Tuna & Sweetcorn Yakitori

  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Serves: 2
  • Level: easy

Yakitori specifically refers to skewers of grilled or barbecued chicken, usually served with a dipping sauce, such as yakitori or teriyaki. Yakiniku refers to barbecued meat in general and in particular, the special Japanese restaurants where raw meat is brought to the table and cooked on a grill built into the table. The term koshiyaki is used for skewers of other kinds of meat, including fish and seafood. Therefore the correct term for my little skewers of grilled fish should be koshiyaki. However, it would appear that yakitori is also becoming synonymous with little skewers of any kind of barbecued food, such as one might find grilling in the cramped and smoky yakitori-ya shops of Japan, or nestled in neat rows on top of the increasing popular specialist yakitori barbecue grills for the home. Either way… here’s my Tuna & Sweetcorn Yakitori!

Japanese style barbecued skewers of tuna and babycorn with ponzu sauce

What you need

For the Tuna & Sweetcorn Yakitori:

250g fresh tuna

4 baby corns

4 baby leeks

1 lemon

Wooden skewers

Ponzu dipping sauce:

1 tsp caster sugar

2 tbs mirin

2 tbs dark soy sauce

1 tsp lime juice

1 tsp lemon juice

Dad's Recipe Tales

Cooking at the table

The idea of cooking at the table is very popular in Japan and something that always appealed to our mother. For a person so energised by social gatherings, what could be better than entertaining family and guests whilst cooking at the table! Her most famous exposition of this was fondue. Mother was a fan of fondue long before it became the rage in the the 70’s and long after abandoned fondue sets retired to fondue heaven in the 80’s. It was never really about the food – or even eating a balanced meal – it was much more about the fun, the rituals, and those silly forfeits for dropping your bread in the cheese…

As an adolescent, fondues could be quite evocative; the heady whiffs of kirsch, wine, garlic and meth fumes lingered in the imagination – like a boy scout intruding on a fancy adult campfire. Mother did not just settle for cheese fondue, but also a version with meats and vegetables cooked in oil. However, for this we had to bring out our big American electric fryer: a large deep pan with integral heating elements to heat the oil. The jeopardy of the campfire was far more evident here, as hot oil would smoke, spit, and splutter around precariously balanced fondue forks.

An electric fryer full of hot oil in the middle of a dining table, despite the novelty, can never be a good idea, not least because of difficulties with the cables routed over tabletops and across the floor (later, an electrician fitted a power socket under the table and drilled a hole in the middle of the table to accommodate the cable to the fryer). However, the main purpose of the fryer was not fondue, but to cook sukiyaki, a much safer Japanese ‘hot pot’ meal cooked at the table and based on simmered meat and vegetables. The same ‘hot pot’ set-up is used for shabu shabu, similar to some fondues, where individual pieces of food are cooked in a poaching liquid. No doubt our mother’s recipes were very flexible – the results may well have been a blending of sukiyaki, shabu shabu or even actual ‘hot pot’, popular in Far Eastern and particularly Korean cooking.

Indeed, there is no reason why our fryer could not double as a ‘teppan’ – the hot iron griddle built into tables for teppanyaki style cooking. However, I am sure our mother would have been perfectly happy deferring to the professionals at teppanyaki restaurants. Apart from the delight of communal cooking, she would have been enthralled by the chef’s showmanship – the tricks, flicks, and jokes being an an essential part of the teppanyaki experience.

It is tempting to imagine small yakitori-style barbecue grills placed in the centre of an indoor dining room table; but as for ‘teppan’, it is probably best leaving such ideas to the specialist establishments. The yakitori-style barbecue grills and stoves are known as hibachis in North America – our family had several. Although we never brought the hibachis indoors, the family could still huddle around the  charcoal-fuelled stove on an outdoor patio. The barbecue may be outside but it had all the conviviality of cooking at the table.

How Dad Cooked It

  1. Preheat the grill to max – or set-up a barbecue. Soak the skewers in water.
  2. Squeeze the lemon over the salmon.
  3. Make the ponzu sauce. Bring the mirin, soy and sugar to a boil and take off the heat, when cooled add the citrus juices – add more to taste.
  4. Par boil the corn for 3-4 minutes. Simmer the leeks for about 2 minutes.
  5. Cut the corn into even pieces, then cut the tuna and the leeks to similar sizes.
  6. Push the ingredients in alternating manner on medium size skewers.
  7. Drizzle the skewers with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Cook under grill, or over barbecue until evenly browned and cooked through.
  9. Serve with ponzu sauce. These Tuna & Sweetcorn Yakitori are great as appetisers or part of a Japanese style meal with rice or noodles, green vegetables and salad.


For mor Tuna & Sweetcorn recipes check out: Tuna & Sweetcorn Pizza in a Pan or Tuna & Sweetcorn Enchilada.

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