Yakitori (Grilled Meat and Vegetables Skewers) / Meat Dishes, Gourmet Guide

Yakitori is chicken cut into bite-sized pieces and grilled on skewers. You can have yakitori in izakayas and yakitori restaurants. The chicken is seasoned with salt and a salty-sweet sauce made with sugar and soy sauce. Since it is grilled on an open flame without using a pot or a pan, the aromatic smell alone is delicious.

Yakitori is divided into the various parts of the chicken, including the thighs, wings, heart, liver, tenderloin, and skin. When you order, you say the part that you want. There also are skewers with some kind of meatballs called "tsukune" and others called "negima," a combination of meat and leeks. Most places use chicken, but on many menus, you also will find pork, beef, and vegetables such as leek and shiitake mushrooms. Depending on the region, the way the chicken is prepared and seasoned as well as the parts that are eaten can be different. Most of the time, grilled meat is eaten with beer, shochu, or chuhai. There also are restaurants specializing in meat dishes other than grilled meat, including tonkatsu, steaks, or karaage. Tonkatsu are thick-cut pork cutlets coated with flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs, and fried in oil. It is one of the most popular Japanese dishes among foreigners. It's also often cooked at home. Many tonkatsu restaurants garnish the pork cutlet with shredded cabbage and serve it together with miso soup as a set meal. In many tonkatsu chain restaurants, you can have as many second helpings of miso soup, cabbage, and rice as you like, making them very popular with men and young people in general. In restaurants and cafes, they also have tonkatsu sandwiches called "katsu sando" and curry topped with a cutlet called "katsu kare," which shows how much Japanese people love their pork cutlets. Most places specializing in steaks often come in form of chain restaurants or family restaurants, but there also are many upscale restaurants. Steakhouses where there is a steel plate in front of the customer and the chef cooks the steak right before your eyes are worth going to not only for the steak, but also for the performance of the chef. Because after the steak is cooked, it is cut into bite-sized pieces on the iron plate and served in front of you, it can be eaten with chopsticks. Steak houses of this type are often placed in hotels and regions famous for their meat. Apart from specialized restaurants, you can have steaks in Western restaurants and family restaurants for a relatively reasonable price. Recently, some places have started to specialize in a popular meat dish known as karaage. Karaage is chicken coated in a little flour or potato starch and then fried. It is one of the most popular dishes among children. Unlike yakitori restaurants, skewer restaurants mainly serve a variety of different food that was skewered and fried in oil. Besides chicken, they also fry beef and pork, seafood, vegetables, quails, and sometimes even cheese or fruit. In the southern part of Osaka there is an area where skewer restaurants have clustered, and because there the katsu sauce is shared by all customers, it is forbidden to dip your skewer twice.

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