• Japanese Shrimp Meatballs (Tsukune)


An Impressive, But Easy Japanese Appetizer

By Andrew Zimmern

I love tsukune, Japanese meatballs, most commonly made with chicken, that are grilled yakitori-style over charcoal and glazed with tare, a sweet and savory soy-based condiment. After eating lots of tsukune in Japanese izakayas, I started playing around with the concept utilizing different proteins. The moment I tried it with duck, I was hooked. What about fish? Delicious. My new obsession? Shrimp tsukune, loaded with shiso leaf, grilled on my Konro over binchotan charcoal, brushed with tare and served with cured egg yolks for dunking. I know, cured egg yolks sound fancy, but they’re so easy to make! Simply sweeten some soy sauce with a bit of sugar, gently add the yolks, cover and refrigerate for at least 10 hours, or up to two days. The result is a jammy, creamy yolk with slightly firm skin and rich umami flavor, a perfect accompaniment to the tsukune. Now, a word about the tare: it’s superb. Try using leftover sauce on broiled fish or with sake-steamed chicken rice bowls.


Knives used:

Bird’s Beak

bird’s beak is a classic tool for making decorative cuts—such as radish rosettes or fluted mushrooms—as well as for cutting out blemishes, peeling, and slicing soft fruits such as nectarines or plums. The curved shape lets you cut close to the peel, keeping more of the fruit or vegetable.


In Japan, a nakiri is a vegetable knife. It’s designed to handle a full range of vegetables, and a lot more, with ease. Use it with a simple push cut instead of a rocking cut. The straighter edge means more of the blade contacts the board with each cut for extremely efficient slicing and dicing.

Japanese Shrimp Meatballs (Tsukune)



  • 1/4 cup dashi
  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar


  • 1 pound ground or minced peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 8 shiso leaves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon blonde miso

For Serving

  • Togarashi
  • Sliced scallions
  • Cured egg yolks (see note)


In a saucepan, combine all of the tare ingredients over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to maintain the barest simmer. Cook until the sauce has reduced and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 30 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the shrimp, scallions, shiso, sesame oil and miso. Combine well. Divide into 8-10 ovals and thread on skewers. Brush with peanut or canola oil. Grill over medium-high direct heat until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Brush with the tare during the last couple minutes of grilling. Remove from the grill and drizzle with more tare and garnish with sliced scallions.  Serve with cured egg yolks sprinkled with togarashi.


To make the cured egg yolks, simply place a cup or so of soy sauce in a bowl. Whisk in a tablespoon of sugar. Add the egg yolks and let sit in the refrigerator covered for 12 hours. Remove from the fridge and place yolks in small dipping bowls and sprinkle with togarashi.

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