Plus two honorable mentions!!

Do you sometimes find yourself craving yakiniku, the Japanese version of Korean barbecue? Actually, considering how delicious the stuff is, is that a question we even have to ask?

Our Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato, also loves yakiniku. Of course, he’s a huge meat lover, but there’s something extra special about yakiniku that just brings cheer to those who eat it, and there are even options for vegans! Yakiniku is a meal for the people, no doubt about that.

The only problem with it, especially when you’re eating it at home, is that there are way too many options for dipping sauces (known as “tare” in Japanese). At Mr. Sato’s local supermarket alone, there are dozens of varieties to choose from.

Yakiniku dipping sauces are usually a balance of sweet, spicy, and tart flavors, but you can find different specific tastes to match your preference. But with so many to choose from, can they all be good? And even if they are, some have to stand out from the others as the cream of the crop…right? With that in mind, Mr. Sato decided to buy 23 different kinds of yakiniku dipping sauces and test them out.

▼ SoraNews24 founder Yoshio, who is the pickiest in the office when it comes to yakiniku sauce, also lent his expert, discerning opinion to the venture.

Together, Yoshio and Mr. Sato set up a fair evaluation system based on three categories: “Flavor balance”, “How well it pairs with yakiniku”, and “Originality.” Based on these categories, our two investigators would give each sauce a rating from one to ten.

What they soon learned, however, was that most of the 23 different kinds of yakiniku dipping sauce would not score high in “originality”. Yakiniku tare still has to taste like yakiniku tare, after all, so really this was an exercise in finding variations on that baseline theme.

A lot of the sauces tasted pretty similar to each other, and all were at least passable. However! There were a few that did stand out as especially delicious. In fact, they were able to choose a clear top three, plus two that deserved a special mention!

Here are the top three:

3. Jojoen’s Sweet and Spicy Yakiniku Dipping Sauce (613 yen [US$5.60])

Mr. Sato and Yoshio tried three different varieties from Jojoen, but this one had the best flavor balance. It’s supposed to be “sweet and spicy” but it had a real kick to it, and ended up being more spicy than sweet. Its aftertaste was also really pleasant.

This was a dipping sauce they found themselves wanting more of. Because of its flavor profile, Mr. Sato also speculated it would be good in a vegetable stir-fry.

.2: Somi’s Specialty Restaurant Yakiniku Dipping Sauce (408 yen)

Somi is famous for making a popular type of Chinese soup stock, and as it turns out, their yakiniku dipping sauce is also pretty tasty. You get both the spice of minced garlic and the sweetness of apple puree and onions. It also had a nice vegetable umami to it that Mr. Sato and Yoshio liked.

True to its name, it kind of had the feel of an old-school Showa-era (1926-1989) yakiniku restaurant. It was so good that Mr. Sato almost didn’t even need the meat, as this would taste great even just dribbled over a bowl of white rice!

1. Ebara’s Golden Taste Delicious Garlic (321 yen)

This one was most definitely the clear winner of the competition! It has a really nice sweetness and acidity to it, thanks to its use of a fruit puree that includes apples, peaches, and plums. With the addition of power-packing garlic, this yakiniku dipping sauce from Ebara blew our investigators away.

It might be the tartness of the plums that really took this sauce into another dimension. The last two sauces were good, but there was no comparison with this one. It was far and away the best dipping sauce out of all 23!

Special Mention: Kinryu Foods’ Butcher’s Yakiniku Sauce with Fruity Sweetness (348 yen)

This sauce stood out because it’s even fruitier than it sounds. It might even be just a bit too sweet for some people.

As such, it’s a good option for children who don’t like the spicy varieties or those who love sweeter sauces for their yakiniku.

Special Mention: Kakiyasu’s Yakiniku Dipping Sauce (840 yen)

This is a super tart dipping sauce. It’s made with citrus fruits like grapefruit, mandarin orange, and yuzu, so it came as a bit of a shock for Yoshio and Mr. Sato, who were expecting something sweet and spicy, like the others.

But though our investigators liked it on meat, they couldn’t help but think that its citrusy flavors would be extra delicious on vegetables, and that it would also make a fantastic salad dressing!

So those are our investigators’ top three supermarket yakiniku dipping sauces (plus two special mentions). As mentioned, besides these five, all of the sauces were pretty close in quality and flavor, but that also means that there really weren’t any that were bad. So whichever ones you end up trying, you can’t really go wrong!

Of course, don’t forget you can actually grill yakiniku at home with the UFO Smokeless Indoor Grill. Your own yakiniku sauce taste-test awaits!

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