Being a huge fan of Japanese Robatayaki (grilled food on skewers), Tsukune aka Grilled Japanese Chicken Meatballs are a must-order item on the menu. I’m picky when it comes to Tsukune and in my opinion, it is imperative a good amount of Nankotsu (chicken cartilage / soft bone) be added into the ground chicken. Found between the breastbones of the chicken, chicken cartilage adds a great flavor and crunch to the meatballs.
If you are lucky, you could find them at Japanese supermarkets occasionally. Alternatively, you could head down to your nearest butcher and ask for it. So far, I’ve not see them at any other supermarkets. Even if you do not include Nankotsu in your ground chicken, your chicken meatballs will still taste good.
I highly recommend you to grind your own meat. I don’t know about you but I’m always dubious of the parts that go into store-bought ground chicken. Grinding your own chicken meat allows you to choose what goes into your chicken meatballs and by using the right cut of meat (in this case chicken thighs), your chicken meatballs will remain moist and juicy.
Today, I’m using my newly acquired KitchenAid Mini fitted with their food grinder attachment. Don’t be fooled by the word “mini”. Even though it is 20% smaller and 25% lighter, this stunning beauty is just as powerful as the legendary 4.8L stand mixer. This versatile food grinder uses the power of the KitchenAid motor to assist with the grinding. Now, I can grind my own raw meat, as well as grating hard cheeses, render breadcrumbs in a flash.
4 pieces (approx. 200g) skin-on chicken thighs
9 pieces (approx. 90g) chicken cartilage (optional)
1 stalk spring onion – white part only, minced
1 dried Japanese mushroom – grate finely with a microplane grater
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp potato starch
¼ tsp salt
Dash of black pepper
1 tbsp mirin
2 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp sake
3 tbsp mirin
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce
Serves 2 – 3
Set a bowl under the attachment to collect the ground meat.
Cut the chicken thighs into quarters and feed into the grinder attachment. Add in chicken cartilage and spring onion. Alternatively you could use a large cleaver and chop them finely on a chopping board.
Season the ground chicken mixture with egg yolk, potato starch, sesame oil, salt and black pepper.
Grate one dried mushroom with a microplane grater and mix well.
Slightly wet the palm of your hands and shape the ground chicken into 1 ½ to 2 inch diameter balls. You should be able to make about 18 meatballs.
Set them in the fridge for about 30 mins to firm up.
Thaw them for 10 mins prior to cooking time.
Prepare the tare sauce by coming all the ingredients in a sauce pot.
Bring to boil and simmer for 10 mins or until the sauce thickens. It should be ready when the bubbles start to diminish. Prepare a pastry brush and set aside.
Heat a large pan with 1 – 2 tbsp oil and place the skewers onto pan. Cook each side for about 2 mins until slightly golden brown. Remove and set aside.
When they are slightly cooled, thread 2 – 3 meatballs on a bamboo skewer. Repeat with the rest.
Grill them skewers on a BBQ grill or griddle pan, brushing the tare sauce generously on both sides.
Cook for another 2 mins, or until they achieve a caramelized exterior.
Serve warm with squeeze of lemon and togarashi (Japanese chilli pepper).