In much of the world, the most sought after, expensive part of the chicken is the chicken breast. In the United States, for example, a boneless, skinless chicken breast is generally held up as the perfect (or, at least, most popular) chicken meat to work with. In Japan, the most expensive part of the chicken is the chicken thigh, always sold in supermarkets boneless, skin intact.
A good chicken thigh, like a good steak, will have a bit of marbling in it. With this in mind, a fantastic way to appreciate the quality and flavor of the coveted thigh is as yakitori. Literally, “yakitori” simply means grilled chicken, but the most well known chicken thigh yakitori type is “negima.”
Negima comes as a skewering of alternating pieces of chicken thigh and Japanese, long green onion. Each piece of onion and chicken is bite sized. This marrying of tender, flavorful chicken and long green onion is grilled over charcoal, with the griller being sure to frequently rotate the skewers. Rotation ensures even cooking, but also assists with meaty juice redistribution. No one wants to see delicious chicken juices dripping to their death on the coals below.
Once the sticks are done, they are either salted or brushed with a sauce especially created for yakitori. The sauce is a little on the sweet side, so if you prefer to enjoy the chicken and onion flavors in their truest form, you may wish to order your negima with nothing more than that simple sprinkling of salt.
Negima is just one of a number of skewered chicken parts you can enjoy at a yakitori restaurant, with notable others including hearts, nankotsu (cartilage), and sunagimo(gizzard). The squeamish may be hesitant to wade in deeper than negima, but good things come to those who boldly stride forward into the unknown!
Looking to try negima in Tokyo?
Japan Gourmetpedia recommends using our sister site, Tokyo Dinner Ticket, to find the perfect restaurant.