Over the weekend, Ryosuke and I went out to yakiniku (焼き肉). Yakiniku, literally “fried meat,” is a type of Japanese food that I’ve grown to love.
It’s also rather pricey, meaning that we don’t spring for it very often. The price makes sense, though, because yakiniku is basically just stuffing your face with a ton of quality meat.
Yakiniku restaurants give you a table with a “grill” in the center, so you can cook you own meat. My first couple times at yakiniku, I cooked the meat until it was blackened on every surface, since I was terrified about accidentally consuming under-cooked beef.
Those were also the days when I felt uncomfortable eating raw fish (except for salmon) or raw eggs in sukiyaki. I’ve progressed quite a bit since then. I’ve also come to realize that since people weren’t dropping like flies after a night of yakiniku, it probably wasn’t going to kill me.
I feel much more comfortable eating semi-raw beef now.
I still cook my meat for longer than Ryosuke, of course, but I no longer cook it until it resembles leather. As a result, I have come to adore yakiniku.
How to eat Yakiniku in Japan:
1. Order your plates.
There are typically two types of yakiniku: all you can eat or by the plate. I’ve done both. I prefer the “all you can eat,” so I don’t feel guilty every time I order food. Spending money still makes me nervous.
2. Cook the meat over the grill until it has reached it’s desired form
When we go out with friends, I err on the side of “too cooked” instead of “not cooked enough.” That’s the other way I mark my meat, to make sure no one else eats the piece I have my eye on.
No one wants to nibble on the American’s over-cooked meat.
3. Grab a couple cuts of meat, dip them in the sauces, and enjoy!
I love the sauces. There are a couple “common” ones that every shop has – but there are other specialty sauces particular to the restaurant.
I believe in trying as many sauces as possible. It’s fun.
I like sauces with a bit of a “kick.” My favorites are Yuzu, lemon, or “spicy.”
4. Order more meat, lot of meat
Because, why not? You’ve already paid rent this month, right?
5. Try more sauces.
Always try more sauces.
6. Ask for a new grill, because yours has become blackened by the meat and oils
The first time Ryosuke asked them to switch the grill, I was embarassed. I thought we were being too picky/greedy. Now I’ve come to realize that switching out the grill is normal and I just have weird insecurities.
7. Order more meat (and then realize you probably can’t finish it)
8. Feel bad about how you might be killing your body and order lettuce wraps (those count as vegetables, right?)
9. Try not to pass out when you see the bill
The most expensive place Ryosuke and I have ever been to wasn’t even that “expensive” by yakiniku standards. It still ended up being a little over 40,000yen / $400 for four people. Gha.
Thankfully, the other couple was treating us – otherwise I probably would have cried when we got the bill.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, it was the most delicious meat I have ever eaten in my entire life.
10. Have a stomach ache the next day because of all the meat you ate (but still be happy)
I don’t eat meat ever day. I’m not a vegetarian… I just don’t enjoy the taste of certain kinds of meats. I prefer the taste of vegetables.
As a result, when Ryosuke cooks, I usually eat a couple pieces of meat and give the rest to him (he needs the extra protein anyways, since he works out so often). It just depends on the meal.
Yakiniku is one of the few times I eat such a concentrated amount of meat – so my stomach always feels a bit off the next day.
11. Repeat as soon as you have money again
Yakiniku is so expensive. Ahhh.
As a die-hard cheapo, I’m conflicted.