In the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, behind the central train station (the busiest in the world), you’ll find a long, narrow alleyway—appropriately dubbed Yakitori Alley—that is lined with dozens of tiny bars and stands billowing savory smoke into the air. Humble grill masters expertly char skewered food of all shapes and sizes: plump meatballs, tiny cherry tomatoes, even pure chicken skin that crisps up like potato chips. Though we never had this exact kebab there, the flavors are true to the spirit of Yakitori Alley; we hope the grill masters there would approve.
NUTRITION: 290 calories, 10 g fat (3 g saturated), 870 mg sodium
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp dark or toasted sesame oil
1 tsp chili sauce or paste, such as sriracha
1 lb sirloin, cut into 3⁄4″ pieces
8 scallion whites, chopped into 1⁄2″ chunks
20 small mushroom caps
20 cherry tomatoes
8 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 20 minutes
HOW TO MAKE IT
- Preheat a grill.
- Combine the hoisin, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili sauce in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Transfer half to a separate bowl and reserve.
- Thread the beef, scallion whites, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes onto the skewers, alternating between the meat and vegetables.
- Use a brush to paint the skewers with some of the remaining hoisin glaze.
- When the grill is hot, add the skewers and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, basting with a bit more of the sauce as you go.
- The skewers are done when the meat and vegetables are lightly charred and the beef is firm but still yielding to the touch.
- Brush the kebabs with the reserved glaze before serving.
Eat This Tip
Making a killer sauce for the grill on the fly is easier than most people think. Start with a base with a well-rounded flavor: ketchup, Dijon, and hoisin all work. Then mix in other liquids or condiments that add strong single flavor notes: honey for sweetness, vinegar for acid, soy sauce for salt, sriracha for heat. Finally, turn to the spice cabinet to bring it all together. Chili powder, garlic and onion salt, cumin, brown sugar, mustard powder, and cayenne are all common elements of barbecue sauces and all could be the finishing touch for your next grilled masterpiece.