July 30, 2019

Guide to Yakitori in Japanese Izakaya

Japanese Izakaya. What they are and how enjoy their cuisine. Advice on ordering the Yakitori in an Izakaya from a menu in Japanese!

Izakaya, the soul of Japanese night gastronomy

Some people call them pubs, other restaurants or taverns, but I think they should be defined as a separate category.

For those who do not know them, they are a “refreshment” points, often located near the train stations (but not only) where, traditionally around a counter, people drink (often) in abundance and savor home-style cuisine, made of traditional dishes.

They are places where the Japanese go alone in the evening, exhausted after a long day at work, or where groups of friends decide to spend the evening. It is not difficult to find salaryman who, after a glass of beer and some dishes, are ready to go home perhaps to their families, or groups of boys and girls ready to stay up late.

In a country where food is one of the most important value, great credit for all this must be given to them, the soul of Japanese gastronomic nightlife.

The journey in search of your ideal Izakaya will show you two realities, characterized by tradition and modernity, which are reflected not only in the environment in which you find yourself surrounded but also by the food you will read on the menu.

(To learn more about what to expect from an Izakaya, I recommend reading this article >> DISCOVERY JAPAN: IZAKAYA, MUCH MORE THAN SIMPLE BAR

What to eat in an Izakaya

Savory tofu with spices or dried fish flakes (Katsuobushi), fermented vegetables, soups, stews, Noodles, Gyoza … in the Izakayas you can taste everything and with reasonable prices.

If you opt to spend the evening there, it will not always be easy for you to choose the dishes from the menu (unless you know how to read Japanese), but nobody prohibits you from look around and see what the people around you are eating, and order the same thing, making you inspire just by the appearance of the dishes.

If you are worried to try overly complicated recipes with concentrated flavors, I suggest you throw yourself on a simple and delicious traditional dish linked to the gastronomic culture of these places: the Yakitori.

Izakaya Yakitori


焼 鳥 – Yakitori, literally means: grilled (焼 – yaki) and chicken (鳥- tori).

I guess you understand what we are talking about. Delicious skewers prepared with noble parts (and not) of chicken, grilled on a traditional charcoal grill and covered with a tasty sauce with a syrupy consistency, the result of a mix between soy sauce, mirin, and sugar called Teriyaki Sauce (recipe link).

If they seem to you the right choice for your tastes, I advise you to write down their name’s because it will turn helpful when you will have to chose.

There are different types of Yakitori, which differ according to the part of the body of the chicken used. Moreover, as already mentioned above, in front of a menu in Japanese it will not always be easy to understand its content.

Guide to Japanese Yakitori

Negima (ねぎま) probably the most popular, is the Negima: chunks of chicken alternating with pieces of Negi, or Japanese leek.


Torikawa (とりかわ) or just Kawa (かわ) grilled chicken skin skewer


Momo (もも) thin pieces of chicken meat usually coming from the thigh


Reba (レバー) chicken liver skewer


Tsukune (つくね) meatballs prepared with minced chicken, vegetables and spices. They can be served as small meatballs or a single one with a long thick  shape


Nankotsu (なんこつ) chicken cartilage made from the bones near the chest. Meat-free, they have a crunchy texture and are rich in collagen


So, if you intend to experience Izakaya cuisine, don’t forget to try a portion of Yakitori at least once. I assure you that it will be worth it!

But on the other hand, if Japan is still a dream destination why don’t bring the Izakaya cuisine directly into your home! Here the recipe of Tsukune (つくね)! Great idea  to enrich your summer BBQ with some Asian flavor.