So what makes for an authentic teriyaki sauce?
It's simple... equal parts soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar.
It's not that I have anything against those fancy sweet soy marinades with ginger, garlic, chili, green onions, sesame seeds, and or fruit puree in them, but sauces with these ingredients aren't teriyaki sauce since they cloud the teri. Ginger, sesame seeds, green onions and chili are garnishes that are occasionally added after the chicken has been cooked.
Traditionally, the unseasoned chicken is grilled over coals then basted with teriyaki sauce. To tenderize and season the chicken all the way through, I brine it first in soy sauce and sugar, grill it, then shellac a few coats of teriyaki sauce on to finish. This seems to get the best balance of color, texture and flavour. I've written the directions for a broiler, but just reverse the cooking order (skin up, then down) if you are using a grill.
By using maltose or honey in the teriyaki sauce, the sauce gets thick without having to add any cornstarch. If you do use honey, make sure you use one without a strong flavour of its own.
Serve this chicken teriyaki whole or chopped up on a bowl of steaming hot rice with some extra sauce. The leftovers make great oyako donburi which will be a topic for another post.
For teriyaki sauce
- Combine the water, soy sauce, brown sugar and mirin in large ziploc bag and add the chicken thighs. Press out as much air as you can and seal the bag. Let this sit in the fridge for at least an hour.
- To make the teriyaki sauce, just 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 quite as thick as the jarred types). 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 on and move the oven rack up to the upper position. Put a wire rack on a baking sheet (I use the rack out of my toaster oven), and put the chicken thighs skin side down onto the rack (the idea is to keep the meat elevated off the pan).
- Grill until brown then flip so the skin side faces up. Baste the skin side with teriyaki sauce and continue to broil until the skin is golden brown with just a few charred spots. Give the chicken one final baste with the teriyaki sauce and serve.