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Yardbird 's Chicken Meatball Yakitori

Yardbird 's Chicken Meatball Yakitori

Recipe provided courtesy of Matt Abergel, chef/owner of Yardbird in Hong Kong.

For best results, use the metric measurements provided.

RELATED: See more of Yardbird's culinary creations in Episode 4: Hong Kong.

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For the chicken meatballs:


  • 1.5 kg (approximately 3 1/3 lb) chicken wing drumstick meat
  • 350 g (approximately 12 1/3 oz) soft chicken breastbone
  • 15 g (approximately 1/20 oz) sea salt
  • 300 g (approximately 10 1/2 oz) white onion (finely chopped and squeezed dry) 
  • 1 g (approximately 1/20 oz) black pepper
  • 120 g (approximately 4 1/2 oz) fresh panko breadcrumbs 


  1. Carefully remove the meat from the drumstick portion of a chicken wing (including skin and small bits of cartilage but not bone). Place the meat on a tray and freeze for 20-30 minutes, along with the mechanisms of a meat grinder.
  2. You can ask your butcher in advance for the soft breastbone cartilage found in between the breast of a chicken (it takes quite a few chickens to reach a substantial amount of meat so preparing in advance is key). Dice the soft breastbone as small as you can. 
  3. Remove the drumstick meat from the freezer and immediately grind. Put the drumstick meat back through the grinder again. Vigorously mix in the soft breastbone and sea salt by hand until the mixture becomes dense. Add thoroughly washed and squeezed dried white onions, panko breadcrumbs, and pepper. 
  4. Portion the meatball mixture into 50 gm mini-footballs, stick a 6 inch bamboo skewer inside each ball, and keep chilled.
  5. The grill at Yardbird uses two metal bars that suspend our yakitori skewers over Japanese binchotan charcoal – this ensures that the meat never actually touches the grill. The meatball skewers, like all of our skewers, are sprayed with sake and then slowly grilled. Once a meatball is almost cooked (takes 3-5 minutes of constant turning) it is repeatedly dipped into tare sauce (recipe below) until the meat is cooked all the way through and the outside has a dark and shiny brown glaze.
  6. Each meatball skewer is served with a tare and egg yolk dipping sauce. To make this sauce, we dilute the original tare sauce by 50% with room temperature water, drop in separated egg yolks (one per skewer), and let this sit for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Despite being soaked in tare sauce, the eggs are still essentially raw so it’s very important to buy the highest quality eggs that you can find. After 2 hours, place a semi cured egg yolk into a small bowl and add 1-2 tablespoons of tare sauce. We encourage our guests to mix the egg yolk vigorously in the tare sauce and dip the meatball inside.

For the tare sauce:


  • 900 ml (approximately 30 1/2 fl oz) sake (flame off) 
  • 750 ml (approximately 25 1/3 fl oz) mirin (flame off) 
  • 500 ml (approximately 17 fl oz) Yamasa soy sauce 
  • 500 g (approximately 17 2/3 oz) zarame sugar 
  • 250 g (approximately 8 2/3 oz) Tokyo onion tops 
  • 100 g (approximately 3 1/2 oz) ginger
  • 1 kg (approximately 2 1/5 lb chicken bones 
  • 300 ml (approximately 10 fl oz) tamari soy 


  1. Burn the alcohol from both the sake and the mirin (be careful as this will flame up pretty high). Preheat the broiler and, using the Tokyo onion tops and ginger as a bed for the chicken bones, splash everything with sake and broil the chicken bones until they are dark golden brown and the onions are thoroughly wilted. Drain any fat that is left over and set aside.
  2. Heat the sake and mirin at a low temperature, add zarame sugar (a dark, granulated coffee sugar can be used instead), and mix until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the chicken bones, ginger, and onion. Continue to cook at a low temperature and after 10 minutes, add the regular soy sauce and tamari soy sauce. Cook on the lowest simmer for about 1.5 hours. Be careful not to boil rapidly as the soy sauce will burn, which will lead to a bitter sauce. Be sure to skim off any fat, strain well, and reserve. This tare sauce is a staple in the Yardbird kitchen and is used in many different dishes. When refrigerated, it keeps very well. 

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