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Yaki-tori-niku (Japanese Barbeque Chicken) with Grilled Vegetables

January 10, 2013

Yaki-tori-niku (Japanese Barbeque Chicken) with Grilled VegetablesPin it!

You’ve never heard of yaki-tori-niku? That’s because my friends and I made it up.

Allow me to explain: Japanese yaki-niku (meaning grilled meat, i.e., beef) is basically a Japanese version of the famous Korean barbeque. At Korean (or Japanese-style Korean) barbeque restaurants, you order plates of raw sliced meat and raw vegetables, then you cook up the ingredients yourself, over a tabletop grill, as you eat it.

Onions, Japanese sweet potato, Japanese kabocha pumpkin, bean sprouts, and chicken for yaki-nikuPin it!

This makes for an excellent family-style meal in the home, too, where electric non-stick griddles often replace the restaurants’ built-in gas or charcoal grills.

Think of it as an interactive dinner party. Like fondue without the forks.

Since I don’t eat beef (niku)– only chicken (tori-niku)– my Japanese friends have very kindly taken to switching up their dinner parties, when I’m involved, to make “yaki-tori-niku” (basically, “grilled-chicken-meat” rather than grilled beef).

Onions, Japanese sweet potato, Japanese kabocha pumpkin, bean sprouts, green bell pepper, and chicken for yaki-niku

A great meal, and one we’ve also come to settle on out of necessity: in recent years when I’ve visited Japan and stayed with my friend Rie, we’ve invited another friend, Yuko, over to dinner. The problem is that I don’t eat beef or pork, and Yuko doesn’t like raw fish (yes, she’s Japanese), so that rules out a lot of meals right there.

Rie’s nickname for me and Yuko now is “the worst combination” but she’s come up with this delicious dinner to cook for us nonetheless.

Yaki-tori-niku (Japanese Barbeque Chicken) with Grilled Vegetables

Yaki-tori-niku is still a misnomer, though, since there are so many delicious vegetables involved, too: Japanese sweet potato, kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), onion, and green pepper (the vegetable that children all over Japan most despise).

Japanese sweet potato, green bell pepper, and onions for yaki-niku

Of course you can switch up the vegetables– try other squash, sweet potato, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, even bean sprouts– or the protein: go back to beef, or use a vegan protein like tofu. The secret key to deliciousness is in the dipping sauce.

Yaki-niku dipping sauce ingredients

In Japan (or if you live near a nice Asian market elsewhere), it’s quite easy to find tasty, store-bought bottled dipping sauces like this one. On the other hand, it’s quite easy to make one yourself…

Grinding sesame seeds in a Japanese mortar and pestle

(For even more flavorful meat, you can also make a little extra dipping sauce ahead of time, and use some of it to marinate the meat for an hour or so.)

If you have the right kind of electric tabletop grill or griddle, then this simple dinner party idea is worth a try. I think this type of meal is better for families or small dinner parties than as a meal for two. The interactive, gradual grilling results in a slower pace of eating than you might be used to– which can be a nice change, and give everyone all the more time for talking. Also more people means more help monitoring and flipping all the ingredients with tongs or chopsticks. It might take a bit longer until everyone is full, but that’s half the fun.

Yaki-niku dipping sauce

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Yaki-tori-niku (Japanese Barbeque Chicken)
with Grilled Vegetables

(Serves 4)

~ 1 onion, thickly sliced
~ 1 Japanese sweet potato, sliced in ¼” rounds
~ 1 green bell pepper, sliced in rings or wedges
~ kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), thinly sliced
~ 12-16 oz. boneless chicken breast or thighs, thinly sliced (or beef, or other protein)
~ vegetable oil, for the griddle
~ Japanese sticky rice, for serving

Dipping Sauce Ingredients (increase if using some as marinade):
~ ¾ cup soy sauce
~ 3-4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
~ 3 Tbsp. mirin (optional)
~ 1-2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, lightly ground
~ 1 clove garlic, minced
~ ¼-½” ginger, minced (or leave in rounds and remove before serving)
~ 1-2 Tbsp. brown sugar
~ 1-2 Tbsp. chili powder (like Shichimi Togarashi; optional)

Special equipment needed:
~ electric tabletop griddle or grill (or a cast iron pan on an electric portable burner)

Japanese pumpkin (kabocha) for yaki-niku

How to make it:

1. Combine all dipping sauce ingredients. (Optionally use extra dipping sauce as a marinade for the meat: pour over meat, cover, and refrigerate for about an hour before the meal.) Put the remainder of the dipping sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2. Arrange all of the ingredients for grilling on platters around the central electric griddle. Provide each person with their own small plate and small bowl of dipping sauce.

Yaki-niku fixings

3. Heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil in the pan (medium-high heat), then start to add the ingredients, a few at a time. Flip the meat and vegetables until nicely browned on all sides and cooked through.

4. Transfer grilled meat and vegetables to individuals’ plates and dip each bite in the dipping sauce before enjoying. Continue to place more raw ingredients in the pan, adding more oil as necessary. Serve with individual bowls of warm rice.

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Yaki-tori-niku (Japanese Barbeque Chicken) with Grilled Vegetables

Yaki-tori-niku (Japanese Barbeque Chicken) with a dipping saucePin it!

Related recipe posts:
> Easy Korean Broiled Bulgogi Chicken
> Japanese Pumpkin Soup with Leeks (Kabocha Soup)
> Soy-Glazed Chicken Wings & Quick Japanese Pickles (Tsukemono)

26 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2013 9:53 am

    Is it Thursday already?! Where did the week go. This looks delicious.

    • January 11, 2013 8:30 am

      Thanks! And I know– this week just flew by, for me too.

  2. January 10, 2013 9:57 am

    delicious flavors !:) look forward to trying out, thanks a alot for sharing!

  3. January 10, 2013 10:19 am

    Looks sooo good…love this style of cooking!

    • January 11, 2013 8:32 am

      So do I! There are several different Japanese cook-as-you-eat type meals that I’m looking forward to sharing here… eventually. Next up, sometime soon I hope, will be some kind of wintery nabe (Japanese hot pot soup).

  4. January 10, 2013 10:26 am

    Chicken looks amazing, but I’m eyeing all those delicious vegetables and dipping sauce:)

    • January 11, 2013 8:32 am

      I agree; the vegetables and the dipping sauce steal the show!

  5. permalink
    January 10, 2013 12:02 pm

    Belle recette

  6. January 10, 2013 1:19 pm

    This looks very delicious :D


    • January 11, 2013 8:33 am

      Thanks! This meal is definitely a treat– and a pretty simple one to throw together, too.

  7. January 10, 2013 1:58 pm

    My kind of meal :-) It looks fantastic!!!

  8. January 11, 2013 7:39 am

    I looove the flavors here. I can imagine what it tastes like so perfectly… it’d totally be better than those chain hibatchi places all around here haha

    • January 11, 2013 8:34 am

      Yes, so true! You get to choose all of your own favorite ingredients this way (and not get charged an arm & a leg for them), and you can make sure they are fresh. :)

  9. January 11, 2013 2:41 pm

    MMMM,…Allison! What a divine & deliciously looking dinner! Yummmm!
    Have a great & fun weekend, my dear friend!

  10. January 12, 2013 7:54 am

    This is such an inventive dinner party idea, it all looks delicious :) Rebecca xx

    • January 14, 2013 9:02 am

      Thanks! Yes, it’s definitely a unique way to throw a dinner party– let the guests cook their food themselves! :)

  11. January 14, 2013 3:06 pm

    I love how there are so many parts of this meal to make a whole—makes it very exciting =)

    • January 15, 2013 11:57 am

      Definitely! And a restaurant version of this meal in Japan would have beef along with the chicken and– true to the Korean-inspiration for that type of restaurant– would also include a side of kimchi!

  12. January 19, 2013 11:36 pm

    What a fun way to eat, kind of like a Japanese version of a raclette, how yum!

  13. Nami | Just One Cookbook permalink
    January 27, 2013 8:07 pm

    I love your “Yaki Tori Niku”!!!! :) Haha “the worst combination”…well but because of that, we get to see this dish! ;) The tare looks delicious and it’s a lot lighter on calorie than pork or meat!

    • January 29, 2013 9:53 pm

      Haha, you’re the only person who’s commented about that “worst combination” part! But yes, you’re right; thanks to my friend Rie’s creativity, we’ve enjoyed this dish many times, and it pleases everyone! (Even her two little kids like to eat all the vegetables with the tare dipping sauce.)

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