Thick, rich, sweet and salty—it’s everything you’ll find in a teriyaki sauce. But it may not be the syrupy bottled sauce you’re used to. I’m using a traditional Japanese recipe for the sauce used to baste some type of meat, like chicken, as it is cooked over high heat to create a succulent, flavorful dish. This sauce, whether you use it for basting or as a sauce for a rice bowl, only uses four ingredients and requires very little prep, but produces a rich, deeply flavorful sauce full of both bright and salty notes. It’s really unlike anything you’ve tried from a bottle!
I’m not sure I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, but I am and have been for a long time a Japanophile. I speak Japanese (although I’ve lost quite a bit), studied Japanese, my degree is in Japanese and International Studies, and I’ve been to Japan several times. And I adore Japanese food. I still get cravings for everything from the incredible eel-over-rice-bowl (unagidon) I once had at a special restaurant that specializes in just that dish to the delicious simplicity of zarusoba (soba noodles with a sweet dipping sauce) to one of my all-time favorite foods inarizushi to the baked goods and even the onigiri, or rice balls, and sandwiches you can find in the amazing 7-11s in Japan (you have no idea…). I have dozens of Japanese cookbooks, but I don’t often attempt Japanese dishes at home because it’s just never the same.
Teriyaki sauce, however, I can do just because it is so simple and only requires four ingredients I don’t have to go to great lengths to find.
This recipe is from one of my Japanese cookbooks, The Japanese Kitchen by Hiroko Shimbo, an enormous tome of more traditional and well-known Japanese recipes, called Teriyaki no Tare. Teriyaki is actually the name for a grilling technique (yaki is grilling and teri means “glossy”), so this sauce is one used for this specific cooking technique.
Not that it’s always used for grilling, of course. Just today, I made teriyaki chicken under the broiler.
Traditionally, this is also not a gluten-free food, but I’ve used tamari soy sauce here to make it so. I have not ever made this recipe with coconut aminos, so I don’t know whether it would work or not.
Again, this is a very simple recipe, but there is a specific line about adding to it to make different flavor combinations, such as honey, ginger (fresh or powdered), scallions, chilies or chili sauce—it’s a wonderful basic sauce to build on!
Finally, a note: the recipe calls for sake, or rice wine. I have used both sake as well as rice wine vinegar and both are very good. I don’t always have sake on hand, but I do always have rice wine vinegar. Also, mirin—it’s a “sweet cooking wine,” but you’ll find it with the other Japanese/Asian condiments. You don’t need an ID to purchase it.
- ½ cup mirin (sweet rice cooking wine)
- ⅓ cup sake (rice wine)
- ¼ cup tamari soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Combine the mirin and sake in a small sauce pan and heat over low heat for 5 minutes.
- Add the tamari soy sauce and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then let it cook over low heat for 25 minutes.
- Let the sauce cool and use any way you wish.
This sauce will not be the ultra-thick teriyaki sauce you may be more accustomed to. It looks a bit watery but will thicken as it cools. You don’t have to keep cooking it until it gets ultra thick and syrupy, though.
Next week, I’m posting a recipe for chicken teriyaki where you can use this recipe! It keeps up to a week in the fridge, by the way.
‘Till next time!