Robata Grilling: Simple but Sublime

continued (page 2 of 2)


Serves 4

4 chicken legs and thighs, deboned but still attached, with skin on
Japanese sea salt (or medium-coarse sea salt)
Tare (see recipe below)
Sake in a spray bottle
8 long metal skewers (14 to 18 inches)
10 pieces binchotan charcoal
14 pieces sumi charcoal (natural charcoal shaped like blocks)

Prepare chicken
Lay the chicken flat on a cutting board, skin side down, thigh side on top. Thread two skewers through each piece chicken, making an “X.” Stretch the chicken as much as possible. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare the robata grill
Important: Always grill outdoors, as binchotan gives off dangerous carbon monoxide, like all charcoal.

Ready a base for the robata: Find a piece of flat ground or use a sand-filled platform. Or simply fill an inexpensive barbecue grill with sand (metal grill removed).

Light the binchotan. This charcoal must be lit separately, then arranged into a robata pyramid once it’s fiery and ash-covered. Korin Trading provides online instructions for lighting binchotan.

Arrange the sumi charcoal blocks into a 12-inch-tall interior foundation that will support the binchotan. Make sure the blocks are compact and tight, so they don’t burn too hot or too fast. Do not light the foundation.

When the binchotan is lit and ready, carefully transfer the coals one by one to the robata with tongs. Carefully arrange the binchotan sticks vertically into a pyramid shape around the sumi charcoal foundation. There can be gaps of up to one inch between the binchotan. The binchotan will naturally ignite the sumi. When the binchotan is coated with downy white ash and the sumi charcoal inside the pyramid is glowing orange, the robata is ready for grilling.

Grill the chicken
Keep in mind that as you grill, you can angle the skewers towards or away from the fire to adjust heat.

Lightly spray chicken with sake. If preparing with salt, lightly sprinkle chicken with salt.

Arrange chicken skewers so they stand upright in a semicircle, about four inches from the pyramid, skin side facing the fire. Rotate chicken about a quarter-turn every five minutes. Remove from fire after 30 minutes; if making the tare chicken, lightly brush with tare at this point.

Remove skewers and cut chicken into six lengthwise pieces. Serve immediately.

(Binchotan, sumi charcoal, and skewers are available online at Korin Trading.)

Yakitori Tare

Makes approximately 1 cup

1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped
2-inch piece of ginger, skin on, roughly sliced
1/2 head of garlic, smashed
3/4 cup sake
3/4 cup mirin
1 1/2 cup Japanese soy sauce
1/2 lb sugar
1 lb chicken bones (carcass, wings, leg and thigh)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and then roast the chicken bones for 30 minutes.

Remove bones and place in a stock pot with the rest of the ingredients; bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to very low and simmer for 3 hours.

When the pot returns to room temperature, strain the liquid and discard the other ingredients. Cool the liquid in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to use, remove the layer of fat that has accumulated on the surface. Bring to room temperature and serve.

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