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It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Even though it's common to see bottles of teriyaki sauce at grocery stores in the US and Canada, teriyaki sauce is not actually sold pre-made in Japan. The word “teriyaki” actually refers to the cooking method -- teri, meaning shiny, and yaki, meaning grilled -- rather than to a particular sauce.
A friend explained this to me when we were having dinner at my place (it was a DIY takoyaki party). I had purchased the takoyaki sauce, but he told me that it would have been just as easy to make it at home. That got us chatting about the various so-su (sauces) of Japan, and of course, I brought up teriyaki. He said it was just a combination of soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar, but he didn't teach me how to make it.
More: If a DIY takoyaki party sounds fun to you, try hosting a DIY okonomiyaki party, too.
The next day, I was eager to give homemade teriyaki try. I found that combining those four ingredients yielded a sauce with the essential flavors of teriyaki, but it lacked that typical luster and thickness. After I added just a touch of cornstarch for thickness, however, it was perfect.
Now, I never buy teriyaki sauce. I like to use my homemade versioh with chicken or noodles, or simply as a dipping sauce. It's also fantastic for barbecue; just make sure to brush it on when your meat is almost done to avoid over-charring.
More: Use your homemade teriyaki sauce to make tangy salmon fillets.
If you can't find mirin, you can leave it out and add extra sugar to compensate, though I find that mirin adds shininess and an extra layer of depth to the sauce.
Makes 3/4 cup sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup sake
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and the water, then whisk this slurry into the sauce.
Turn the heat to medium, and reduce the sauce until it's slightly thick, 2 to 3 minutes (or longer if you want a thicker sauce). Taste, then adjust with soy sauce and sugar if needed. The sauce will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Photos by Stephanie Le