06 January 2010

Tsukune - Japanese Chicken Meatballs

If you've been to an Izakaya joint in Japan, then you'll know why I'm such a sucker for these mince chicken meatballs. For those who haven't.. An Izakaya is a type of 'Japanese Drinking Establishment' which serves all sorts of tapas style food to accompany the drinks. If I remember correctly, these chicken meatballs are usually found at the BBQ skewers or Yakitori section of the menu. And they are absolutely delicious. :)

This is my first attempt at replicating these. I managed to find a few reference recipes online, but as always.. its hard to find authentic japanese recipes written in english. I was actually pretty pleased with the end result, as it actually tasted quite similar to what I remember having in Japan.

After mincing and putting all the ingredients together in my Magimix food processor aka Petals, I found the mixture to be quite flimsy. I had already added some cornflour to help the mince meat stick together. But I wasn't sure if the chicken mixture would be able to hold it's 'meatball' shape when I grilled it. So instead of throwing them straight on a grill pan, I decided to put them in some boiling water so that the outer 'meatball' shell is formed first.

Thats about when I stumbled upon this recipe from Rasa Malaysia and realised the author also boiled the meatballs prior to grilling them. Her yakitori sauce also made a bit more food sense. I had run out of ginger at home, so that may account for the slight discrepancy in taste. The next time I make these, I'll definitely try with some ginger.

Tsukune - Japanese Chicken Meatballs
Recipe adapted from Rasa Malaysia

For the Chicken:
  • 300g chicken mince
  • 1 cup chopped spring onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teapsoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornflour

Additional Items:

  • Skewers (soaked in water for at least 30 mins)
  • Water
  • tablespoon salt

Yakitori Basting Sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons sake
  • 5 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn starch blended with 1 teaspoon water


  1. Blend the spring onions and garlic into the food processor
  2. Using the bigger bowl in the food processor, mince the chicken, then added processed spring onions and garlic and combine well.
  3. Add egg and the rest of the seasoning ingredients to the chicken mince. Mix until all the ingredients are combined.
  4. Wet your hands and scoop about a tablespoonful of the mixture into your palm. Shape it into a small ball about the size of a golf ball.
  5. Bring a saucepan of water with about a tablespoon of salt to boil
  6. Add the chicken balls and boil for about 7 minutes, or until the color of the meat changes and the balls float to the surface. Scoop out and drain on a plate covered with paper towels.
  7. In a small pan, mix all the ingredients for the yakitori sauce, except for the corn starch solution. Bring the mixture to boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the sauce slightly reduced. Add the corn starch solution and stir until the sauce is thickened. Transfer to a small bowl.
  8. Thread 3-4 balls on to each bamboo skewer. Grill the skewers on a grill pan. Brush them with the yakitori sauce and turn the skewers frequently until the balls turn brown.
  9. Serve while its hot with a wedge of lemon. Sprinkle with shichimi togarashi (Japanese chile powder with sesame seeds) and some yakitori sauce if you like.

tsukune (Large)

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