Yakitori: Chicken Tail Need Not Be the Butt of the Joke

A tail-end taste sensation.

A tail-end taste sensation.

So many parts of the chicken get skewered and grilled up at yakitori restaurants that it’s hard to keep track. Of course there’s the negima (dark meat chicken with onion), white meat chicken (sasami), but also hearts, gizzards, skin, and, at the tail-end of our list, yes, the tail, known as “bonjiri” in Japanese.

First things first: The tail is not a euphemism for the butt. Now, near the butt-end of the tail is the, er, butt, but don’t you mind that. Back to the tail, this is a piece of the chicken that is extremely flavorful, not in small part owing to the fact that it is about 40% fat by weight. But the good news is that a large part of that fat melts away during the grilling and, at any rate, you are never to make a full meal out of the bonjiri. Generally they come about three or four to a skewer, and they either have a bit of thin, sweet sauce brushed on or they come out just salted. It’s usually left up to the customer to decide.

It is said that the heavy use the tail gets during the chicken’s life helps give it good flavor. There is a bone, but it is removed during processing. What you are left with is a very juicy bit of chicken that, when grilled up nicely, gets a bit of texture on the exterior while remaining soft on the inside. While still soft enough to easily chew through, the innermost part of the round nugget of tail has a bit more resiliency to it. What you get in the end is a juicy bite of chicken that has crispy, soft, and a little bit of spongy, all in one nice little package.

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Looking to try bonjiri in Tokyo?
Japan Gourmetpedia recommends using our sister site, Tokyo Dinner Ticket, to find the perfect restaurant.

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Bonjiri and other yakitori at restaurant Torinosuke Toritaro in Shinjuku


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