Yakitori, or grilled chicken on skewers, is a street-food favorite among Japanese people of all ages. Generally, two types of seasonings are available—a soy sauce-based sauce that is a bit on the sweet side or a simple sprinkling of salt that keeps the natural taste of the chicken front and center. The most common types of yakitori include chicken breast skewers with the option of grilled leaks (known as “negima”), wings, cartilage (which give a nice crunch), meatballs, and liver. Eat the chicken straight off the wooden skewer, or if you’re sharing, slide the meat off the stick and enjoy as a messy finger food. Shichimi, or Japanese seven spice blend, is a popular condiment to have with yakitori.
Teriyaki is by far one of the most famous ways of preparing chicken in Japan. The chicken is glazed with a teriyaki sauce comprised of soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar, which gives the Japanese chicken dish its mouthwatering caramelization. Sesame seeds may be sprinkled on as a garnish, and you will often find this dish in bento or atop a bowl of rice at casual eateries. Teriyaki-style burgers are also available at some fast food joints.
Like the Japanese pork cutlet tonkatsu, chicken breast is breaded and fried, and served with Worcestershire sauce and a pile of freshly sliced cabbage. Torikatsu can also be served over a bowl of rice.
Oyako don is a favorite among locals and international visitors. The name means “parent and child” rice bowl, as it consists of chicken and an egg. The chicken is simmered with eggs in a sweet sauce, and then poured over a bowl of rice. The runny eggs and succulent chicken make for a perfect match, and a sprinkling of seven spice blend is recommended.
Mizutaki translates to “cooked in water,” and as the name suggests it’s a simple Japanese chicken hot pot. The stock is water that is usually flavored with a piece of kombu and chicken bones. Mushrooms and vegetables like nappa cabbage are also used to flavor the stock. Various cuts of chicken and meatballs are simmered, as well as chicken liver or gizzards.
Ground and minced chicken is shaped into a ball or oblong patty and usually skewered and grilled like yakitori. Sometimes chicken cartilage is added to the mixture to give the tsukune an extra crunch. A popular way of eating this Japanese chicken dish is dipped in a rich raw egg yolk and a sprinkling of chili pepper or seven spice blend.
Toriten is a dish of chicken fried tempura style, and is often eaten in the Shikoku area of western Japan. It’s a popular addition to a bowl of steaming udon, and in the onsen town of Beppu on the coast of Kyushu island, it’s simply paired with a frosty mug of draft beer.