Street vendors travel across East Asia to grind small pieces of meat onto skewers and baste them over hot coals with a sweet and savory sauce. Amid the sizzle and puffs of aromatic smoke, the sauce thickens into a luscious glaze and, most importantly, the meat cooks quickly.
This combination of speed and bold flavors has always appealed to us at Milk Street, but for weeknight kebabs, we’re swapping the outdoor grill for the easy, controlled heat of a grill. The almost direct heat carries the peaks of the skewered meat and the valleys catch small puddles of caramelizing sauce.
These sweet and savory chicken skewers from our “COOKish” book, which limits recipes to just six ingredients without sacrificing flavor, are loosely based on Japanese yakitori. We layer the flavors – first as a quick marinade for the chicken, then as a basting sauce, and finally as a finishing sauce. The final coating helps the sesame seeds or scallions — or both — stick to the chicken.
Maple syrup may not be traditional, but it enhances the flavor of the frosting with more complexity than traditional sugar without additional ingredients. And the heat from the freshly grated ginger helps balance the sugars in the soy sauce glaze.
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Serve with rice and crispy coleslaw or make a sandwich or wrap with grated vegetables and a little mayonnaise. For easy cleanup, line the baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Maple and soy glazed chicken skewers
Start to finish: 40 minutes
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger OR 3 medium garlic cloves, finely grated OR both
- 2 tablespoons of neutral oil
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1½ teaspoons sherry vinegar OR apple cider vinegar
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, halved lengthwise
- Sesame seeds, toasted OR sliced green onions OR both
Mix soy, ginger and oil. In another bowl, mix 3 tablespoons with the maple syrup and vinegar. Mix chicken with remaining soy mixture. Heat grill with grate 4 inches from element. Shred the chicken on metal skewers, then place on a rimmed baking sheet. Grill until golden brown, about 12 minutes, turning once. Brush lightly with soy-maple mixture, then grill until lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Brush with remaining soy-maple mixture, then sprinkle with sesame seeds.