Yakatori Chicken Skewers with Asian Cucumber Salad
Wonderfully delicious Yakatori chicken skewers, using boneless chicken thighs and an easy, no sake needed sauce. Served with an Asian-inspired fresh cucumber salad.
Marinating Time: 30 min - 8 hours30mins
Yakatori Chicken Skewers:
6bonelessskinless chicken thighs
6long bamboo skewerssoaked in water for 20 minutes before using
1/4cupsoy sauceregular or low-sodium
1/4cupMirin*see Note 1
1clovegarlicfinely grated (optional)
1/4 - 1/2tspfresh gingerfinely grated (optional)
Asian Cucumber Salad:
1/2English cucumberthinly sliced
1/4red onionpeeled and thinly sliced
1/4cupunseasoned rice wine vinegaror seasoned and reduce the added sugar and salt below a bit
1tspbrown sugaror white sugar
1/2tspsesame oilregular or toasted
1/8 - 1/4tspred pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Make the sauce:
Add the soy sauce, Mirin, white sugar and garlic and ginger (if using) to a small saucepan and stir together. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to medium low (or lower, if needed, to allow for a gentle simmer) and allow the mixture to simmer until the mixture reduces by about 1/2, has a nice gloss to it and thickens just slightly (about 10-15 minutes).
Remove mixture to a bowl and allow to stand at room temperature until completely cooled. *Never add raw chicken to hot or even slightly warm sauce! You'll need about 30-45 minutes for the sauce to cool completely, so plan ahead :)
Prepare the chicken thighs:
Unfold the chicken thighs and cut into 3 pieces/strips. (When you unfold the chicken thigh, there is a thinner 1/3 piece that is a natural to cut into one strip, then cut the remaining piece into 2 strips). Repeat with all the chicken thighs and place into a bowl. Set aside or refrigerate until needed.
Once sauce has cooled, remove 2-3 Tbsp of the sauce mixture to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate separately from the chicken. Add the remaining sauce to the prepared chicken, stir to coat well, then cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours. (If you have the time, a longer marinating time is best. I aim for at least 4 hours, when I can).
Soak the bamboo skewers in water for 20 minutes before using.
When ready to cook, thread the marinated chicken pieces onto the soaked skewers, threading 3 pieces onto each skewer and threading lengthwise, catching both ends of the chicken strip, then spreading out fully along the skewer. Repeat with remaining chicken and skewers. RESERVE remaining marinade for basting during cooking.
For oven method: Preheat oven to 425F. Place skewers onto a baking sheet and cook in preheated oven for about 18-20 minutes, basting well with reserved marinade after 10 minutes of cooking.
For BBQ method: Preheat bbq to about 375-400F. Place skewers on top rack and close the BBQ lid. Allow to cook 8-10 minutes, then baste well with reserved marinade. Close lid and cook a few minutes longer. Finish by placing the skewers on the grate, over the flame for a minute or two to brown slightly.
Remove skewers from oven or grill and brush with the bit of sauce that was reserved separately from the chicken (NOT the sauce used to marinate the chicken, but the sauce you set aside at the start!). The sauce may have thickened up if refrigerated, but just brush it on the hot chicken and all will be good, as the heat from the chicken will loosen it up nicely and provide a wonderful glaze.
For the Cucumber Salad:
Thinly slice the cucumber and red onion and place into a medium bowl. Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the remaining ingredients and pouring over the cucumber/red onion mixture. Toss to combine well. Allow to stand about 15 minutes at room temperature before serving.
Mirin is aka Sweet Japanese Rice Wine. Mirin is pretty easily available these days, either online (try Amazon) or at an Asian grocer. Classic Mirin is an alcoholic wine, but you can buy a "Mirin Style", non-alcoholic version. That's what I typically use. You can find it in the same area you find the soy sauce at the grocery store. I like the Kikkoman. Look for it in a bottle with a bright yellow label. If you can't find Mirin, the best substitute is probably Rice Wine Vinegar (aka Rice Vinegar), either seasoned or unseasoned, PLUS an additional 1/2 Tbsp white sugar, to balance the acidity of the vinegar.
Nutritional information is for the chicken skewers only. Adding the cucumber salad would add only about 50 calories to this meal, per serving. Servings are based on 2 skewers per serving.
A few food safety notes - Your sauce need to be completely cooled before adding it to the raw chicken! Adding raw chicken to even a slightly warm sauce is never a good idea. Not only might it start to cook the chicken, but it would be an unsafe environment for raw meat, even if put right into the refrigerator.You can use the reserved marinade to baste the chicken during cooking, as it will be cooked, but don't use the sauce that was used to marinate the raw chicken to baste the chicken AFTER it is out of the oven or off the grill. Use the bit of reserved sauce that wasn't used as a marinade for the chicken for that basting.