How is Yakitori served? What it’s served with and how to eat it

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 17, 2020

What do we think of when we hear the word yakitori?

I’m betting only a few will know it’s a Japanese meal that consists of skewered chicken.

Fewer will know what the meat is commonly served with, when it is eaten and how many servings you can eat at a time?

Well, for those of you who are plagued with these questions to the point where it keeps you up at night, here is everything you have ever wanted to know about yakitori, and maybe even a bit more!

Woman eating yakitori skewers in the street

How is Yakitori served?

Typically, there are three skewers all of which are different in variety and flavored differently. The person eating yakitori is to start with the skewer that is least rich in flavor and work their way up. When served this way, yakitori is usually eaten as an appetizer.

What is Yakitori?

Yakitori is skewered chicken that is made on a Kushi. This is a skewer that is made of steel, bamboo , and similar materials.

After being skewered, the meat is grilled over a charcoal fire.

The meat in yakitori is cut into small sections to provide an even cook. The charcoal flame gives the meat a crunchy texture.

Yakitori is available in sweet or salty sweet varieties.

In some cases, the meat can also be flavored with cayenne pepper, Japanese pepper, black pepper or wasabi.

Because the dish is so common, there are also at home appliances available for making yakitori. These are known as takujo konro or mini-grillers. They work like a broiler to cook the food that is placed on top with a heating element inside the device.

How is Yakitori Served?

There are shops in Japan specifically devoted to selling yakitori. These shops are called Yakitori-ya.

They are typically small spaces that are designed for takeout as yakitori is a portable food often eaten street style.

Yakitori is also sold from yatai. These are the small street carts street vendors use to sell the product. They are often found on heavily trafficked streets and will also be quite prevalent at festivals where yakitori is consumed. Yakitori is also sold at sporting events and in food court areas.

Although yakitori is mostly a street food, it is also served at sit down restaurants. It can also be bought in grocery stores in vacuum packed and canned varieties.

What is Yakitori Served With?

Because yakitori is a casual food, it is often enjoyed with beer or sake. The light flavors complement the alcohol well.

Although yakitori is usually served to go for a street style experience, when it is served in a restaurant, there is a certain etiquette that should be followed.

In restaurants, yakitori is served with a few skewers on a plate.

Typically, there are three skewers all of which are different in variety. They may be flavored differently or they may feature different types of chicken meat, or they may feature a meat that is not chicken at all.

The person eating the yakitori is to start with the skewer that is least rich in flavor and work their way up.

It is considered improper etiquette for them to put any seasonings on the yakitori. It is to be eaten exactly the way the chef prepared it.

Yakitori should also be eaten directly off the skewer. It should not be removed.

Removing it is also considered to be insulting to the chef as they took the time to prepare it on the skewer.

When served this way, yakitori is usually eaten as an appetizer. However, it can also be incorporated into a meal.

Chefs may serve it with other traditional Japanese sides such as noodles and rice. They may also serve a sample tray of various yakitori meats.

Home cooks who wish to make the meat for the rich flavor it provides will add it to pastas, salads and other dishes.

Here’s how Torishin, the only yakitori restaurant with a Michelin star, does it:

What Type of Meat Is Yakitori Made From?

Yakitori can be made using various parts of the chicken and the chicken can be prepared in different ways.

Here are some parts and preparations that are commonly used:

All white meat

And yakitori isn’t always made of chicken.

It can also be made from beef, pork or grilled vegetables. Mushroom is commonly used, although technically it isn’t called yakitori anymore.

Vegetables like onion can also be alternated with the chicken to produce a type of skewer that is commonly recognized in American culture.

Now that you know what yakitori is, how will you be enjoying it in your culinary experience?

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.