An Introduction to Japanese ‘Yaki’ Food
Definitely not yucky.
Nomad team, Nomad Team
Mar 24 · 6 min read
You don’t have to be a fan of Japanese food to have heard of food names with the term ‘yaki’ in it. From teriyaki, teppanyaki, takoyaki, to dorayaki — what exactly does ‘yaki’ mean, and what are some of these ‘yaki’ food that we should try while in Japan?
‘Yaki’ literally means "cooked over direct heat", and includes cooking methods like grilling, pan-frying, or boiling. If you are in a Japanese restaurant, you will be able to identify the ‘yaki’ items in the menu by identifying the words ‘焼き’.
Below is a list of 5 different ‘yaki' food that you should try in Japan, and some places in Tokyo that you could try them!
- Yakiniku (焼き肉)
Niku means meat in Japanese, and Yakiniku refers to grilled or barbecued meat. Yakiniku consists of grilling bite-sized pieces of meat, usually beef, pork, or chicken, on a tabletop charcoal or gas grill. It is often served with various dipping sauces and condiments, and eaten with rice and/or vegetables. While it is said that yakiniku originated from Korean barbecue, there are some slight differences between yakiniku and Korean barbecue today — whole slabs of pork belly is more often used in Korean barbecue, while thinly-sliced or cubed beef is more frequently seen in yakiniku.
With two branches located in Shinjuku, Rokkasen is one of the most popular yakiniku restaurants in Tokyo. Rokkasen offers an all-you-can-eat menu for 90 minutes (from 9,075JPY UP), and you can also choose to have Shabu-shabu or Sukiyaki alongside the barbecue. Rokkasen is on the pricier end, so for those who have a smaller appetite, you can consider going for their a-la-carte options instead.
Sun flower building F6・F7, 1-3-1, Nishishinjuku, Shinjiku-ku, Tokyo
Nishishinjuku K-2 building FB1, 7-2-6, Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
🕤 Opening Hours: 11am - 11pm daily, last order at 10.30pm
📍 Shinjuku Ryuen
Only opened for dinner, Ryuen is known for its good quality meats and large portions, while at a more affordable price point compared to other similar options. Apart from the meat cuts, the Kimchi Cheese Pancake is also a specialty of the restaurant.
🗺️ Address: 2 Chome-20-6 Kabukicho, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0021, Japan
🔗 Reservation: https://www.google.com/maps/reserve/v/dine/c/FpBnd7MPY9Q
🕤 Opening Hours: 4.30pm - 11pm from Monday - Friday, 4pm - 10pm on Saturday, closed on Sundays.
📍 Yakiniku Like
While barbecue is often something you eat in a group setting, Yakiniku Like takes a different approach to it and serves individual portions, allowing solo diners to still be able to have a yakiniku meal. Yakiniku Like is a chain restaurant with multiple locations across Tokyo, and they are known for their very low prices.
- Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)
A popular street food in Japan, Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake that typically contains a variety of ingredients such as shredded cabbage, meat, seafood, green onion, and other vegetables mixed with a batter made of flour, eggs, and water or dashi (Japanese stock). The pancake is cooked on a griddle or hot plate and topped with various condiments, such as okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and aonori (dried seaweed flakes). While Hiroshima and Osaka are the most famous for Okonomiyaki, there are places in Tokyo serving out good Okonomiyaki too!
📍Hiroshima Okonomiyaki Okotaro
Okotaro is a shop that specialises in Hiroshima-styled Okonomiyaki with noodles. There are only counter seats in the store, so you will be able to watch the entire process of the preparation of the Okonomiyaki.
🗺️ Address: 3-31-8 Kameari, Katsushika Ward , Tokyo
🕤 Opening Hours: 5pm - 11pm (last order at 10pm); closed on Tuesdays
Originating from Hiroshima, Oknomiyaki Carp has a branch located at Chiyoda city in Tokyo. Their most popular menu item is the Zenbu-ri, which has shrimps and squid with either soba or udon.
🗺️ Address: 3 Chome-5 Kanda Kajicho, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0045, Japan
🕤 Opening Hours: 11am - 1.30pm, 4-8.30pm from Tuesdays - Saturday; closed Sunday - Monday.
Sometaro is a renowned restaurant in Asakusa that specializes in both okonomiyaki and monjayaki. At Sometaro, diners are given ingredients and they get to have a go at cooking their own meal.
🗺️ Address: 2 Chome-2-2 Nishiasakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0035, Japan
🕤 Opening Hours: 12pm - 2.45pm, 5.30pm - 8.15pm from Thursday - Monday; closed Tuesday - Wednesday
- Yakitori (焼き鳥)
Literally meaning ‘grilled bird’, yakitori refers to the Japanese dish of grilled skewered chicken. Apart from the chicken meat, yakitori can also include other chicken parts such as liver, heart, or skin. The skewers are usually seasoned with salt or a sweet soy-based sauce called tare, and sometimes flavored with spices such as black pepper or shichimi (Japanese seven spice). Yakitori is often served as an appetizer or snack in izakayas (Japanese-style pubs). Omakase restaurants specialising yakitori is also very popular in Japan.
Torishiki is small, sleek joint near Meguro Station which serves some of the best yakitori in the world. Torishiki is a Omakase-style restaurant and there are no menus. There are only 12 seats, and reservations are often booked out. The reservation window opens on the first business day of each month, for the period two months later (e.g. reservations for February are opened on first business day of December). Reservations are currently accepted via phone.
🗺️ Address: 2 Chome-14-12 Kamiosaki, Shinagawa City, Tokyo 141-0021, Japan
🕤 Opening Hours: 5pm - 11pm (last entry at 9pm); closed on Sunday and Monday
📞 Reservations: 03-3440-7656
The yakitori at Makitori Shinkobe is grilled using wood fire, and the scent of firewood adds fragrance to the grilled chicken. Makitori Shinkobe is a very small joint with only 7 counter seats, and dining is entirely reservation-only. The meals are served Omakase-style, so there is no menu to choose from.
🗺️ Address: 1 Chome-10-16 Mita, Minato City, Tokyo 108-0073, Japan
🔗 Reservations: https://omakase.in/en/r/ad334918
The chef at Torisawa trained at the famous Torishiki in Meguro, and while his restaurant doesn’t have the same level of demand, the food is also of high quality. At Torisawa, you can order individual skewers, or choose the Omakase set-course. For the Omakase set-course, the chef will serve skewers one after another, until you signal to them to stop.
🗺️ Address: 2 Chome−24−13 君の家, Kameido, Koto City, Tokyo 136-0071
🕤 Opening Hours: 5.30pm - 11pm on Monday - Thursday; 5.30pm - 11.30pm on Friday, 5pm - 11pm on Saturday; closed on Sundays
🔗 Reservations: https://www.byfood.com/restaurant/torisawa-362
- Taiyaki (鯛焼き)
Taiyaki is a fish-shaped pastry that is made of a pancake-like batter, typically filled with sweet red bean paste or other fillings such as custard, chocolate, or cheese. Taiyaki is a popular street food in Japan and can also be found in specialty shops and convenience stores. Taiyaki is best eaten freshly made to enjoy the crispy yet soft exterior, and the warm red-bean filling.
Located under an apartment building at Ebisu, there is often a queue forming at Taiyaki Hiiragi. The taiyaki are made using homemade bean paste from Hokkaido, and does not contain any egg or milk. The pastry layer of the taiyaki at Taiyaki Hiiragi is also very thin, so with each bite, you get more of the fillings than the dough.
🗺️ Address: 1 Chome−4−1 Ebisu Urban House 107, Ebisu, Shibuya City, Tokyo
🕤 Opening Hours: 10am - 6.30pm
Taiyaki Wakaba is one of Tokyo’s leading taiyaki specialty stores, with close to 70 years of history. There is almost always a queue at Taiyaki Wakaba, but the queue moves relatively quickly so you wouldn’t have to wait long.
🗺️ Address: 1 Chome-10 Tokyo Ozawa Building 1F, Wakaba, Shinjuku City, 160-0011 Tokyo
🕤 Opening Hours: 9.30am - 6.30pm; closed on Sundays
📍Naniwaya Sōhonten Azabu Juban
If you are a fan of Taiyaki, you would probably be interested in trying the Naniwaya Sohonten, which is said to be the original makers of Taiyaki with a history of over 100 years. While most people choose to take-out their food, the shop also has a cafe area that you could dine-in at.
🗺️ Address: 1 Chome-8-14 Azabujuban, Minato City, Tokyo 106-0045, Japan
🕤 Opening Hours: 11am - 7pm, closed on Tuesday
- Yaki Imo (焼き芋)
Yaki Imo refers to baked sweet potato, and is a all-time favourite snack in Japan, especially during the colder seasons of autumn and winter. You will be able to purchase Yaki Imo from street vendors, at convenient stores, or at supermarkets.
Don Quijote is a chain of mega all-purpose discount store selling a variety of goods and food items, including the Yaki Imo. The Yaki Imo at Don Quijote is very popular with both locals and tourists alike, due to its sweetness and fragrance, and a very cheap price. There are multiple Don Quijote branches across Tokyo, and they are open 24 hours, which makes it a very good option if you are craving Yaki Imo as a late night snack.
📍La Poppo Farm
La Poppo is a chain store that specialises in sweet potato. In addition to just Yaki Imo, they also sell other desserts made from sweet potato, such as candied sweet potato or sweet potato cake. There are multiple La Poppo Farm outlets across Tokyo, and is a good option as a gift or souvenir.