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Teriyaki sauce and glaze

Basic teriyaki sauce is both a condiment and an ingredient in many recipes; you can buy it in bottles at any grocery store, but it’s also very easy to make yourself — and then it’s free of preservatives, artificial coloring, and other nasty stuff in the store-bought kind.

Once you have a healthy supply of teriyaki sauce, you can make a teriyaki glaze with it, which is the good part of what you buy at a teriyaki joint. The glaze goes great with chicken, pork, seafood (especially salmon), tofu — or just mixed in with rice. To that end: the proper way to prepare teriyaki chicken is lightly tossed in glaze and served over a bed of rice, with a generous portion of glaze poured over the top so it seeps through into the rice.

Below are recipes for a basic teriyaki sauce, which you can make and store in an airtight container in your refrigerator, and for a teriyaki glaze.

Teriyaki Sauce

Makes about 2 cups. Preparation time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup Mirin
  • 1/2 cup sake
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir until the brown sugar dissolves.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Watch it carefully — it can come to a boil quickly and burn or boil over if left boiling for too long. The long simmer gives it a slightly “cooked” flavor, while blending the flavors into something a bit more complex.

Remove from heat, and allow to cool. Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator in a sealable container.

Teriyaki Glaze

Makes 1 cup. Preparation time: 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 4 teaspoons cold water
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a small prep bowl, combine the cold water and cornstarch; stir until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Corn starch will dissolve in cold water but it clumps up if added to hot water and then is very difficult to get to dissolve.

In a small saucepan, combine the cornstarch mix, teriyaki sauce, vinegar, and salt. Stir to mix.

Heat saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. When bubbles start to show up around the edges, start stirring constantly until it thickens and clarifies. The glaze suddenly transitions from milky liquid to beautiful, dark, thick sauce in about ten seconds. You may see some light-brown solid chunks start to show up around the edge of the pan; this is normal, just stir them back in and they will disappear.

Remove from heat and use immediately.

Tips and suggestions:

  • There isn’t one “right” way to cook chicken (or other proteins) for teriyaki. Pan roasting and stir-frying both work well. Just make sure to brown the exterior; it will complement the slight sweetness of the teriyaki glaze well. Many teriyaki joints will cook whole chicken breasts or thighs and then slice them, rather than the common stir-fry method of cubing the chicken and then sauteing it in oil.
  • After I cook the protein, I will toss it with a couple of tablespoons of the teriyaki glaze to give it a nice shine; then after I’ve served it up I pour more glaze over the top. You can also serve up the glaze separately so your guests can pour/ladle the glaze on top themselves.
  • There’s plenty of room to modify the teriyaki glaze to your own liking. It’s a delicate balance of sweetness, saltiness, tang, and savory (aka “umami”) flavors, but you can add more brown sugar, salt, rice wine vinegar, or soy sauce to amp up any of them. But do so in small increments, and iterate until you get the balance you’re looking for. You can also try adding some minced garlic or grated ginger root.

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