Have you fallen in love with Yakitori, the sticky, tender and umami-packed skewered chicken?
The tasty sticks of Japanese style charcoal grilled chicken are something Canadian chef Matt Abergel has spent many passionate years perfecting.
At his popular neighbourhood Yardbird restaurant in Hong Kong Matt serves over 20 types of yakitori using only the freshest chicken. From wing tip to tail and neck to knee, all the best bits of the chicken get grilled over Binchotan charcoal on individual bamboo skewers.
Matt has also just released his new book: Yardbird, Chicken and Charcoal, published by Phaidon where you can find all his carefully honed yakitori recipes, including vegetarian choices.
In the meantime, here are his 6 top tips to making yakitori at home:
1. Take your Time
Be meticulous. Making yakitori takes time so make sure you give yourself time. It takes time to break down the chicken and skewer the chicken pieces properly - don't rush it!
2. Fresh Chicken
Always use the freshest whole chicken you can find. Above any other quality factor, its the freshest chicken that makes the difference. If you live somewhere with a Chinese, Muslim or Hispanic community chances are you'll find it easier to find a freshly slaughtered chicken.
3. Sharp Knife
A sharp knife is crucial for breaking down the chicken. Sixty per cent of breaking down a chicken is knife work, where you'll need to get close to the bone and tendons. A Japanese boning knife or honesuki is a good choice with a fine pointed tip which allows you to get between the joints. (The book gives 81 clear pictorial instructions on how to break down a whole chicken).
Image: illustrations by Evan Hecox
Don't be afraid of Salt. Use good quality salt to season the skewers after grilling. Try a salt with a high mineral content, or a grey salt. (In the restaurant they use a Japanese salt called moshio).
In the restaurant, we use square bamboo skewers. Again, take your time when threading the meat, to make sure each skewer is consistent and balanced - this will make all the difference when it comes to cooking.
(Each recipe in the book details the weight of meat that should be on each skewer as well as how to best skewer different pieces of meat, from hearts to gizzards.)
Go for best quality hardwood charcoal you can find with a high carbon content. Make sure it's evenly heated before you start cooking. Try not to use briquettes. If possible use Japanese style charcoal. In the restaurant we use Binchotan.