Original Teriyaki

Original Teriyaki

Learn how to make and cook with an authentic teriyaki sauce to prepare delicious chicken, fish, or beef dishes. This article provides a detailed teriyaki sauce recipe and tips for cooking teriyaki using various ingredients, including swordfish, artichoke hearts, and more.

Okay, time for teriyaki, but I mean the real thing, not the ho-hum dish we typically see here in America, the one with a gummy, starch-thickened sauce that drowns chicken or fish. The "teri" in teriyaki means "glossy," and that's the secret of this thing -- you coat an ingredient with a light, thin glaze to give it incredible sweet-savory flavor and a lovely, shiny sheen. Wonderful. The sugar and mirin in the sauce, by the way, are what create that gloss. Teriyaki is a delicious method for preparing chicken, fish or beef; fast and easy, too. (Yep, great for family cooking!) Start by preparing a teriyaki sauce, which you can make ahead of time and keep in the fridge for at least a month. (I bumped into Hiroko of Sakaya in the subway this morning and she reminded me that the teriyaki sauce flavors mingle and improve over time, too -- thanks, neighbor!) Then choose your main ingredient: boneless chicken leg, chicken breast, salmon fillet or steak, swordfish, mahi mahi, beef steak or even artichoke hearts.

The way to cook teriyaki is first to brown your ingredient on both sides in a hot skillet, then brush on the glaze, flipping and brushing on more glaze as you cook, until the ingredient is done. You can easily cook teriyaki on a charcoal or gas grill, too. So to prepare, say, swordfish steak teriyaki (like in the picture above), preheat a skillet over medium high heat. Add a little oil to coat the pan. When the oil is hot, lay the fish in the skillet and sear both sides, about 2 minutes. Now lightly brush the swordfish with teriyaki sauce, and grill for about 1 minute. Carefully flip the fish, and lightly brush more teriyaki sauce on the other side. Grill for another minute. Repeat the flipping and glazing routine for about another 1 to 2 minutes on each side (depending on how thick the steak), and you're done. Serve with a steaming bowl of rice.

Now, what about the teriyaki sauce? Glad you asked.

There are a bunch of methods to prepare this glaze. The way I like to do it is combine soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, garlic and ginger in a saucepan and simmer down until half the liquid evaporates. The result is a fragrant, intensely flavored, syrupy liquid, with an undercurrent of garlic and ginger. You can also prepare this sauce without the garlic or ginger, or just use either/or. Here's the recipe:

(Makes about 1/2 a cup)

1/2 cup shoyu (Japanese dark soy sauce)
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup sake
3 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar (which imparts a nice molassesy flavor)
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, crushed (optional)
1/2 inch piece of ginger sliced thickly (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes until the liquid reduces by about half (make sure the surface is bubbling lightly). It's okay if the sauce gets foamy towards the end; just remove from heat for a moment to check how much liquid has cooked off. Once the teriyaki sauce is ready, remove and discard the garlic and/or ginger, if you're using, so it doesn't overpower. Allow the sauce to come to room temperature, and use. Store leftover sauce in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.