Author Notes: From Just One Cookbook: Tsukune (つくね) is Japanese chicken meatballs that are skewered and typically grilled over charcoal served in yakitori restaurants. Drizzled with sweet soy sauce, these Japanese chicken meatball skewers are absolutely delicious. They are best on the grill but you can bake them in the oven too.
Featured in: Transform Any Meatball with This Japanese Technique —Nami – Just One Cookbook
Serves: 14 skewers
Prep time: 40 min
Cook time: 15 min
5-inch flat bamboo skewers
shiso or perilla leaves
pound ground chicken
tablespoon sesame oil (and more for coating your hands)
tablespoon miso (I use awase miso, which is a combination of red and white miso)
cup yakitori tare (recipe below)
shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice) (optional, for spicy taste)
Yakitori Sauce (Tare)
cup soy sauce
teaspoons brown sugar, packed
scallion, green part only
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Soak the bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.
- Pile and roll up the shiso leaves, then cut into thin julienne slices. Cut the scallion into thin slices.
- Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. When it’s hot, add ⅓ of ground chicken and break it up into small pieces using a wooden spatula. Cook until no longer pink and transfer to a plate to let it cool.
- Combine the cooked chicken and uncooked chicken in a large bowl and mix well with rubber spatula.
- Add sesame oil and miso and mix well.
- Add the scallions and shiso leaves and combine well with silicone spatula.
- Now with your hand, knead 30 times clockwise. Then knead counterclockwise 30 times. The meat will become more pale in color and sticky. This part is very important for the meat to stay on stick so please do not skip this step.
- Grease the grill rack with brush. I use a roasting pan and rack as it can support the skewers very well while the excess oil drips down to the bottom of roasting pan when cooking.
- Lightly coat your hands with sesame oil to prevent the meat from sticking. Scoop a handful of the chicken mixture (1 ½ scoop for my hand using an OXO cookie scoop) and form into a round patty.
- Toss the meat to left and right hands to release the air pockets and gently squeeze to form the meat into a long oval patty, about 3-4 inches in length. Insert the skewer on the prepared wire rack.
- Lightly sprinkle salt over the chicken skewers.
- Put aluminum foil around the skewers to prevent them from burning.
- Preheat the oven to High Broil (550F) for 5 minutes. Boil in the middle rack, for 6 minutes. Then flip the skewers over and broil more for 4 minutes.
- When both sides are cooked, brush the yakitori sauce on the meat and broil for another 30 seconds. Transfer the skewers to a serving plate and brush the extra sauce on the meat. Serve with shichimi togarashi.
Yakitori Sauce (Tare)
- In a small saucepan, add the soy sauce, mirin, sake, water, brown sugar, and the green part of 1 scallion, and bring it to a boil over high heat.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half. It will take about 30 minutes. The sauce will be thicker and glossy.
- Let it cool to room temperature before using.
Photo by Julia Gartland