Teriyaki: The “Mother” of All Asian Cool™ Sauces
There’s more to teriyaki sauce than traditional Japanese grilling
When chefs think of mother sauces they may think of traditional French foundational sauces like béchamel and tomato, but teriyaki is a mother sauce, too—not just for Japanese food but for other Asian cuisines as well.
Teriyaki sauce is widely loved as a grilling sauce for Japanese-style chicken, beef and other proteins. But this delicious sauce has many more uses, as Kikkoman Foodservice and Industrial Corporate Chef Andrew Hunter demonstrated at the recent MenuDirections conference, sponsored by Foodservice Director magazine, where he participated in a session on plant-based proteins. “It’s great as a sauce for tofu, and can be used to bring flavor to ingredients like rice and beans, quinoa or chickpeas.” And of course there’s nothing like teriyaki sauce to boost the interest of vegetables like grilled or roasted asparagus, broccoli or Portobello mushrooms.
In fact, says Hunter, “there are lots of neat opportunities for flavor variations and different utilizations using the family of Kikkoman Teriyaki Sauces. It’s one of the world’s great umami ingredients, and umami belongs everywhere in cooking, from grilled meats to vegetarian stir-fries and more.
“At its heart, teriyaki sauce is a simple combination of soy sauce and sugar, and that means that there are many other flavor profiles that can be integrated into it,” continues the chef. These range from the traditional Japanese additions of garlic and ginger to ingredients that make teriyaki sauce appropriate for Southeast Asian and even South American or Caribbean.
For instance, continues Hunter, “Teriyaki sauce loves fruit, including pineapple and all kinds of citrus fruits, from lemon, lime and orange to more unusual citrus like yuzu or tangerine.” Even dried fruits like currants or chopped apricots can be added.
Which brings up the subject of changing the texture as well as the flavor of teriyaki with the addition of particulates, which can easily be done at the unit level. Take that pineapple for instance.
“A college/university or fast-casual location could start with Kikkoman Teriyaki Baste & Glaze with Honey & Pineapple and add canned crushed pineapple,” explains Hunter. “A casual or fine-dining restaurant could grill and then slightly dehydrate fresh pineapple, then slice it into a fine chiffonade, which would bring entirely different flavor attributes.
“Spirits are another great addition to teriyaki sauce,” adds Hunter, “especially something like spiced rum, bourbon or even tequila.” Each alcohol adds a different character, from the Caribbean spice of rum to the vanilla and oak of bourbon. Tequila, especially an aged anejo-type, has a smokiness that would work well with the additional enhancement of lime. Not only does a spirit-enhanced sauce like this add signature value, but it can also be branded, helping to support premium pricing.
“Teriyaki sauce does very well with heat in the form of chiles,” continues the chef. “You could easily add some roasted serrano chiles to the tequila-lime version, or some chipotles, especially in adobo sauce. To give the sauce some Asian-Latin character, you could add Aji Amarillo, a golden Peruvian chile. This creates a grilling sauce that pays tribute to the Japanese influence in Peru, and to the South American love of grilled meats.”
In addition to using teriyaki sauce in its traditional role as a glaze for grilled foods, says Hunter, it can be used as an ingredient in recipes: “I love to make sliders by mixing ground pork with teriyaki sauce, cilantro and green onions, then baste the patties as they’re cooking with more teriyaki and serve it on a brioche bun with a slice of caramelized pineapple. In this way, you get two different layers of flavor and texture with one product.”
Teriyaki can be used as-is to marinate meats, especially something quick-cooking like chicken satay or shrimp. Thin the sauce with sake or soju, and you get a savory, less viscous product that can spend a longer time on the grill without burning.