A Guide to 11 Essential Japanese Chicken Dishes
Beyond the thousands of yakitori stalls dotting the side streets of Japan, you will find that not all Japanese chicken dishes are served on a stick. Chicken is one of the country’s most popular ingredients, and much attention is paid to the quality of the meat. Domestic chickens, known as “jidori,” are prized for their succulent cuts of meat and full flavor, the result of being raised free range and fed superior feed. The most famous jidori are Kochin from Nagoya, Hinai from Akita, and Satsuma from Kagoshima. In Japan, almost all parts of the chicken are eaten except generally the head and the feet; and you can find the meat prepared in a variety of ways from grilled and fried to steamed, boiled, and even raw! With so many options available, we’ve put together a list of 11 essential Japanese chicken dishes to try during your visit.
Japanese Grilled Chicken Dishes
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.
Read: Yakitori You Must Try
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.
Japanese Fried Chicken Dishes
Chicken Karaage (Fried Chicken)
Japanese-style fried chicken, called “karaage,” can be found on the menu of almost any Japanese pub, and is usually garnished with a slice of lemon. It’s also a favorite bento entrée, popular with salarymen for being tasty, yet affordable. What makes karaage unique from Western-style fried chicken is that it is first marinated in soy sauce, sake, and grated ginger or garlic before being coated and fried.
Tebasaki (Chicken Wings)
Tebasaki refers to Japanese-style chicken wings; and if you’re looking to get your hands on some, we suggest visiting Nagoya, which is famous for its spicy, salty-sweet and sticky version. You can find restaurants around the city specializing in tebasaki, and locals are known to be able to adeptly clean the meat off a wing in one quick bite. Another popular style of tebasaki available at yakitori joints is a simple grilled wing seasoned only with a dash of salt.
Toriten (Tempura-Style Fried Chicken)
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.
Read: What Is Tempura
Torikatsu (Fried Chicken Cutlet)
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.
Read: A Guide to Katsu
Japanese Ground Chicken Dishes
Tsukune (Chicken Meatballs)
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.
Soboro Don (Ground Chicken Rice Bowl)
“Soboro” means minced meat and usually refers to chicken. The sautéed chicken mince is flavored with sweet soy sauce and usually laid over a bed of rice and served as a bento. A popular pairing for soboro don usually includes a trio of minced chicken, flaked salmon, and scrambled egg.
Other Popular Japanese Chicken Dishes
Mizutaki (Chicken Hot Pot)
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.
Torisashi (Chicken Sashimi)
Chicken sashimi, or raw chicken, can be enjoyed at some chicken specialty restaurants in Japan. Usually the breast is served in slices, like fish sashimi, and eaten with grated ginger and soy sauce. Sometimes grated garlic is also provided, and it’s also popular with a dab of wasabi. Like most sashimi, there isn’t a distinct flavor but the freshness, natural sweetness, and texture make torisashi a true delicacy for the adventurous.
Oyako Don (Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl)
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.
Discover These Japanese Chicken Dishes and More with Gurunavi
There are many ways to enjoy chicken in Japan and you would be hard pressed to try them all without an extended stay. From raw to grilled, breast to liver, discover these Japanese chicken dishes and more with Gurunavi!