The Unusual Suspects, Part 2: Hearts and Minds
Part 2 of the ‘off menu’ items and we kick off with something that graces the menu of every yakitori joint in Japan.
Sasami - Chicken fillet strip
This small little fillet underneath the breast is often overlooked, rightly so because unless you give it some serious tender loving care it can be extremely dry and tasteless. We slice the strips horizontally and lay a strip of shiso on them before rolling them up and skewering them.
Grilled ‘medium rare’ with salt and finished with a little minced Umeboshi this is a classic in izakayas all over Japan and some would say the perfect match with a glass of chilled sake.
Hatsu – Hearts
Hearts were made for the grill; a thin membrane of fat protects and moisturises during the short cooking.
The flavour is milder that some of the other innards, kind of ‘entry level’ offal .
Served simply with a wedge of lemon and some sesame salt these are extremely addictive.
Seseri – Chicken neck
Now were getting serious and down to a personal favourite. If you're more a ‘leg’ than a ‘breast’ person these are definitely up your street.
The preparation however is nothing short of torture involving slowly removing four thin strips of meat from each neck with a sashimi knife.
It takes 7 necks to make one skewer and has broken many a prep chef.
At Bincho this is usually reserved to those quiet Sunday afternoons, Hendrix on the kitchen sound system and a chilled Asahi on the shelf.
The flavour of the necks in my opinion is the best of the whole bird.
Nankotsu Kara age – Deep fried Cartilage
Not a grilled item but definitely worth a mention – this is the small piece of cartilage between the thigh joints, many refer to it as chicken's knee.
These are marinated for a few minutes, dusted in Japanese potato starch then deep fried and served with yuzu salt. Because of their nature we only have a few portions of these each night and usually offer them at the beginning of the meal.
Tori harami - Belly
Do chickens have bellys? Of course they do and the chances are that if you’ve ever de-boned a chicken you will have thrown these in the stockpot with the rest of the carcass.
Flavour wise you haven’t missed too much - . more of a textural thing and again extremely popular with the Japanese.
Lots more bite to write about, we haven’t even started on the gizzard, trachea or oviduct, as for the minds…