Chicken teriyaki is one of those dishes that’s universally loved. Salty and subtly sweet, the sticky sauce coats the chicken tenaciously. Inside the mouth, the flavors mingle to give an exciting yet familiar experience.
What gives teriyaki dishes that sweet salty flavor? Soy sauce provides the saltiness. And the sweetness? No, it’s not honey and definitely not maple syrup either. I mention these two because so many American versions of teriyaki use one or the other. But to be considered real teriyaki, the sweetness must be derived from a combination of sake and mirin.
Sake and mirin are sweet rice wines and they are often used together in Japanese cooking. Sake has a higher alcohol content but not as sweet as mirin which has a lower alcohol content. You need both to make a terrific and authentic teriyaki sauce.
The most common question, especially for non-Asians who don’t keep a regular supply of Asian ingredients in their pantry, is whether there are substitutes for sake and mirin. Perhaps, it is this never ending search for passable substitutions that drove some cooks to use honey or maple syrup.
The thing is, teriyaki sauce is equal parts soy sauce, sake and mirin. If you omit any one of these, your dish might be delicious but it won’t be teriyaki. And to call it teriyaki would be terribly disrespectful to the Japanese. So, there.
Chicken teriyaki noodle bowl
- 500 grams chicken thigh fillets
- sesame seed oil
- ¼ cup Japanese soy sauce
- ¼ cup sake
- ¼ cup mirin
For the noodles
- 150 grams fresh egg noodles
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- toasted sesame seeds
- sliced scallions
Cook the chicken teriyaki
- Wipe the chicken thigh fillets dry with paper towels and cut into one-inch cubes.
- Brush the entire bottom of a heavy frying pan with sesame seed oil and heat.
- Spread the chicken cubes on the hot oil in a single layer, skin side down.
- Cook over high heat until the skins are lightly browned and starting to render fat.
- Pour in the soy sauce, sake and mirin.
- Cook the chicken cubes over high heat, tossing them around occasionally, until they have soaked up the liquid and their surface is sticky and glossy.
Stir fry the noodles
- While the chicken cooks, heat a teaspoonful of sesame seed oil in a large wok or frying pan.
- Stir fry the noodles until each strand is coated with oil.
- Drizzle in the soy sauce, oyster sauce and hoisin sauce.
- Stir fry until the seasonings are evenly distributed and the noodles are heated through.
Assemble the chicken teriyaki noodle bowls
- Divide the noodles among four bowls.
- Divide the chicken teriyaki into four portions and arrange one portion over the noodles in each bowl.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds and sliced scallions.
- Serve the chicken teriyaki noodle bowl immediately.