Japanese Chicken and Leek Skewers (Negima 葱鮪)

Looking for some new Japanese dish ideas in Izakaya: the Japanese Pub Cookbook by Mark Robinson, I stumbled upon some luscious skewers photographs, and among them grilled chicken skewers (yakitori) with negi 葱 (one of the Japanese cousins of the leek and spring onion). I must have seen a similar combination hundreds of times in books and on the web, so it was time to give it a go, but substituting naganegi with simple leek. I have decided to call it negima 葱鮪, in spite of a different plant variety. Thank you, Hiroyuki, for this advice!

Even though I don’t have a grill (not to mention a charcoal one featured in the book) and even though I didn’t use the teriyaki glaze in the traditional Japanese way (the skewers should apparently be basted while they grill), the result was most satisfactory: the chicken breasts were juicy, while the leek was soft (but not mushy) and not as burnt as I have initially feared. The final teriyaki brushing step was more than welcome. For once I have stopped myself from sprinkling this dish with sesame seeds and used slightly tangy ground sansho pepper, which seemed (and proved) more adequate.

The happy grill owners will certainly know how to grill these skewers in the best way, so my instructions are only for grill pan users.

TIP: I have sprinkled my skewers with the Japanese sansho pepper, but if you cannot find it, you can omit it or sprinkle them with anything you want.

Special equipment: skewers, preferably short

Preparation: 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves 3):

2 chicken breasts (skinned)

2-3 leeks (maximum 1,5 cm thick)

2 tablespoons oil

Teriyaki glaze:

2 tablespoons mirin (can be substituted with 1 – 2 tablespoons syrup)

3 tablespoons soy sauce (or 4-5 if you have low sodium soy sauce)

(1 teaspoon sugar; I usually omit sugar)

3 tablespoons sake

(ground sansho pepper)

Soak the skewers in water for at least 15 minutes to avoid burning.

Cut up the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and salt them slightly.

Discard the leek leaves, leaving the white and also the light green part.

Cut up the leek into bite sized pieces too (similar in width to the chicken pieces).

Thread the meat and the leek pieces on skewers alternating a white leek piece, a chicken piece and a light green leek piece.

Brush the skewered meat and leeks on one side only.

Heat an oiled grill pan.

Place the skewers on the pan (oil brushed side down) and cover it (this way the meat will cook quicker without excessive drying).

After about 5 minutes check if the meat is not burnt and grill, still covered, for about 5 more minutes.

Brush the top of the skewers with oil and turn them.

In the meantime bring the teriyaki glaze to boil in a small pan and boil it until it thickens. Put aside.

Grill the skewers for 5 more minutes.

Place the skewers on serving plates and brush them with teriyaki glaze on both sides.

Sprinkle with sansho and serve.

42 Replies to “Japanese Chicken and Leek Skewers (Negima 葱鮪)”

  1. Do you know the name of your dish? Negima ねぎま 葱鮪, short for negi maguro (= tuna). The dish was used to be made with negi and tuna. Even though the tuna was replaced with chicken, the same name is used even today.

    1. Thank you so much, Hiroyuki! Are you sure I can use it even though I have used European leek and not really negi? It makes me think I should try it with tuna soon now that I know my simple grill pan is an acceptable grill replacement.

      1. Sorry, I can’t answer your question, because I’ve never had European leek!

        Don’t try to make real negima! Negima as a type of yakitori was a combination of negi and chicken long before I was born!
        Instead, you may want to try “negima nabe”. In this dish, negi and tuna are still used today as the main ingredients.

        1. Haha! I have just observed on the photos that negi is something between a leek and a spring onion, but I will leave the Japanese name you have suggested (it sounds so much better 😉 ) Thank you again!
          You are right, I’d better not start cooking ancient Japanese dishes, but try to master the present cuisine instead! I will try negima nabe, thank you for the suggestion.

  2. I don’t have a grill either, but that can’t stop me from making something delicious like this. It looks delicious.

    1. Thank you so much, Ben. I’m relieved I’m not the only one who doesn’t have a reall grill…

  3. Hi Sissi! I always enjoy a good skewer recipe, never thought of using leek for some reason, but this dish looks right up my alley! Thanks for sharing!

    I made the vegi/meat rolls last Thursday after your recent post, thank you for reminding me of that wonderful dish, what a great way to get the family to eat lots of vegetable!

    1. Jeno, thank you for this message! I’m so excited my post made you prepare some meat rolls! (Personally I’m going crazy with meatrolls! Since I prefer pork, my butcher’s wife has recently asked me if I wanted my pork sliced, I even didn’t have to ask 😉 I am thinking of some new ideas…).
      I’m happy you like this idea. I also cook rarely with leek, for some strange reason… It is available almost all year, cheap and so versatile, so I’m wondering why… I have really liked it here. It added a certain “kick” to the delicate chicken meat.

        1. Thank you for the link. They look gorgeous! (I have my private facebook account but still not my blog’s…)

  4. I like the idea of leek as a variation on onion – of any kind. Leek is so interesting to me – incredibly pungent when eaten raw and yet so mellow (but flavourful) when cooked – like a whole different animal! I like that you were able to achieve a tenderness without the mush 😉 I know exactly what you mean… what a lovely spring fresh idea Sissi – perfect for grilling season! By the way, what flavour does sansho pepper bring (is it hot?)

    1. Thank you, Kelly. I feel I should eat more leek (until now I only had it stir-fried and in tarts) because it’s so good here! I was afraid it would be too strong, but wasn’t.
      Sansho pepper is only slightly hot, with a tangy, lemon-like flavour.

    1. Thank you, Maureen. I am crazy for sesame seeds and I sprinkle everything with the toasted white ones especially…

  5. I think if I was presented with that plate I would happily eat all of them, and expect more:) I’ve never heard of grilled chicken leek, this confirms that I live in a cave:)

    1. Thank you so much, Mr. Three-Cookies. I must admit I have seen it not such a long time ago too! I wondered why I kept on seeing it only in Japanese cookery books or sites (chicken and leek are European too!).

  6. That is a lovely spring meal, and so versatile, I would put mine on greens. Is sansho pepper similar to the Japanese pepper mix that they give you with Soba Soup? If so, YUM, I completely love this. I am not a huge fan of sweet sauces with meat unless they are balanced with spicy and sour very well.
    Eva http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. Unfortunately I have never had a soba soup in a restaurant… but there are two very popular things: sansho pepper (tangy and green) and a mixture of spices (red), so I think you might be talking about the latter.

  7. Interessting skewers with leek. I never thought of such a mix of flavoures (but then too I have lots too learn from asian cuisine, u ll teach me!) Looks easy enough to prepare, I just need to get some sake now. =)

    Looks awesome tempting by the way, Sissi!

  8. i love yakitori! very lovely looking variation with the leeks. and that non-traditional way of using the teriyaki glaze sounds like a much easier way to get them grilled.

    was also reading about the negima nabe controversy up there lol, we learn something everyday! a cross between a leek and spring onion sounds like a fascinating vegetable that I will love. in fact, when I first discovered leek, I likedned to to a cross between a spring onion and an onion. heh.

    1. Thank you so much, Shuhan. Yes… the leek and negi problem… I have seen some bloggers saying that negi should never be called “leek” because it’s a different vegetable, but since Hiroyuki himself suggested the name, I have updated it 😉
      By the way I have read somewhere that some producers in Britain grow and sell Japanese negi! Maybe on your market???
      It’s so funny because I grew up with leek and chicken dishes, but have never thought of making such a simple thing like these skewers.

    1. Thank you so much, Laura. You are one of the lucky grill owners! I’m sure these would taste much better prepared on a real grill.

  9. We like to go a Yakitori shop that run by a Japanese, he grill all the parts of the whole bird of chicken, every parts are yummy . But the price is a bit expensive, next time I would like try it at home. Thanks for the inspiration .

    1. Thanks, Sonia. Here the only city’s yakitori bar is very expensive (I never go there because I don’t understand why it is expensive).

  10. Hi Sissi – these look really tasty… I especially love the look of the leek! My favourite restaurant in Paris was a yakiniku place on the corner of Rue St. Anne (it seems to have closed and turned into a crappy looking Sushi place). When they brought out the meat it was garnished with a slice of leek. I’d always grill this last and enjoy it at the end. When it’s grilled to perfection and is cooked, but still slightly crunchy… that’s the delicious way to enjoy it!

    1. Thank you, Charles. I agree: there is nothing worse than a bit bite of overcooked leek, so it has to stay slightly crunchy.

  11. I’m sure this is a hit on any party as a conversation appetizers. I can imagine holding a skewer on one hand and a glass of iced cold beer on the other hand. Looks really delicious, Sissi!

  12. My husband will be very happy with chicken skewer! This is something I always order at Yakitori shop because I love the sweetness coming from negi. I think the closest texture to negi is leeks, but I always feel like flavor is not strong enough to be considered negi (green onion is closer). So hard to replace with perfect ingredients. Maybe it’s time for you to plant negi next time. =D Looks delicious Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. If one day I see negi seeds, I will grow it (or at least try growing it 😉 ) I’m very curious what it tastes like… The leek is very good here, but I realise of course it’s not the same.

  13. Sissi – Your skewers look absolutely delicious! I like how simple it is with only two ingredients on skewers. I know leeks work really good with skewered meat. I am sure teriyaki glaze gives them wonderful flavors.

    1. Thank you so much, Hyosun. It really is very simple, but somehow one doesn’t feel anything lacks…

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