Seattle-Style Teriyaki Chicken
I’m obsessed with Seattle-style chicken teriyaki.
To begin with, let me state for the record that I have only been to Seattle once, and it was way back in the early seventies, when I lived in San Francisco for a short while, and took a motorcycle trip to Alaska up the AlCan highway, and the itinerary from SF took us through Seattle in the middle of the day. We managed to stop only for a rest-room break and lunch, then back on the bikes and northward we went.
But oh, that lunch!
Our itinerary took us through the Japanese section of Seattle’s downtown, where hole-in-the-wall restaurants were serving up dishes that were part of their culture. This was a couple of years before the first—and soon to become world-famous—Toshi’s opened and changed the face of fast food in Seattle forever.
Small places, few tables, limited decor—the phenomenon that was to become Seattle-style chicken teriyaki hadn’t happened yet, but places were already serving up the amazing dish as an undiscovered gem. A friend who was a Seattle native had recommended a small dive—I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the place—that served up this most amazing dish, and for just a couple of dollars I would get a lunch I’d never forget.
I never forgot it. A few years later Toshi’s opened up, copycats followed, and voila! A phenomenon was born. Today chicken teriyaki is to Seattle what the cheesesteak is to Philly, what BBQ is to Texas (or North Carolina, or Kansas City, or…or…or…), what key lime pie is to south Florida, what Sabrett’s is to New York, what deep-dish pizza is to Chicago—you get the idea.
Just Google ”Seattle chicken teriyaki” and then surf your way to paradise. You’ll find jillion’s of recipes, recommendations for “THE place.” Just like with cheesesteaks and Philly, everyone has their own opinion of which is the best, the most, the source.
But suffice it to say, it’s just about the best fast food on the planet—Seattlites will tell you that the sound of squeaking styrofoam boxes is just part of the teriyaki experience (even though styrofoam in Seattle is becoming extinct). It’s kind of like, ”…cheesesteak wit…”.
But whether you’re from Seattle, or have been there and tasted the real thing, or have never been there but heard of it, or have no idea what I’m writing about here, you can experience this treasure right in your own kitchen. And it’s really quite simple. Just marinate, grill, broil to finish, and enjoy—especially with an ice-cold Asahi Super Dry (or two or three). Charcoal or wood-fired grill is best, but a gas grill or a grill pan will do in a pinch. At the very least, use a super-hot cast-iron pan.
Try it for yourself.
You’ll thank me later.
SEATTLE-STYLE CHICKEN TERIYAKI
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4-5 large cloves garlic finely minced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tsp freshly grated ginger
Lightly toasted sesame seeds
1 cup brown sugar
3 green onions
1 cup soy sauce
- In a small bowl whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, water, garlic and ginger. Pour half of the mixture over chicken in a large bowl (or in a zip-close plastic bag) and let marinate for at least 2 hours, or preferable over night (I like to do the prep first thing in the morning for a dinner-time cook). Reserve the other half of the marinade to finish at cooking time.
- When ready to cook the chicken, place the remaining marinade in a small pot over medium heat. Add the cornstarch and whisk until dissolved. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 3-4 minutes, until it just begins to thicken. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Heat a grill or cast-iron pan over high heat and cook 6-7 minutes on each side to get a nice sear. Brush the teriyaki sauce on. Place the chicken under a hot broiler for another 3-4 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. The sauce will get sticky and caramelize—don’t let it burn.
- Let chicken rest 10 minutes, slice into 3/4-inch pieces across the grain, and serve with cabbage salad (Google it), sticky rice, and pickles, and top with green onions and sesame seeds