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Shio or Tare: The Million Dollar Question

When you order yakitori in Japan you will invariably be given the option of Shio [salt] or Tare [sauce]. This refers to how the skewers are cooked and finished.

Shio-yaki skewers are salted throughout cooking whilst tare skewers are grilled without seasoning and then for the last 20% of cooking, dipped and basted in yakitori sauce.

Although the shio/tare decision is down to personal preference, choosing what is right for each type of skewer is a contested issue and has been at the centre of many an argument;  family feuds, divorces, battling politicians, the crumbling of empires. …well maybe I’m getting a little carried away but for Yak lovers its serious.

Purists will inevitably side with shio, explaining that it is a cleaner taste, allowing the natural flavours to shine through, the ‘tare heads’ believe that the sauce enhances the flavour by combining with the meat juices, aiding caramelisation.

Here at Bincho we are happy to cook either way on request but have found in London that this decision can confuse. Not wanting to put anyone on the spot and to stop any potential aggro we serve skewers how we see fit and balance some shio and some tare. Salt can sound boring to westerners so let us enlighten you to its importance.

Basically in Bincho salt is split between the salt we cook with and the salt we finish with.

When grilling chicken and meat skewers a careful even spray before they hit the grill will suffice, fish gets a little more complicated.

In Japanese cooking, almost without exception, fish is salted before grilling, mainly to extract moisture but also to remove any persistent odour from oily fish.

We use the must popular technique – Furi-jio; a light hand sprinkling 40 minutes prior to cooking and then a ‘cosmetic’ rubbing over the fins, gills and tails during cooking to prevent burning. For cooking purposes we side with a ground blend of Japanese sea salt, the classic French ‘fleur de sel’ and regular table salt.

Finishing salt is the salt served either on the side or sprinkled over the finished dish and eaten to taste with a lemon wedge and a touch of soy.

For the base of finishing salt we favour Maldon salt flakes. These finishing salts are then subtly  flavoured with a number of different items to suit needs; curry salt, sesame salt , yuzu salt, lemon salt, seaweed salt, I could go on…, we regularly have up to 8 different salts on the go depending on what specials we have on. 

So for us salt is a pretty serious business and as for the million dollar [pound/yen] question, is there an answer?

 No of course not… just don’t ask any of our chefs!

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