While visiting Japan, Kim and I not only learned what classifies authentic Japanese food, we also learned what Japanese food isn’t. At this point, most people know that you’re not going to go to China and eat “the best orange chicken you’ve ever had,” because it’s clear that chow mien, pork fried rice, and all that stuff is American Chinese food, not actual Chinese food. But there still seems to be some mystery as to what classifies authentic Japanese food.One things for sure, specialty sushi rolls, flashy hibachi shows, and bottles of thick, syrupy teriyaki were no where to be found in Tokyo. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t find simply executed nigiri, meats grilled over charcoal flames, or flavorful sauces made from mirin, soy sauce, and sugar. In fact, the combination of those three holy ingredients forms the base of most Japanese marinades and sauces. Teriyaki is just another variation there of.
“How does it vary,” you ask? Well, teriyaki’s basically two parts soy sauce, two parts mirin, and one part sugar with a touch of freshly grated ginger and garlic. That’s it! No starch, no corn syrup, no other flavors, no bullshit, no fuck shit, nothing. At the end of the day, Japanese food is about simple flavors executed with perfect technique.At this point, you may be thinking “chicken isn’t even that popular in Japan,” or “stir-fries aren’t that big of a deal either,” or “food blogs are the downfall of true culinary craftsmanship,” which you have a solid point to each, so let’s do our best to clarify. Number one: chicken isn’t all that popular in Japan, however, neither is vegan food, but we’re still here cooking up vegan recipes! Besides, vegan chicken is one of the most realistic and accessible meat alternatives out there; if you have access to it, you could totally use vegan shrimp in its place, which would be more “accurate” to real Japanese food. Number two: okay we get it. I didn’t see broccolini or zucchini over there once. It’s Japanese-inspired, not pure Japanese cuisine. You happy now that we said it? Number three: we couldn’t agree with you more. Food bloggers get away with calling themselves “chefs” even though they’re not the head of a kitchen. They make poor versions of other cultures’ foods and call it authentic (at least we try to be honest about it). They put out recipes that look good on camera but suck in actuality and get away with it because it’s the frickin’ internet. So yeah, we feel away about food blogging culture too. Sorry, I just woke up from rant mode. Where were we? Oh right, teriyaki stir-fry! Like we said, thick, syrupy, and gooey teriyaki from a bottle is 100% not Japanese food. Soy sauce, sugar, and mirin sauces on the other hand are authentic, so don’t go into this expecting some 5th grader type shit. You’re a grown up now, time to eat like one.
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“So like… is sesame chicken Japanese?”
Fast & Hot Teriyaki Chicken Stir-Fry (vegan)
Seared veggies and soy meat in a classic, Japanese-style teriyaki sauce (not that syrupy stuff from the bottle).
- 2 vegan chicken cutlets (Gardein’s Chick’n Scallopini is our favorite)
- 1/2 small zucchini, cut into ⅛ inch rounds
- 3 stems of broccolini, cut into long, bite sized pieces
- 1/4 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
- 2 tbsps toasted sesame oil (plus more as needed)
- black pepper
- 1 oz (2 tbsps) soy sauce
- 1 oz (2 tbsps) mirin
- 1/2 oz (1 tbsp) sugar
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated garlic (about 1 clove)
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- toasted sesame seeds
- cooked jasmine rice
- Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small, airtight container and shake to combine (the sugar will still be crunchy; that’s okay). Set aside for now.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add in sesame oil and swivel around to coat. Place in chicken cutlets and sear on each side until heavily browned; about 4 minutes per side. Pro tip: a little burning adds flavor!
- Transfer chicken to a cutting board, cut into bite-sized pieces, and keep aside for now.
- Using the same pan as before, boost heat to high and toss in zucchini, broccolini, onions, and a medium pinch of salt. Use tongs to scrub the veggies against the pan, scraping off burnt pieces of chicken for extra flavor. Cook, tossing occasionally, until veggies are lightly charred in some areas; about 3 minutes.
- Add the chicken back into the pan along with all of the teriyaki sauce from Step 1. Toss/stir frequently until sauce is seared onto the veggies; about 1 ½ minutes.
- Top with scallions and toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately! Pairs wonderfully with fresh jasmine rice.
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