Tender pieces of frying steak cooked in a quick, yet delicious Japanese BBQ style "yakiniku" sauce served over fluffy white rice. This yakiniku beef bowl is packed with flavour and only takes 10 minutes!
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What Is Yakiniku?
Yakiniku (焼き肉) is a popular style of grilled meat, similar to Korean BBQ. In Japanese, the term "yaki" (焼き) means "to grill" and "niku" (肉) means meat. Despite the simple name, there's more to yakiniku than simply throwing meat on a BBQ.
Yakiniku usually consists of bitesize pieces of meat (most commonly beef but also chicken or pork), offal (known as horumon) and vegetables cooked on a gridiron over a charcoal, gas or electric grill.
It might seem to defeat the purpose of eating at a restaurant, but yakiniku restaurants usually bring out raw ingredients that you cook by yourself using a grill in the centre of the table. It's fun and you can enjoy the food at your own pace.
Once the ingredients are cooked, they are then dipped in a delicious sauce and enjoyed with some side dishes and a beer!
To be honest, the thing that makes yakiniku special is the sauce, known in Japanese as "yakiniku tare" (焼き肉たれ). Yakiniku tare is usually tangy, sweet, savory, fruity and complex, you truly can't enjoy yakiniku without a good yakiniku sauce!
The typical yakiniku sauce usually contains things such as:
- Soy sauce
- Sugar or honey
- Fruit juice or pulp
- Chilis / Chili paste (gochujang or similar)
There are lots of different types of yakiniku sauce and each restaurant / brand has their own specialty sauce that uses a tonne of different ingredients. It can be pretty hard to replicate, especially if you only want to make a small batch!
You can actually buy popular Japanese restaurant's premade yakiniku sauce on Amazon such as Jojoen yakiniku sauce or Gyukaku yakiniku sauce. There's also a popular brand called "Ebara" that sell spicy/fruity or hot yakiniku sauces.
But sometimes I just want to recreate the delicious taste of yakiniku without too much fuss! That's why I made this quick and easy recipe with a simplified yakiniku sauce.
What kind of meat to use for yakiniku?
Yakiniku always uses thinly cut, bitesize pieces of meat so that they cook quickly. By cutting them thin, even cheaper cuts won't feel too chewy too.
While there's no rule, the most common type of yakiniku is beef and the generalized most popular cuts are:
- Kalbi (カルビ) short rib
- Harami (ハラミ) skirt steak
- Rosu (ロース) loin
- Tan (たん) tongue
You could really use any kind of beef, as long as it's cut thin. Use what is available to you! And if you don't eat beef, you can use pork or chicken instead. I recommend fatty cuts (like pork belly or chicken thigh) to make it extra tasty and juicy!
How to cut yakiniku meat
It can be difficult to find suitable meat for yakiniku outside of Asia, but don't fear because it's not so hard to cut it yourself!
All you need is a block of your chosen beef, a sharp knife and a freezer.
Simply wrap up the block of meat and firm it up in the freezer. You want it to be hard enough that it holds its shape, but soft enough to cut through, so don't freeze completely! I'd say 20-30 minutes per ½ lb (approx 225g) of meat is a good amount of time, but it depends on your freezer and climate so keep checking it.
Once it's firm and cold, cut the slices to your preferred thickness and they're ready to use!
So what is yakiniku don?
When it comes to yakiniku don, it's simple.
Yakiniku donburi (also known as yakinikudon / yakiniku beef bowl) is a dish where the BBQ style grilled meats (yakiniku) are served on top of a bowl of Japanese white rice rice (donburi).
Donburi is pretty much like fast food to Japanese people. Japanese white rice is served in a bowl and topped with something quick to make and delicious. I have a tonne of donburi recipes if you're interested, check out my top donburi recipes for some more ideas!
Because donburi is usually considered to be a quick and easy, fast-food type of dish, they're often lacking vegetables. However, that doesn't mean you can't add them and make it more nutritious and interesting! Here are a few ideas:
- Green onion (spring onion or scallions)
- Bell peppers (or piman)
- Mushrooms (sliced)
- Egg yolk / soft boiled egg
I recommend using vegetables that cook fast or can still be eaten a bit raw, just to keep it quick.
In the end, yakiniku don is highly customizable so feel free to get creative!
In the broadest possible sense, yakiniku is simply "grilled meat".
There are too many kinds of yakiniku sauce, but most of them contain soy sauce, sugar, mirin, sake, garlic, fruit juice/pulp and sesame seeds. There are some spicy kinds too.
In general, yakiniku beef is simply bitesize pieces of beef cut thin so that they cook fast and stay tender. The most popular cuts for yakiniku are short rib, loin, skirt and "tan" (beef tongue).
Eating yakiniku is usually a group activity, but in recent times, "1 person yakiniku" (一人焼き肉) has grown in popularity. There are even specialized restaurants for lone eaters.