8 Tips for Enjoying Yakiniku in Japan

8 Tips for Enjoying Yakiniku in Japan

In Japan, we call grilled meat, “yakiniku.” It’s a Japanese style barbecue. Contrary to Western style barbecue, we cook and eat yakiniku inside house or at restaurants. We cook bite-sized meat and vegetables on a grill placed over the direct flame of sumibi (charcoals) or gas. If you like barbecue, you must try yakiniku when you come visit Japan. You will find yakiniku restaurants all over the country. In this article, I will explain what to do in a yakiniku restaurant for those who never tried before. For those who have already had meals in yakiniku restaurants, I will show you some tips given by Japanese yakiniku experts who know the best way to eat yakiniku.



 

8 Tips for Enjoying Yakiniku in Japan

 

1. Cook your own meat

In most barbecue, we cook meat by ourselves over the grill. If you go to a yakiniku restaurant, you will also cook your own meat. It might seem strange to go to restaurant and cook your own food, but it’s one of an enjoyable aspect of eating yakiniku. The advantage of cooking your own meat is that you can eat it right after it has been cooked before it gets cold.

After you order meat and vegetables, a waiter will prepare the grill in the middle of table. Because waiters will take care of the grill, you have nothing to worry if you have never done barbecue by yourself. They will adjust the heat and change the grill if necessary. All you have to do is to place meat and vegetable on the grill and turn the food to cook both side. When the meat and vegetables are well-cooked, you can eat them with special sauce called “tare”, which will be served with meat.

 

2. Ordering meat

In yakiniku restaurant, you have various types of meat to choose from. You might see types of meat that you have never tried before. For beginners, I recommend you to order common and familiar types of meat, such as “rosu” (slices of beef), “karubi” (beef short ribs without bones), “harami” (tender beef meat around the diaphragm), “butabara” (pork belly) or “tontoro” (fatty pork meat around the cheek and the neck). For those who are adventurous, you can try “tan” (beef tongue), “horumon” (pork offal) or “reba” (beef liver).

 

3. Cook the meat quickly with strong heat

Japanese yakiniku experts recommend you to heat up the meat quickly using strong heat. Since Japanese yakiniku meat is sliced thin, it will be cooked in a short period of time if you cook in a high temperature. Be aware not to leave it too long on the grill; you will burn the meat.

 

4. Grill one or two slices of meat at a time

After a plate full of slices of meat arrives at your table, you might want to start cooking all of them right away. Yakiniku experts, however, recommend you to cook one or two slices per person at a time. If you cook all of them together, you might leave the meat too long on the grill and burn it. Even if you take it out from the heat when it’s cooked, it will get slightly cold at the time it goes into your mouth. Thus cook few slices at a time and eat right after they are well-cooked. In some restaurants, they serve you a bowl of rice towards the end of the meal. That’s another reason for not cooking all the slices right away. You will have some meat left to eat with your rice.

 

5. Don’t flip the meat over and over

When you cook a slice of meat, you cook one side first and flip it over to cook the other side. Some impatient people flip the meat way too early, so they need to flip several times to cook it well on both sides. Yakiniku experts say that flipping the meat over and over again can make it dry and less tasty. They recommend you to cook one side first. When some juice appears on the surface of the meat, flip it over to cook the other side. Once you master when to flip over, you would truly enjoy yakiniku. You can also ask the waiter to help you if you don’t know how long you should cook the type of meat you have ordered.

 

6. Which types of meat to cook first

There is no absolute rules concerning which types of meat to cook first. Yet yakiniku experts recommend you to start cooking from the meat which has less strong taste. Harami, karubi, tan would be the first one to cook. It’s preferable to leave the slices of meat seasoned with tare for the last.

 

7. Order vegetables

In most yakiniku restaurants, you can order some vegetables to cook with meat. The common vegetables are bell pepper, carrots, shiitake and other mushrooms, onions, cabbage, eggplant, bean sprout (moyashi), garlic and kabocha squash. Recently many women enjoy ordering Korean lettuce, called Sanchu. They would roll the meat inside the fresh lettuce and eat. This way they can have yakiniku without feeling guilty of eating meat, because they are also eating some healthy vegetables.

 

8. Choose the finishing dish

In Japan, it is a custom to order the “shime,” which means the finishing dish. We usually order some rice or noodles as a finishing dish. It will help removing the strong taste of meat at the end of the meal. Some people order Korean rice bowl, called bibimbap. If you are already full at the end of the meal, you can also order some simple soup.

 

Conclusion

Yakiniku is a Japanese barbecue, which is quite different from Western style barbecue. If you are in Japan, it would be a memorable experience to go to yakiniku restaurants, now that you know what to do in this type of restaurants. I hope you enjoy every aspects of this Japanese cuisine, starting from yakiniku!

 

8 Tips for Enjoying Yakiniku in Japan

1. Cook your own meat
2. Ordering meat
3. Cook the meat quickly with strong heat
4. Grill one or two slices of meat at a time
5. Don’t flip the meat over and over
6. Which types of meat to cook first
7. Order vegetables
8. Choose the finishing dish