Traditionally, yakitori is made from skewered and grilled pieces of chicken. Over the years, like many things, the term yakitori can be applied to most any food that is skewered and grilled although the correct term is kushiyaki (kushi = skewer and yaki = grilled). Today, the two terms are used interchangeably in Japan.
Regardless of what you prefer to call it, chunks of salmon that have been soaked in a mixture of soy, sake and mirin are all right by me. As far as the soy sauce goes, I would recommend using a lite or less-sodium tamari or soy sauce just so the salmon doesn’t become too salty but you still retain that rich umami of the soy sauce. Mirin, if you are unfamiliar, is a low-alcohol Japanese sweet cooking wine. You should be able to get all of the ingredients for this dish in the Asian section of a well-stocked supermarket.
Japanese yakitori shops, or yakitori-ya, have a lot of different preparations of skewered foods. This is a play on a traditional “negima” style of yakitori and the one that I most prefer – simple chunks of fish or chicken alternating with scallions. The flavor of the scallions plus the char from the grill really contrast and enhance the sweetness of the salmon and the umami of the soy.
Thread the salmon cubes on skewers alternating each piece of fish with a couple pieces of scallion. Brush the salmon skewers with a little vegetable oil to help prevent sticking.
Cook on hot grill for 8 to 12 minutes turning every couple minutes and basting with the reserved yakitori sauce at each turn. Serve hot or at room temperature with steamed white rice and the remaining yakitori sauce for dipping.
GRILL TIP #1: I used two bamboo skewers side-by-side when threading the fish and scallions. The double skewers keep both the fish and the scallions from spinning around as you rotate them on the grill. A flat-blade style of skewer would work as well.
GRILL TIP #2: Even though the bamboo skewers are soaked in water, the exposed area will still burn. Wrap the tips with a small piece of foil to keep from losing the tips
- For the marinade:
- ¾ cup lite or less sodium soy sauce
- ½ cup mirin (Japanese cooking wine) or dry sherry
- ½ sake
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1½ pounds center-cut salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 bunches scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Vegetable oil for grilling
- Extras: metal skewers or bamboo skewers that have soaked in water for 1 hour
- Stir together the marinade ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Add the cubed salmon and weigh down with a small plate so that the salmon stays submerged. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.
- Remove the salmon from the marinade and strain marinade into a small sauce pan. Bring marinade to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer for 5 minutes; remove from heat and set aside to cool. Blot the salmon cubes with paper towels.
- Thread the salmon cubes on skewers alternating each piece of fish with a couple pieces of scallion. Brush the salmon skewers with a little vegetable oil to help prevent sticking.
- Set up grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Brush the grates very clean and then oil them well before grilling.
- Cook on hot grill for 8 to 12 minutes turning every couple minutes and basting with the reserved yakitori sauce at each turn. Serve hot or at room temperature with steamed white rice and the remaining yakitori sauce for dipping.
Cheers and Happy Grilling!