Manhattan’s Lower East Side has been home to various waves of immigrant communities: Germans, Italians, Puerto Ricans, and Chinese, to name a few. The neighborhood’s demographics are constantly changing, and that dynamic plays out in the many restaurants that line its streets. The Japanese community has a particularly strong presence on the Lower East Side, especially apparent in the vibrant section known as Little Tokyo. Village Yokocho, which opened in 1995, is a standout izakaya (Japanese pub) in the area. Here’s its recipe for tsukune (chicken meatballs).


Servings: 4–6, depending on meatball size


2 pounds chicken breast, minced
¼ cup yellow onion, minced
¼ cup scallion, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons awase miso paste
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Wooden skewers, for grilling
Yakitori sauce


Add all the ingredients in a large bowl, and mix by hand until the chicken is coated (the mixture will be very sticky!). Cover and let the mixture sit overnight (at least 3–4 hours) to enhance flavors.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Take a medium-size handful of meat mixture and form a small ball. Use a spoon to gently scoop the ball off your fingers and into the boiling water. Continue this process until you’ve used up all the meat mixture.

Boil the meatballs for 5 minutes, then remove them from the water using a strainer. Place the meatballs onto a baking sheet lined with paper towel to drain.

Once cool enough to handle, place three meatballs on each skewer. The skewers can be chilled and stored for up to 1 day before grilling. Grill meatballs on medium heat for 7 minutes or until cooked through. Rotate the meatballs so they cook evenly, basting frequently with yakitori sauce.