre-cooked and served as part of the main dish.

Okonomiyaki

Another popular yaki dish is okonomiyaki, which is a savory pancake made from flour, shredded cabbage, eggs, and pork or seafood.

The ingredients are mixed together and grilled, then typically topped with a BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, and dried seaweed.

Teppanyaki

Teppanyaki is a type of yaki cooking that is done on an iron griddle. The term teppan comes from the word teppan, which means “iron plate” in Japanese.

Teppanyaki cuisine originated in Osaka (where some of the best Japanese dishes come from), and is now popular all over Japan and in Western restaurants too!

At a teppanyaki restaurant, the chef will cook the food in front of you on a large griddle. Teppanyaki dishes can include chicken, steak, shrimp, vegetables, and rice.

The chef will often perform tricks with the food as they cook, such as flipping it in the air or making it into shapes.

Making teppanyaki at home? These are the 13 essential tools & accessories you need for Teppanyaki

Teriyaki

You must’ve heard of teriyaki too, which refers to meat (usually chicken) or tofu cooked on high heat in a thick glaze and served with teriyaki sauce.

It’s different from teppanyaki, and teriyaki actually has quite a surprising origin story involving Hawaii!

Takoyaki

Takoyaki are known as savory octopus balls. The balls are made from a batter of flour, water, and eggs, and then grilled in a special takoyaki pan.

Takoyaki pans have small indentations for each ball, and the batter is poured into these before adding bite-sized pieces of octopus and other ingredients.

I’ve listed all the best takoyaki toppings here for you to try!

Monjayaki

Monjayaki is a runny pancake that originates from the Tokyo region.

It’s made from a batter of water, wheat flour, and eggs, and then grilled with various toppings, such as seafood, vegetables, and meats.

The monjayaki batter is poured onto a hot griddle where it is cooked until it forms a solid pancake. The toppings are then added and cooked into the pancake.

Taiyaki

Taiyaki is another type of sweet Japanese pancake that is made from red bean paste, eggs, and flour but it takes on the shape of a fish.

The batter is poured into a fish-shaped mold and then grilled. The most popular way to enjoy taiyaki is with a hot chocolate sauce or a sweet soy sauce.

Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki is a beef and vegetable stew that is cooked on low heat in a shallow pot.

The beef and vegetables are simmered in soy sauce, sugar, and sake until tender.

Yaki udon

Yaki udon is a popular Japanese dish that is made up of stir-fried udon noodles with chicken, shrimp, or pork.

It’s typically flavored with soy sauce and served with a variety of toppings, such as vegetables and pickled ginger.

There’s no doubt that yaki udon is among the most popular yaki foods.

Not into udon? These are the best substitutes for udon noodles (including gluten-free options)

Yakisoba

Yakisoba is another stir-fried noodle dish, this time made with soba noodles.

It’s typically made with pork, cabbage, and onions, and flavored with a sweet and savory sauce. But some restaurants add other ingredients too.

The reason people love yakisoba is that combines noodles, veggies, and a tasty oyster sauce.

Dorayaki

Dorayaki is a type of pancake that is made from two thin pancakes that are sandwiching a filling of red bean paste. It’s often eaten as a snack or dessert.

Yaki-imo

Yaki-imo are roasted sweet potatoes that are common street food in Japan. They’re typically grilled over an open flame and then served with soy sauce or butter.

This is mostly a snack food and a staple food at many festivals.

Learn all about Yatai in my ultimate guide to the Japanese street food stalls

Yaki-guri (roasted chestnuts)

Yaki-guri are roasted chestnuts that are popular in the wintertime. They’re often sold by street vendors.

What is modern Yaki or modan yaki?

Modan-yaki is okonomiyaki pancakes but with noodles on top. Usually, they add udon noodles or soba noodles on top of the okonomiyaki.

In Japan, there are two types of modan yaki, Hiroshima-style and Osaka-style. Hiroshima-style is distinguished by its thin crepes, while Osaka-style is known for its thicker, doughier texture.

Both styles are cooked on a teppan (a flat iron griddle), and typically feature a variety of ingredients, such as pork, chicken, shrimp, and vegetables.

How to make yaki style dishes

If you want to try your hand at yaki-style cooking, there are many recipes available online.

Here’s the thing: while yaki is used as a general term for grilled food in Japanese cuisine, yaki actually refers to a range of Japanese foods.

Regardless of the city or region of Japan, there are some common ingredients in yaki dishes.

Most recipes call for a type of protein (usually pork, beef, chicken, or seafood), some type of vegetable (cabbage, onion, or bean sprouts are common), and a sauce (such as soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or yakisoba sauce).

Yaki dishes are often served with rice or noodles.

Preparation methods

There are many different ways to prepare yaki dishes. The most common method is to cook the ingredients on a teppan (a flat iron griddle).

The teppan is heated to a high temperature, and the ingredients are cooked quickly on the surface.

This method of cooking allows the food to retain its moisture, resulting in a juicy and flavorful dish. Yaki can also be prepared in a pan or on a grill.

While yaki dishes are typically associated with Japanese cuisine, they have become popular in other parts of the world as well.

In America, yaki dishes are often served at Japanese-style restaurants. Yaki dishes can be found on the menus of many Chinese and Korean restaurants as well.

Yaki dishes are a delicious and easy way to enjoy a variety of foods.

History of yaki

The word “yaki” itself is derived from the verb “yaku”, which means “to cook”.

The yaki style of cooking is a very popular method in Japanese cuisine, and it is used to cook a variety of different items such as fish, meat, vegetables, and even desserts.

This cooking style is believed to have originated in the Edo period in Japan, and it has since become a staple in many Japanese households.

When talking about yaki-style cooking, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact date when this cooking method was invented.

One thing we know for sure is that teppanyaki or hot plate cooking was invented during World War II.

Misono was the first teppanyaki restaurant in Kobe, Japan. It opened in 1945 following the end of World War II.

The restaurant became famous because of the way the food was cooked.

To this day, those who eat at the teppanyaki restaurant can watch on as chefs toss, grasp, drop, or even snatch food out of the air when making a dish, depending on their skill level.

Also learn about the Incredibly Easy Way to Cook Beef Misono Tokyo Style

Conclusion

If you want to taste some of Japan’s best foods, you must try any food that contains the word “yaki” in the name.

Yaki is a Japanese term used to describe a variety of dishes that are cooked on a grill or in a pan.

These dishes typically include protein, vegetables, and sauce, and may be served with rice or noodles. Some of the most popular yaki dishes include takoyaki, sukiyaki, yakisoba, etc.

So, whether you just want a tasty stir-fry like yakisoba noodles or a delicious savory delight like okonomiyaki, the yaki dishes are sure to please even the pickiest of eaters.

How about grilling your favorite Japanese rice balls? Here’s a recipe for grilled onigiri that you will love

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.