Yakitori: The White Meat of White Meat

Sasami is white meat chicken, shown here as yakitori.

Sasami is white meat chicken, shown here as yakitori.

Sasami is simple chicken breast, generally boneless and skinless. This presents a panacea for some, and a problem for others. Being a lean meat, it does come with the health benefits associated with lowered animal fats in your diet. Yet as lovely as that sounds, the dearth of fat can rob the chicken of much of its flavor, and makes for a very dry, mealy meat if not cooked properly. In this, lies the challenge. Luckily, many chefs are able to not only accept the challenge, but do very well with it!

Many renditions of sasami have it fried, topped with a sauce, or both. A popular example of this is Chicken Nanban, which is indeed fried and then topped with a tartar sauce. For many people, however, frying defeats the purpose of eating a lean meat. For them, there is the steamed chicken breast topped with a sesame seed dressing, all on a salad. This is nominally a Chinese dish, but one that has been adapted for Japanese tastes.

In addition to frying and steaming, there are a couple of other ways you may find high quality sasami when dining at yakitori restaurants. “Yakitori” meaning “grilled chicken,” you can naturally expect to find sasami fingers grilled up on sticks. These sticks may have a light sauce on them, or accented with sesame seeds, green onions, or other tastes. Less of a cooking challenge and more of an eating challenge for some, another popular way sasami appears at yakitori restaurants is as sashimi. Sliced thin and as raw as the day it was born, sasami sashimi should be fresh tasting and much more tender than chewy. Another option is “tataki,” where the sasami is given a quick searing, but the middle is still saw. Raw and tataki variations go well with soy sauce, ponzu sauce, ginger, green onion, or white onion slivers. Japanese are all aware that foreigners can be a little skittish about eating raw chicken, so you shouldn’t worry about it just showing up at your table unannounced.

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


Sasami and other yakitori at restaurant Saitado in Takadanobaba

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