5 from 3 votes
Chicken tsukune (Japanese chicken meatballs) is one of the regular yakitori dish items. Soft and bouncy meatballs are skewered and chargrilled with sweet soy sauce, ie. yakitori sauce. The key to my soft and juicy meatballs is the grated onion and amount of fat in the chicken mince (ground chicken).
TSUKUNE (JAPANESE MEATBALLS)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 
Tsukune (Japanese meatballs) is one of the regular yakitori dish items. Soft and bouncy chicken meatballs are skewered and chargrilled with sweet soy sauce, i.e. yakitori sauce. The key to my soft and juicy meatballs is the grated onion and the amount of fat in the chicken mince (ground chicken).
Recipe Type: Appetiser, Main
Cuisine: Japanese
Serves: 8 skewers (24 meatballs)
Author: Yumiko
Ingredients
  • 450g (15.9oz) chicken breast mince (ground) (note 1)
  • 50g (1.8oz) chicken fat finely minced (note 1)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 egg (large)
  • 1 tbsp grated onion
  • 1 tsp grated ginger (juice only)
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • tbsp cornflour/corn starch
  • tbsp sake
Sauce
  • 40ml (1.4oz) soy sauce (normal Japanese soy sauce)
  • 40ml (1.4oz) mirin
  • ½ tbsp sugar
Instructions
Sauce
  1. Add sauce ingredients to a pot and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat to medium or medium low and simmer for about 4-5 minutes to reduce the quantity by about a third (note 2).
Making Tsukune
  1. Add chicken, chicken fat and salt in a bowl and mix well until the chicken mince becomes sticky.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, except 1 tablespoon of sake, to the bowl and mix well.
  3. Add the remaining sake to the bowl gradually while mixing. The mixture is quite soft but do not add all of the sake specified if the mixture is too soft to grab by hand and form a ball.
  4. Boil water in a pot. Coat a cutlery spoon with oil (not in ingredients).
  5. Grab chicken mince with the left hand (I am a right hander) and squeeze out mince through the thumb and the index finger. The mince will come out forming a round shape (note 3).
  6. Take it with the spoon and drop it into the pot. Repeat this for the rest of the mince.
  7. Boil meatballs for 5-7 minutes until cooked through (note 4). Take the meatballs out and put aside. I cooked them in two batches.
Griling Tsukune (note 5)
  1. Heat griller, griddle or BBQ (note 6). Oil the rack/grill where you place the meatballs.
  2. Thread 3 tsukune onto flat skewers.
  3. Baste tsukune with the sauce using a brush and cook under the griller or on the griddle/BBQ for 1-2 minutes until the meatballs are slightly burnt.
  4. Turn over the skewers and cook further 1-2 minutes. Then baste with the sauce, cook 30 seconds on both sides.
  5. Serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

1. You could have a mixture of 250g (8.8oz) breast mince and 250g (8.8oz) thigh mince, or 100% thigh mince. I could only find breast mince so chicken fat was added to get the similar effect.

You could have just 500g of breast mince but the meatballs may be slightly dry.

2. The time taken to reduce the sauce depends on the size of the pot. The larger the diameter the faster it reduces.

3. The size of the circle made with your thumb and index finger determines the size of the ball and therefore the number of meatballs made in total. My meatball was 3-3.5cm (1¼”) in diameter.

4. Cooking time depends on the size of the meatballs. When the meatball is floating and feels light when you pick it up, it is cooked through.

5. I made tsukune on skewers as they were made when we had the family yakitori day. But you could cook individually if you like. Or two meatballs each on skewers instead of three.

6. The heat can be strong. Because tsukune is already cooked, all you need to do here is to coat with sauce and get them burnt slightly to give better flavour to them.

7. Tsukune can be frozen. After boiling, cool them down and freeze in an air tight container or freezer bag.