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Monday, June 17, 2013

Stomachs Eleven: Homemade yakitori skewers and Ichiran ramen

yakitori chicken skewers on an arrosticini charcoal grill at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner

A kookaburra stole my tsukune! It's one thing to admire the local wildlife, perched in the tree behind us as we tend the charcoal barbecue. It's another matter altogether when it swoops down on us - so fast that I can feel a rush of air on my cheek - as it zeroes in on a tsukune chicken meatball skewer and then carries it off next door to haughtily eat its spoils.

I unashamedly screamed like a girl of course. Hands flailing and panicked shrieking as shock and horror set in. Could I blame him? Of course not. Who can resist a barbecue, especially a Stomachs Eleven feast.

homemade sourdough at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Homemade sourdough by J&J

We'd gathered at J&J's on this fine evening, ostensibly for ramen, but Pig Flyin can never resist adding his own dish or two. We never complain!

To J-boy's amazing homemade sourdough bread - still warm from the oven and wondrously soft and fluffy in the middle we added generous chunks of Pig Flyin's homemade smoked eel. The eel was tantalising in its smokiness, with a buttery flesh that melted in the mouth.

homemade smoked eel at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Homemade smoked eel by Pig Flyin

yakitori chicken skewers on an arrosticini charcoal grill at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin's arrosticini charcoal grill - affectionately known as the Little Lamb

Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin had also brought along their arrosticini charcoal grill, a new favourite contraption that they'd nicknamed their Little Lamb. The arrosticini grill originated in Abruzzo, Italy, where it's traditionally used to cook skewers of lamb or mutton. They'd picked theirs up at BBQ Aroma run by Nick Angelucci, a passionate charcoal enthusiast who quit his corporate job and set up a dedicated charcoal barbecue shop in Leichhardt.

yakitori chicken skewers ready to cook
Assorted yakitori skewers made from a single organic chicken

The arrosticini might have been designed for lamb skewers, but it's perfect for making Japanese-style yakitori skewers as well (I'm also thinking Malaysian satay would work a treat). Pig Flyin enters with a tray of skewers he'd prepared earlier at home, but what's most impressive is he says that everything has been made from a single organic chicken!

yakitori chicken breast skewers on an arrosticini charcoal grill at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Yakitori made from chicken breast fillets - some are wrapped in homegrown purple shiso

The chicken has been broken down and the cuts separated into different styles of skewer. Nothing has been marinated - just a simple sprinkle of salt and then onto the barbecue. The chicken breasts are sliced into long pieces and then grilled until golden. A purple shiso leaf is then wrapped and grilled at the last minute to add a smoky fragrance.

yakitori chicken skewers with kewpie mayonnaise
Yakitori chicken with Kewpie mayonnaise

The chicken breast skewers are served with a squiggle of Kewpie mayonnaise, tasty and impressively succulent.

yakitori chicken thigh fillet with leek skewers on an arrosticini charcoal grill at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Chicken thigh fillets with shallots

Chicken thighs are paired with shallots, grilled until the shallots caramelise and add a smoky sweetness to the skewer.

yakitori chicken thigh fillet with leek skewers on an arrosticini charcoal grill at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Yakitori chicken thighs with leeks

tsukune chicken meatballs on an arrosticini charcoal grill at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Tsukune chicken meatball skewers

The meat from the chicken legs is minced and turned into tsukune chicken meatballs, mixed with ginger and chopped shallots to create a juicy and tender meatball.

kookaburra in sydney australia backyard tree at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Have you seen this kookaburra? 

And here's the opportunistic kookaburra who patiently waited for about thirty minutes before making off with one of our tsukune meatballs!

yakitori chicken skin skewers on an arrosticini charcoal grill at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Yakitori chicken skin!

But the best skewer of them all? Yakitori chicken skin, a zigzag of fatty crunchy caramelised eye-rolling deliciousness!

ichiran ramen pack with dried noodles and sachets of tonkotsu stock at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Ichiran ramen pack: 6 sleeves of dried ramen noodles and 3 sachets of tonkotsu stock

Have you heard of Ichiran? It was a mandatory port-of-call on my last visit to Japan, a Fukuoka-based chain of ramen outlets that takes the personalisation of tonkotsu ramen to the nth degree. Here you are handed a checklist menu where you can personalise every aspect of your meal. How strong do you like your soup (weak, medium or strong)? How fatty would you like your soup (none, light, medium, rich or ultra rich)? How much garlic do you require (none, a little, regular, 1/2 clove or 1 clove)? How much green onion do you need (without, weak or strong)? How tender do you prefer your noodles (extra firm, firm, medium, tender or extra tender)?

What I love most about this place is the dining set-up. It's all about the noodles here, so to prevent any distraction, diners eat at enclosed booths where all you can see is a curtain in front of you and two panels either side. Think of eating at a polling booth and you get the idea. You slide your menu selection beneath the curtain and then a few minutes later a steaming bowl of ramen appears, like magic.

J&J had returned from their recent trip to Japan with an exciting souvenir. Ichiran now sells take-home packs of their ramen noodles and tonkotsu stock and they'd generously offered to share it with us.

Each pack cost 2,000 yen and contains six packets of noodles and three sachets of tonkotsu stock. Yes, you can order online but you will need a US shipping address.

homemade boiled rolled pork belly at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
J&J's homemade boiled rolled pork belly

If you're going to eat ramen, you're going to need pork. J&J's rolled pork belly slices (which they'd prepared the night before) were precise circles of fatty goodness, just like a Japanese noodle shop.

ichiran ramen tonktosu soup bowls at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Ichiran ramen at home!

The stock was boiled, the noodles were cooked in small batches and then we were ready to tuck into bowls of Ichiran ramen on Australian soil!

ichiran ramen in tonktosu soup at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Slurpalicious Ichiran tonkotsu ramen

The noodles had the ideal bite to them and the stock was rich and hearty. It was only after we'd eaten most of our ramen that J&J suddenly realised they'd forgotten the onsen eggs in the fridge and the seaweed in the cupboard!

homemade onsen eggs at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Onsen eggs 

So we ate the onsen eggs separately and they were still amazing with their squidgy yolk interiors.

homemade canneles at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
J&J's homemade canneles

For dessert J-boy had made canneles. These Bordeaux pastries are my ultimate weakness. I love their custardy core but I adore their chewy caramelised crust even more.

ais kacang shaved iced dessert at a stomachs eleven japanese dinner
Ais kacang

And because gluttony loves company we finished with bowls of ais kacang, a DIY dessert of pandan noodles (homemade by J&J), red beans, jackfruit and grass jelly covered in a tower of shaved ice and then drizzled with evaporated milk, coconut cream and palm sugar syrup.

Related Grab Your Fork posts
Stomachs Eleven: Japanese bento and chiffon cake (J&J)
Stomachs Eleven: Polish borscht and bigos (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Tuna belly banquet (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Wagyu shabu shabu and fruit sushi (Silverlily)
12 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/17/2013 12:02:00 am


  • At 6/17/2013 8:37 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    WHEN you return to the US and WHEN you go to Atlanta, ask me to direct you to the amazing Japanese/isakaya/ALLTHETHINGS restaurant we went to. Everything on sticks. And you could get not just your chicken skin in that form, but chicken skin salad too. I picked the chicken liver kebabs. I'm rambling. This post is amazing. These people, your Stomachs Eleven crew? They were whom I meant to blame, in my conversation with you earlier, for being disappointed in Momofuku's fried chicken. Your Stomachs Eleven food is just too good.

    This comment isn't making sense ARGH hope you are having fun in Chicago love you miss you wheee!

  • At 6/17/2013 8:38 am, Blogger Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    Wow, those yakitori sticks look amazing! And that ramen, wowsers. I'm drooling over those onsen eggs. So beautifully cooked!!

  • At 6/17/2013 11:27 am, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    ok. everything looks droolworthy. the skewers, the rolled pork belly THE ONSEN EGGS!

  • At 6/17/2013 12:57 pm, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    This must have been one hell of a night, though given the S11 reputation, that's par for course.

    I'd love to get one of those yakitori charcoal grills and it was awfully nice of your friends to share their ramen packs.

  • At 6/17/2013 6:15 pm, Anonymous Cara @ Gourmet-Chick said…

    What a great idea to make all the skewers from one chicken. Very inspiring!

  • At 6/17/2013 6:29 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    OMG too amazing! I love yakitori and those look incredibly professional! I can just imagine the smoky aromas and charred meat - YUM!

    xox Sarah

  • At 6/18/2013 3:15 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    wow! all those yakitori skewers look amazing. wouldn't mind one of those grills in my backyard either... yum all round!

  • At 6/19/2013 1:22 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    I have a really big problem. I can't seem to shut my jaw after seeing the yakitori chicken skins! Please help. Wondering how I can get ahold of Pigflyin's delights.

  • At 6/23/2013 1:07 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Everything looks amazing! Brilliant ways to cook chicken. The homemade canneles looks yummy!

  • At 6/29/2013 8:25 pm, Anonymous Sara - Belly Rumbles said…

    All that from one organic chicken, amazing. Mr Kooka was just sitting there for 30 mins waiting for tsukune to be cooked just right, clever Kooka ;)

  • At 10/22/2015 3:59 pm, Anonymous LKL said…

    Where did you get that yakitori grill? I want one just like yours!

  • At 10/22/2015 4:28 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi LKL - The yakitori grill is from BBQ Aroma. The link is already within the text above :)


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