What is yakiniku?
The Japanese summer dish yakiniku (pronounced: “yakee-nee-KU”) literally means grilled (yaki) meat (niku). Usually, beef or pork, sometimes organ meats.
In Japan, eating yakiniku is a cosy, communal event where a family or friends sits together around a table with a small barbecue in the middle. It is often eaten when there is something to celebrate. Good meat and tasty vegetables are grilled on the barbecue and served with a special yakiniku sauce (called yakiniku no tare or tare).
The term yakiniku is also used generally for meat grilled in a grill pan, on a griddle – teppanyaki style – or in a frying pan.
Since the meat is not marinated before grilling, it must be of high quality and the tare is very important for the taste. Every restaurant has its own tare, which always includes soy sauce and sesame seeds. Depending on the chef, chilli powder, sugar, garlic, ginger, sake, mirin and/or fruit juice are added.
According to the Japanese, yakiniku was originally a Korean barbecue dish, horumonyaki, consisting of grilled beef stomach and intestines. It was introduced to Japan by Korean immigrants, but other types of meat were soon being cooked on the grill. In yakinukiya, the speciality restaurants in Japan, there is sometimes a nod to the Korean background by serving it with kimchi as a side dish.
How to make yakiniku
The meat, often a nice steak such as Wagyu, is cut into slices. Beef tongue is also a popular choice. Vegetables such as fresh shiitakes and piiman (small, elongated green peppers) are prepared and the ingredients for the sauce are mixed together. The barbecue is lit or the grill pan is heated and guests grill pieces of meat or vegetables as desired. Sometimes the meat is prepared in the kitchen rather than at the table by the guests themselves. The grilled meat is served with the tare as a dip.
How to eat
Eat yakiniku with chopsticks and a bowl of steamed rice.
Teppanyaki is a similar dish, but with a different sauce.