There are some recipes that once you try them, you never forget them-and Japanese chicken Negimaki is certainly one of those dishes. For most people, they will try to find ways to replicate the taste and they struggle. They try to use ingredients that you think of as “traditional” Japanese ingredients, but that doesn’t always work.
In order to make chicken Negimaki correctly, you may have to go down some aisles at your local grocery store that you aren’t used to, go to a completely different grocery store, or even order some ingredients online. The good thing is that when you make it right once, you will be able to do it over and over again. Of course, it is so good that you will definitely want to do just that.
What is Chicken Negimaki?
Negimaki is a Japanese word. “Maki” is a very popular word in Japanese cooking– it means roll. Traditionally made with grilled or roasted beef that has been pounded flat, you wrap it in a roll around green onions or scallions.
As cooking styles changed, it can now be made with any thinly sliced protein. The protein is wrapped around the onions or scallions and then grilled or roasted again. When cooked, the juices flavor each other and you get a wonderful bite of flavor no matter what.
Chicken Negimaki became so popular because when it is cooked properly, there is texture and crunch with some sweetness and a savory quality that cannot be replicated.
Negimaki takes some time to get it right-if you don’t cook it properly, the onions can be too harsh or too mushy to enjoy. If you don’t get it right the first time you cook it, don’t worry. Once you get it right, you will know the cooking times.
Some people think that the term Negimaki comes from the sauce, which isn’t true at all. In its purest form, Negimaki doesn’t even need to use sauce. What you see are the natural juices from cooking that emerge from both the vegetables and the meat.
Negimaki vs. Teriyaki?
Often, people will order teriyaki when they mean Negimaki and Negimaki when they mean teriyaki. It isn’t an easy mistake to make, but it is something that happens.
Teriyaki does refer to the type of sauce. It isn’t an entire meal, but a casual dining sauce that goes with just about any protein. It is typically used in chicken dishes. It will also use sesame seeds, which you will also see in Negimaki dishes.
The Japanese version of teriyaki, when compared to the American version, is a bit more like Negimaki in that it is thinner and served with vegetables. Even so, teriyaki isn’t a popular dish in Japan where Negimaki is.
You can make Negimaki using a teriyaki sauce, if you want. That isn’t the traditional or preferred way to get the juices, but it is a bit of a shortcut if you are running low on time. It can also be a great way to get a more salty flavor if that is something you are looking for in your meal.
Chicken Negimaki Recipe
As mentioned, chicken Negimaki is a great meal that you can make fairly quickly with some healthy ingredients. If there is something here that you cannot find, try checking with your local Japanese or Chinese market – they are more likely to have what you need. Even so, almost all of this will be sold in well-stocked grocery stores.
This recipe makes four servings.
- 5 cup soy sauce
- 5 cup mirin
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 bunch scallions (trim them, but leave them whole)
- 5 pounds boneless, skinless white-meat chicken (breasts, cutlets, or tenders work the best with this recipe.) Pound them to about ⅛ inch thick and blot them dry.
- Black pepper (freshly ground is best)
- Sesame oil (as needed)
- Lemon or lime wedges
- Put your soy sauce, mirin, garlic, and scallions into a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until it is boiling. This should take about 4 minutes. When bubbling, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool back down.
- Prepare your charcoal or gas grill- it is important that the grill is hot before you start cooking. The heat should be medium and keep the rack about four inches away from the heat source.
- Sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Remove the scallions from the soy mixture (use a slotted spoon) and divide them amongst the chicken cutlets.
- Turn the wide section of the cutlet to face you and put a few scallions on the edge closest to you. Make sure to position it so that there is some scallion sticking out of each side. Roll the cutlet up like you would a cinnamon roll and secure in place with toothpicks or using a butcher’s twine.
- Brush the rolls with sesame oil on the outside. It shouldn’t be dripping, but do not skimp on the oil.
- Grill the chicken for 12 to 15 minutes, brushing with the remaining soy mixture and turning each piece a few times.
- To check if a piece is done, cut into the chicken with a thin knife. The centers should be white.
- Serve hot or room temperature (the traditional way) with lime or lemon.
The first few times you make this recipe, it will take you about an hour. After some time, you may be able to make it in just 30 minutes. The rolling of the chicken Negimaki will be what takes you so long at first.
Often, Japanese restaurants will serve their chicken Negimaki with a very specific type of sauce. It adds a little bit of spice to the recipe and adds even more flavor. Generally, it is called a “spicy sauce” but upon investigation, it is actually a red pepper dipping sauce that is used throughout Japanese cuisine. The great thing about this sauce is that you can make it well in advance-it stays good for up to a week!
Here is a recipe for that as well-you should leave you should make the Negimaki from the last recipe up until the point where you brush it with oil:
- 1 red bell pepper
- 75 cup distilled white vinegar
- 5 cup sugar
- 5 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup black or white sesame seeds (hard to find – check your local Asian grocer!)
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- Chop a red bell pepper coarsely.
- Puree the red bell pepper with white vinegar in a blender.
- Transfer the mixture into a small saucepan and add in the sugar and red pepper flakes. If you want to add salt to taste, now is the time to do that as well.
- Allow sauce to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Allow to cool.
- Brush your chicken Negimaki rolls with oil.
- Roll in sesame seeds to coat them.
It is important to add the sesame seed coating to your recipe because they will help to cut some of the sharpness and spice of the peppers.
Chicken Negimaki is a great dish to have in your back pocket. It is the perfect dish for a date, to make for a special event, or even to just have on a Monday. When you learn how to make it on your own, you will save yourself a lot of money. Try the sauce on different Japenese dishes-you will never go back.