Unless you’ve been living under a nice cool rock somewhere far off, and at this point I’d envy you if you have, you might have noticed a vast majority of the US experiencing record breaking heat. Yeah, it’s hot. Sweltering, even. Cook an egg on the sidewalk, instantly melt your ice cream cone, don’t you dare turn on the stove/oven/incandescent lights hot. So what does one do when the thought of adding more heat to the mix makes you cringe? Well, a sane person would eat ice cream while drinking ice water in a darkened air conditioned room. Or at the very least they order take out. What did we do? Well, we did none of those things. We grilled.
This is not a traditional teriyaki, which is commonly made with just soy, mirin or sake , and sugar or honey, and cooked down until glossy but the “teriyaki” of my half Korean father who, raised in the Asian melting pot of Hawaii, has swapped in elements of other Asian cuisines to suit his palate.
This marinade can be scaled up or down and due to variations in the saltiness of different soy sauces and the strength of fresh ingredients like ginger and garlic, tasting is encouraged along the way. Obviously before you add any raw meat.
1/2 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup water
1.5 tbsp sugar
1 inch cube of fresh ginger, grated
1 medium garlic clove, smashed in a press or finely minced
1/4 apple, grated (this can be a granny smith, or asian pear. Apple is a great tenderizer if using this marinade for beef and doesn’t hurt when used with chicken)
1/2 tbsp sesame seed
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 stalk green onion, chopped
Prepare the marinade by mixing soy and water in a bowl. Add sugar 1/2 tbsp at a time and stir until dissolved. Taste the liquid each time. You want the sweetness of the sugar to just overpower the saltiness of the soy/water mixture. If you’ve got a particularly strong or weak soy, your sugar amount could vary a bit from the 2.5 tbsp I used. Peel your ginger root (I like to use the edge of a spoon as a scraper to remove the rough skin) and grate it directly into the bowl. Go a little light on the ginger to begin with then taste add more if you need to. The ginger should be a bright note that pops up just after the initial sweet/salty assault of the soy. If you like ginger less, use less. If you love ginger, add more. It really is up to you. Add the garlic, smashed with a press if you’ve got one, or minced finely (I hate that particular task when it comes to garlic). Same rules apply to garlic that applied to ginger. You can add your chopped green onion now as well. Go ahead and splash in your sesame oil and add the sesame seeds and give it a good mix in the bowl. Taste. Does it seem balanced to you? Have your fresh ingredients pushed the sweetness of the sauce too far? Or conversely do you taste a bit too much salt? Too much ginger? Too little garlic? My father has made this sauce hundreds of times and I am sure that he has never made it the same way twice. When there are so few ingredients with strong flavor profiles, it is important to taste, taste, taste, and adjust accordingly.
For chicken breasts, pound the meat out half an inch thick or score them in a diamond pattern, cutting about halfway (but not all the way!) through on one side. Remember, we want to maximize the amount of surface area that is going to soak up your delicious marinade. For steak, I recommend a flank or hanger, as they tend to do well in marinades, and the apple will do wonders for tenderizing the meat if you don’t overcook it when it comes time to grill.
Once you’ve got the flavors to your liking, go ahead and put the marinade and meat in your marinating container. My father has one specific tupperware that he uses for this alone as the garlic and ginger tend to stick around in whatever you marinate in. If you’ve got something disposable, I hate to recommend it, but now might be the time to use it. You can use ziploc freezer bags with no problem. We have special “super containers” which no food seems to taint, so we try to use those.
I’m not a crazy grill expert, but if you are going the beef route, there is a bit of good info here on how to use the direct and indirect method for searing and cooking your steak under the “How to Grill” section.
When it comes to chicken I simply cook the thickest part to 165F over direct heat while turning when golden brown and just a bit charred.
Were we a mess from grilling on our patio at 105F? Yessir. Was it worth it? Oh, yeah.