Thanks to an influx of Japanese yakitori restaurants, Americans are becoming familiar with the skewered meats typically served there. In many places, you’ll find strips of meat threaded onto a skewer, but this yakitori is a good example of tsukune, the meatball-like chicken patties you can grill on sticks.
Tim Anderson, the author of “JapanEasy: Classic and Modern Japanese Recipes to Cook at Home” (Hardie Grant, $29.99), recommends finely chopping the chicken thighs rather than grinding with a food processor because you don’t want a meat paste in the end. You can cook these as meatballs or flatten them to make patties. The skewers allow you to flip them easily on a grill, but you can sear them in a pan if desired.
A note about sweet soy sauce: You can buy sweet soy sauce at Asian markets and specialty stores, but you can also make a version at home by heating 1 tablespoon sugar with 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1/4 cup water and 1 tablespoon peanut oil. (A dash of sesame oil never hurts.) Some dark soy sauces are sweetened with ingredients like molasses, so they’ll require less sugar to sweeten for a dish like this.
Chicken Patty Yakitori
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of cartilage
3/4-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped, plus 1 extra, finely sliced, to garnish
4 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped (optional)
Big pinch of freshly ground pepper
Big pinch of salt
Scant 3/4 cup sweet soy sauce
Cut the chicken thighs into small chunks, then mince them – you can do this by hand or with a food processor. Either way, make sure they’re not too processed – the mince should hold together when you shape it, but it shouldn’t be a paste. Little chunks of meat are what we’re after.
Heat a grill on high or, alternatively, turn your broiler on high. If using a broiler, place the rack 4 to 5 inches or so away from the heat.
Combine the chicken mince with the ginger, garlic, chopped spring onions, mushrooms, pepper and salt, then form into oblong patties and thread them onto skewers. Wrap the ends of the skewers in foil and apply the sweet soy sauce to the meat with a spoon or pastry brush. Grill or broil on high for about 10 to 15 minutes, turning the skewers and re-applying the glaze frequently. Garnish with the sliced spring onion. Makes 8 patties.
— From “JapanEasy: Classic and Modern Japanese Recipes to Cook at Home” by Tim Anderson (Hardie Grant, $29.99)