Translated by Jay Issei Karslake
Teriyaki: Japanese Encyclopedia
Teriyaki is a Japanese cooking sauce that has found fame overseas, but what does teriyaki in Japan taste like, and how does it differ from its international versions? That, plus tricks and tips to make your own teriyaki can be found here!
Written by ニコ
Delicious Cuisine Born in Japan - Teriyaki
Teriyaki is a type of Japanese cooking where soy sauce, Japanese sake, mirin (*1) and sugar are mixed together to create a sauce that is used as a marinade or coating to foods.
The surface of finished teriyaki dishes has a lovely amber colored beautiful gloss to it, as the sauce is either poured over the dish while cooking or seasoned with it afterwards. Actually, the ‘teri’ part of teriyaki refers to this glossy sheen. Both yakitori and unagi (grilled eel) are two representative teriyaki dishes in Japan.
On the other hand, in other countries, and particularly in English-speaking ones, teriyaki has become a part of the English language - it can be found in almost any dictionary. In America, teriyaki commonly points to all cooking that uses teriyaki sauce; this can include some cooking that differs greatly from Japanese teriyaki. This is mainly because the teriyaki sauce that is available in America has soy sauce as its base, but doesn’t often have mirin or sake in it, instead using spices etc that make it into more of a sweet barbecue sauce.
The differences in what's thought of as teriyaki cooking in Japan and other countries is one of the different things we'd like you to know about.
*1 Mirin: an alcoholic sauce used in cooking; adds sweetness and gloss to the appearance of foods.
This is Japanese Teriyaki!
In Japan, various ingredients like fish and seafood, meat, and vegetables are made into teriyaki, but perhaps the most popular one is chicken or buri (yellowtail fish). When a Japanese person hears the word teriyaki, these are the two things that they imagine.
A heavy flavored sauce, teriyaki matches well with foods rich in oils and fats rather than light foods. These deep flavors can best be brought out by teriyaki. Teriyaki hamburgers or hamburger steaks are a commonly made dish at home and also a very popular item at family restaurants.
Tips and Tricks to Making Teriyaki
Let’s take a look at how to make teriyaki sauce at home.
First, mix soy sauce, Japanese sake, mirin, and sugar together (see below for exact ratios). After that, there are two ways to make teriyaki dishes, although B is much easier than A.
A.) Coat the ingredients with the sauce as they are cooking in the frying pan or on the grill. This is the method that is mainly used at high class Japanese restaurants.
B.) Cook the ingredients until they are heated through to about 80% (are 80% cooked, essentially), then turn the heat up and add the sauce. Keep the liquid boiling until it begins to thicken. This is the type of teriyaki that is most commonly found in home-cooking and cafeteria dishes.
Now here are some helpful tricks when it comes to teriyaki. Anyone can make delicious teriyaki dishes at home if they know these three tricks.
1. The golden ratio of the sauce is 2/2/2/1 (soy sauce/sake/mirin/sugar).
2. If you are using method B, the flavor will soak in best if you wipe off any excess oil with a paper towel before applying the sauce to the ingredients.
3. If you are using method B, the thickness of the sauce will stick easily to the ingredients if you first lightly coat them in flour before frying them.
Where to Eat Teriyaki
Home-style teriyaki cooking can be eaten at Japanese restaurants serving teishoku, or set meals. Although many small Japanese restaurants might have a ‘locals only’ sort of air to them, if you work up the courage and head inside, you are sure to find some amazing restaurants that aren’t in any gourmet guides. In these establishments you can also enjoy plenty of other great Japanese dishes other than teriyaki too. The display windows outside these shops will have plenty of food samples in a display case and most likely a noren hanging out front as well.
Fish or meat that have been prepared with teriyaki sauce go great with rice and bread too, so many hamburger shops in Japan have their own specialty teriyaki burgers too. When visiting Japan, please make it a point to taste and see the difference in teriyaki sauce for yourself.