How to Make DIY Japanese Marinades

In Japanese cooking robatayaki, or robata, refers to the cooking of food on skewers over hot charcoal.

In an Aussie backyard a robata grill can be substituted with a BBQ, enabling Japanese flavours and recipes, like those we use at Saké The Rocks, to be easily replicated this summer.

Sauces are key to good robata, or BBQ, skewers. Quintessential Japanese ingredients such as soy sauce, saké and mirin make for a good base, which can be zhooshed up with other classic ingredients such as ginger, garlic and citrus juice and zest.

When it comes to timing, the trick is not to marinade beef for too long or it will discolour and is more likely to burn on the BBQ. And if a marinade includes soy sauce, cook it at medium heat for the best result. If you cook it any higher, it may burn.

My top tip is to experiment with flavours to find a combination that works for you. Or try the recipes below and tweak them to suit your own taste.

Beef marinade for BBQ


  • 250ml soy sauce
  • 50ml vegetable oil
  • 100g brown onion, grated
  • 15g ginger, grated
  • 10g garlic, grated
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 100ml mirin

Note: 100ml marinade liquid is enough for 500g meat.


  • Combine marinade ingredients
  • Cut beef into 1.5cm cubes (You can use any cut of beef. I recommend tenderloin or sirloin)
  • Place beef in marinade for 1 hour prior cooking.
  • Cook on the BBQ, as required

You can use this marinade for a sauce for a steak, but make sure to put it in a saucepan and bring to boil to cook off the alcohol first, before serving.

Chicken marinade for BBQ


  • 360ml soy sauce
  • 180ml saké
  • 180ml mirin
  • 15g chopped lemon zest
  • 15g grated ginger
  • 15g grated garlic
  • 15g ichimi togarashi (dried Japanese chilli powder)
  • 1 lemon, juiced (to squeeze over after cooking)

Note: 100ml marinade liquid should be enough for 500g chicken


  • Combine all ingredients together to make the marinade
  • Cover chicken (thigh, wings, and breast) in the marinade and leave in the fridge overnight
  • Cook as required on the BBQ


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