Kyoto is a city of shrines. This is hard to believe at first if you arrive by train, as we did. Emerging into the enormous, futuristic train station with an escalator that literally seems to climb into the sky, you'd never believe that Kyoto is so deeply rooted in history, culture, tradition and cuisine.
After you spend a few days in the city and start to discover its secrets, both cultural and culinary, you begin to appreciate all that it has to offer. From ancient mountain top temples built on wooden stilts to shrines dedicated to love gods, from gorgeous palaces with perfectly maintained grounds, to ancient Zen gardens, Kyoto has something to keep everyone happy.
And if history and architecture is not your thing, there is a lively waterfront with plenty of restaurants overlooking it, Geisha clubs and great shopping to keep you busy!
We had heard so much about the distinctive Kyoto cuisine that one of the first things we did was to sample Kyoto's Kaiseki cuisine. Sort of like a chef's tasting menu, it features the creativity of the chef in the way he uses fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. Also among our favourites were the yakitori restaurants we ate at. At one place we were seated right in front of the chefs, watching them prepare our food. It was almost like our own private cooking lesson. After that, I feel like I can create pretty authentic yakitori skewers!
We often had a set menu of many different types of yakitori skewers, some with pieces of chicken, some with ground meat. There were even grilled quail egg skewers and grilled hot chilli peppers which we had never come across before and found delicious.
My Yakitori recipe is influenced by my Indian palate and has ginger, green chili and fresh coriander in it. I think it just makes it even better! You can omit these if you want a more traditional flavour. Chicken thighs work best here as they are more flavourful and can be grilled without drying out. Serve them straight off the grill for best results.
8 (1- 1/4 lb) boneless skinless chicken thighs
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch piece ginger, minced
1 green chili
1/4 cup each: soy sauce, Mirin, Sake (or white wine)
1 tbsp each: oil, sugar, chopped fresh coriander
6 green onions (scallions), white and pale green parts cut into 1 inch pieces
Trim fat off chicken thighs and cut them lengthwise into 3 strips. Place in deep mixing bowl. combine remaining ingredients, except green onions in mini blender or food processor and process to a smooth paste. Reserve and refrigerate half of marinade for basting and pour remaining half over chicken. Toss well to combine, cover and refrigerate chicken for 2 hours or longer.
When ready to grill, preheat grill to medium heat. Thread chicken pieces onto skewers, folding the meat and interspersing chicken pieces with a piece of green onion.
Grill for about 8 min per side until chicken is tender and cooked through, basting generously with the reserved marinade before turning skewers so that it forms a glaze on the chicken. Serve hot.