Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

If you’ve been following along here or at my other blog, Reid All About It, you’ve probably noticed many allusions to Japanese culture lately. I guess it’s my way of keeping them in my heart, plus it’s an excuse to delve into and learn about another culture, always a fun thing to do.

Beyond sushi, sashimi and what I’ve seen on the original Iron Chef, I’m not that knowledgeable about Japanese food. I know there’s more out there. I did once have a delicious okonomiyaki dinner at Abeno, a Japanese restaurant in London. Okonomiyaki s a savory pancake filled with all kinds of delights, grilled at your table and topped with sauces and seaweed flakes.

chicken teriyaki recipe japanese

Okonomiyaki (photo by Hajime Nakano)

I decided to subscribe to a few Japanese cooking blogs to find some basic recipes. As I checked out Marc Masumoto’s [No Recipes] blog, I found his post about chicken teriyaki. Jim often makes chicken teriyaki on his dinner nights, but it’s usually just chicken thighs basted with teriyaki sauce from a bottle. Now I had a chance to make the real thing.

But it would require a trip to the market to buy sake and mirin. Sake is often called rice wine but its brewing process is really more like beer’s. Mirin is a sweet rice wine. Neither is apparently a popular item in my area because I couldn’t find them at Lowes Foods, Food Lion or Walmart. So off to A & C Supermarket I went.

A & C is a large Asian supermarket on the southern outskirts of Raleigh, about a 20 minute drive from my home. I was in a bit of a time crunch, having already hit up three stores in a fruitless search for my ingredients, so I didn’t have the time to browse like I wished. I can’t wait to go back and hit up their produce and fish sections — rows of leafy greens at great prices, live fish swimming in tanks, more varieties of fish on ice than in any of my usual markets, and they even looked fresh!

I read recently that if you need help in an ethnic market, you should ask the youngest person working there because they probably will speak English. That was true in my case at A & C. Although the man I first asked was friendly enough, he didn’t speak a word. He yelled over to one of the young cashiers and, sure enough, she helped me find the mirin amidst a bewildering assortment of jars and cans.

So whose chicken teriyaki is better, mine or Jim’s? Come on now, you know the answer is mine, of course. The chicken had less of that cloying sweetness of the jarred sauce. It tasted fresher with a more complex and subtle flavor. You’ll need to allow an hour for marination, but beyond that, this dish is a snap to make once you find your mirin and sake.

Sake and Mirin getting some sun together

Chicken Teriyaki

You’ll need a large bowl or sealable bag, small sauce pan, wire rack, baking sheet and brush for basting.


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 4 skinless bone-in chicken thighs

Teriyaki sauce

  • 2 tablespoons mild flavored honey
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons sake


  • Pickled ginger
  • Sesame seeds
  • Green onions, sliced
  • Chili, minced, if you dare

Combine the water, soy sauce, brown sugar and mirin in a large sealable bag, or bowl, and add the chicken thighs. Press out as much air as you can and seal the bag, or cover the bowl with plastic wrap pressed onto the chicken. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

To make the teriyaki sauce, add the honey, soy sauce, mirin and sake to a small sauce pan and boil over medium heat until the sauce is glossy and slightly viscous. It won’t get as thick as the jarred sauce. It should take on a caramelized taste but be careful not to burn it.

When you’re ready to grill the chicken, turn the broiler (or toaster oven) on and move the oven rack up to the upper position. Put a wire rack on a baking sheet, and put the chicken thighs ‘skin side’ down onto the rack to keep the meat elevated off the pan.

Grill until brown (10 minute at 450 if you’re using a toaster oven) then flip so the ‘skin side’ faces up. Baste the skin side with teriyaki sauce and continue to broil, about 15-20 minutes, or until internal temperature is 165 degrees. Continue basting every now and then, and then one last time after removing it from the oven. If you’d like, garnish or serve with pickled ginger, sesame seeds, green onions and chili.

I served the chicken with jasmine rice prepared per package instructions with the addition of some sesame oil to the water, and parsnips and carrots roasted with orange juice and zest, ginger and red hot pepper flakes (recipe forthcoming).

Original recipe: Chicken Teriyaki, [No Recipes]


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