, , , , ,

Watching the Olympics Opening Ceremonies the other night, we waited patiently for the Japanese team, not quite sure where the Cyrillic Alphabet order was going to put them in the line-up. As team after team after team came through we finally broke down and googled to find the answer: in Russian, Japan starts with the letter Я, or the equivalent of the letter Y, so they were going to come up next to last, right before the host team who always gets the ultimate spot in the parade of nations.

It’s been fun following the Olympics together from the start this year. Already predisposed to be excited about the American stars, we have also become instant fans of the impressively lithe and accomplished figure skater Hanyu of Japan. This is due in large part to our daughter becoming more and more of a Japanophile or shinnichi.


Living in San Francisco, we avail ourselves of a lot of Asian cultural benefits and our daughter is increasingly fascinated with Japanese pop culture, that is, manga, or Japanese comic books, and anime, the t.v. shows animated versions of the manga. Fortunately for us, she’s become more adventuresome about the food too. She and her friends enjoy visits to the Japantown mall, where they recently introduced me to taiyaki, a snacky dessert treat that’s a waffle-cake cooked up in a fish-shaped mold and stuffed with a small amount of chocolate, chocolate and banana, or red bean paste filling.

taiyakitreatphoto credit: http://mamaloli.com/blog

Already big fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, my husband and I are quite happy to keep up with the by-products of this frontier of discovery. We’re also enjoying the shift from reluctance to enthusiasm when we suggest dinner at our local treasure, Noriega Teriyaki House. My husband and daughter’s favorite dish there, chicken karaage, seems like something that would be harder to make at home than a restaurant because it requires tempura-like breading and flash frying of strips of chicken. Basic teriyaki sauce with chicken, steak or fish, however, is not hard at all and has been a big hit when we make it as a company dish.

Break down the word teriyaki and you get teri – ‘shining’ or ‘glaze’ and yaki – ‘roast.’ Simply put, it’s a barbeque sauce. The sauce is easy to make and assign to a younger helper who can deal with standing at the stove, if they are game. You’re basically making a savory caramel sauce where the sugar is dissolved and cooked down in soy instead of butter. No wonder the kids lap it up. It goes awfully well with a variety of protein sources.

I must say too that I was impressed with the difference between having homemade and having commercial versions at restaurants or grocery store versions of pre-made teriyaki marinade. I urge you to try it, for there really is no comparison. (Finger-licking good for real!)

Chicken Teriyaki is a great dish to make to share with friends, especially our daughter’s friends, who are equally immersed in most-things-Japanese, some visiting us clad in Naruto headbands, others patiently correct my pronunciation of manga or UNIQLO. Their love of the family teriyaki chicken recipe has been universal among them, and we think it’s pleased a few parents too!

Teriyaki Sauce with Chicken
½ cup soy sauce (low sodium)
½ cup sugar
½ tsp garlic powder (or 1 clove fresh)
¼ tsp. ginger powder (or ½ tsp fresh)
2-1/2 tbsp Mirin (about 1 oz.) or Sake or white wine
(If using sake or wine, increase sugar to ½ cup plus 1 tbsp.)

The sauce:
In a small saucepan, combine ingredients and stir frequently. Simmer until it thickens and reduces to about ¾ cup, making sure that the mixture never bubbles too hot or burns. Sauce should coat the spoon. Keep leftover sauce, if any, in fridge for 2-3 days max.

The chicken:
Prepare dark meat chicken, cleaning and placing on a broiling pan. We prefer bone-in, skin-on thighs but include drumsticks when we get quarters at the butcher. Calculate 2 pieces per person, or 7-8 thighs or 6 thighs and 4 drumsticks, depending on whether you want to count on leftovers. Brush with teriyaki glaze that you are preparing as it cooks. Or if you are doing the chicken ahead, you can brush it with soy sauce and mirin or wine only. Score the tops of the chicken thighs if you are using skin on pieces, making three slashes in the skin so that it will not curl up as it cooks. I bake for about 20-25 minutes at 400F, then broil for 2-3 minutes, but if you are really a champ at broiling stuff and not forgetting about it and letting the skin get charred, as I too often do, broil for 17-8 minutes, turning midway through cooking.

Serve in a platter, drizzling a little bit of sauce over the chicken but also giving each person their own dipping bowl with a tablespoon or two of teriyaki. With luck you’ll have a little left over to go with leftovers the next day.

Sorry I don’t have a picture. My fingers are usually too sticky to go reach for the camera when we get this onto the table.

This pic is from the Noriega Teriyaki House website: