Birdie: how to become a yakitori master
12 Jun 2019
We were able to catch Chef Sho for a quick interview on his new restaurant Birdie at the relatively new H Code Building. A humble and laidback chef, Chef SHo shows us his very meticulous side when it comes to the delicate yakitori.WOM Guide: How long have you been cooking yakitori and where?
Chef Sho: I worked in a restaurant in Fukuoka for 16 years, in which 10 of those years were spent training in cooking yakitori. Yakitori started at Fukuoka you see, you don’t have to go to a special grill restaurant to have excellent yakitori, they have good yakitori even in the izakayas there (small Japanese eat-and-sip bar)WOM Guide: What skills are required to become a yakitori master?
Chef Sho: Haha, what a divine way to put it! I wouldn’t call myself a ‘master’ in yakitori, but regarding your question, the most important skill in cooking yakitori is actually in controlling the fire. (writer’s note: Fire mastery! You’re definitely a master!) The flavour of the yakitori is strongly dependent on how well the fire is manipulated. Of course that means for proper yakitori you should definitely use real fire over wood rather than electronic heating.WOM Guide: How is the fire controlled in Birdie?
Chef Sho: When you put more air into the fire, the fire becomes stronger. So we use a fan to make the fire stronger or weaker, the traditional way. You also need to change the positions of the charcoal. It changes the intensity of the fire.WOM Guide: Tell us about your “salt rain” skill?
Chef Sho: Hahaha, “salt rain” is a funny word. My previous boss in Fukuoka was doing this ‘salt rain’. I started doing it under him. It’s a performance-art in a way. But it’s not just for show, actually. When you grill yakitori, you need to hold at least 10 skewers at one time. When you put salt from high above you can salt them a lot faster at the same time. Timing is quite important with yakitori so doing it this way can make it quite efficient.WOM Guide: What skewers do you recommend for yakitori-newbies?
Chef Sho: The chicken thigh, the chicken tenders and chicken gizzards. These are the easier and more familiar ones to eat if it’s your first time.WOM Guide: And which skewers do you recommend for yakitori long-time fans?
Chef Sho: Birdie’s signature tsukune (chicken meatball on a stick), chicken heart and the liver is a little less familiar but quite amazing. The chicken heart isn’t actually part of the heart, it’s more of, looks like a heart. It’s situated somewhere between the kidneys and heart. I would recommend it for everyone really.
WOM Guide: What’s your favourite meal after yakitori?
Chef Sho: Noodles. Anything that has noodles. So I guess ramen? (writer’s note: we saw him eating ramen right after this interview)
WOM Guide: Opening a restaurant in Hong Kong what were some of the difficulties you faced?
Chef Sho: It was hard to source the chickens in the first place. We wanted to get all the best ingredients and as fresh as possible. We source our vegetables and chicken all locally. We tried many different farms and settled with the best. Freshness was the most important part of our choice.Thank you Chef Sho for giving us a glimpse of Birdie. For those who love yakitori, Birdie is definitely unmissable! They serve everything with a special sauce, or mustard, or salt or with yuzu pepper (the last one being one of our favourites.) That being said, the liver is to die for and doesn’t need anything extra on it. Even if you’re new to yakitori, Birdie is a great place to start your way through all the offally good skewers with a proper fire: something many yakitori restaurants don’t have in Hong Kong.