Yakitori, Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu

Written by Phin Upham

Chicken and soy sauce have both been around for centuries. It is puzzling then, to consider that up until the 1960s, no one had written about pairing these two foods together.

Yakitoria skewers are made of bite-sized pieces of chicken that are soaked in a sauce to flavor. In traditional yakitori, all parts of the chicken are used. Including the gizzards. New forms of yakitori tend to use either white or dark meat, but avoid organs.

Right around the time that Benihana’s was gaining popularity in the United States, we began to see yakitori find its way onto menus. It’s like a Japanese play on shish kebab from Middle Eastern dishes. This dish gained popularity in drinking halls, because it was simple to prepare and quite filling.

Sukiyaki, on the other hand, dates back to the Edo period. It refers to a dish made with blackened fish or fowl, grilled over a fire. Sukiyaki is also cooked at the dinner table, making it closer to what we know of as ramen. Sukiyaki tends to be consumed directly from the boiling pot, where diners arrange themselves around bowls and pluck the ingredients from the soup with a pair of chopsticks.

Sukiyaki is akin to another Japanese buffet-style eating called Shabu Shabu. This style of cooking uses a pot of broth on the table, heated to a precise temperature. Meat and vegetables are placed inside of the broth to cook, then removed and eaten as a soup.

Phin Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website