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What is Yakiniku?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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Yakiniku originated in Korea and has become a primarily Japanese dish. Often referred to as Japanese barbecue outside of Japan, this style of cooking small pieces of meat and vegetables on a table grill is popular throughout Japan and in Japanese restaurants around the world. There are several sauces used for the meat, and this dish is common in not only restaurants, but also at parties and in homes.

While yakiniku is considered a Japanese dish, it is often referred to as Korean barbecue in Japan and Japanese barbecue in other parts of Asia. These table cooked dishes are believed to be inspired by the Korean dishes galbi and bulgogi, although yakiniku is typically not marinated as these dishes are. Restaurants specializing in yakiniku can be found throughout Japan.

Restaurants that specialize in this dish usually have a charcoal or gas grill, known as a shichirin, in the center of each table. Plates of raw meat and vegetables are brought to the table for guests to cook their own meal. Beef is the most common, and generally most popular, option for yakiniku. Pork, chicken, squid, and a variety of shellfish are also used in these grilled meat dishes.

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The meats are often thinly sliced and served in a family style fashion; guests at each table often share platters, taking turns cooking over the fire. It is also common for vegetables to be grilled with the beef, pork, chicken, squid, or shellfish. Large, thin slices of squash, eggplant, and red or yellow onion are popular. It is also common for whole mushrooms and large pieces of bell pepper to be included.

Meat served in this style is often basted with a sauce while grilling or dipped into a sauce right after the meat is cooked. Restaurants often provide each table with three to four different sauces for this purpose. A soy sauce based dip, a miso based dip, and a spicy garlic oil sauce are among the most common. As with Korean barbecue, most yakiniku sauces are very garlicky and strongly flavored with onion.

Outside of Japanese restaurants, many Japanese people serve yakiniku in their homes and at parties. The shichirin used to cook yakiniku can be purchased in most retail stores in Japan, and many dining tables used in Japanese homes have one built in. Common side dishes include white rice, salad, gyoza, and miso soup. It is a popular dish for large families and group gatherings; the interactive cooking process and variety of flavor combinations has made this grilled meat dish one of the most popular in Japan.

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