Camping Recipe – Super Simple Yakitori in Tare Sauce

Kirianna Poole has spent the last five years travelling Australia with her family, camping in a 1962 Volkswagen Kombi and creating camping recipes along the way. This is an excerpt from her new camping cookbook, The Slow Road Cookbook: Camp Cooking For Family Adventures. The following are Kirianna’s words.

I met Lockie in Auckland. He was a pilot at the airline I was a flight attendant for. We were inseparable, escaping on weekends at any opportunity. I’d found my wanderlust soul mate. As our relationship blossomed, he got the dream opportunity to move to Japan. We packed our home, said our goodbyes, and spent the next six years in Tokyo, full of vibrance, history, culture and tradition. 

I immersed myself in Japanese cuisine, exploring the streets of Tokyo while he went through training. Each day I set out to discover new flavours and experiences. Japanese culture insists on perfection, which extends to its food. Many Japanese chefs have spent their entire life perfecting a single cuisine
using recipes passed down through generations. 

There, we discovered yakitori (yaki – grilled and tori – chicken). In front of a little hole-in-the-wall vendor with an open grill smoking away, we’d line up for the garlic clove and chicken thigh, traditionally served with a tare (marinade) sauce or doused with shio (salt). The flavours from the white charcoal as the skewers are gently and continuously turned to develop a salty, smoky flavour with softly caramelised garlic. Ah, the nostalgia. 

As we travelled Australia, we craved this timelessly simple stick and decided to try it ourselves. We discovered yakitori is the perfect camping meal and can be cooked over a bed of coals, a hibachi grill, BBQ or a pan. Now I can bring the flavours of Japan around the campfire with a few simple ingredients and a large cold Asahi. Kanpai! 

The recipe below is the yakitori that we enjoy, but feel free to get adventurous here and add whatever vegetables or other meats you like. The method remains the same.

Don’t take our word for it – check out this video of Fire To Fork making just this recipe and see just how simple it is.

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Serves: 2-6

bamboo skewers
700g of free-range chicken thigh
2 large garlic bulbs
1 bunch of spring onion
tare sauce
½ cup of mirin
¼ cup of sake 
½ cup of soy sauce
½ cup water
½ cup of brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger

We like to use a hibachi grill, but you can repare a bed of coals and place a grate above it so you can cook over medium-high heat – hot enough that you can only hold your hand 10cm above the cooking surface for 3 to 5 seconds.. We love using Japanese binchotan charcoal, but this is not
a requirement.
While the coals are heating up, soak the bamboo skewers for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whip up a tare sauce. Combine the mirin, sake, soy sauce, water, brown sugar, garlic, and ginger in a saucepan or billy. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. 

Let it simmer for about 20 minutes until the sauce has reduced by half and is thick like sticky syrup. It should coat the back of a spoon without dripping straight off. Strain to remove the garlic and ginger, then pour it into a dipping bowl or jar.

While the sauce is simmering – slice the chicken into 2cm (1in) thick pieces. Peel the garlic, but keep the cloves whole. Cut the spring onion into 2cm lengths.

On half the sticks, thread on chicken, with a whole piece of garlic between each bit. On the other sticks, do the same, but use the spring onion pieces. Season with salt. 

Cook the skewers directly over the coals on your grate, turning frequently for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked. The smoke slowly infuses the skewers and reduces the burn by continuous turns. If you want a more smoky flavour, fan the coals with a piece of cardboard or your hat.

Once cooked, dip each skewer in tare sauce and place them back on the grill for a minute, turning quickly. Repeat 2 or 3 times to caramelise the sauce and shape its beautiful flavour.

Just like on the streets of Japan, eat them straight off the stick with big handles of beer.

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