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Sculpin
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PostSat Dec 19, 2020 8:20 am 
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Back when I used to commute to work, I drove by four teriyaki joints but only two burger joints.  If you travel around a bit, you may have noticed that other places don't even really have "teriyaki joints" at all.  How come we have so many and other places have so few?  The answer is that Seattle teriyaki is a thing, it was invented here.

The Seattle Weekly published an article about the origin of Seattle teriyaki in the August 15, 2007 edition.  The article had a lot of fun facts collected by Jonathan Kauffman.  I just stumbled upon a paper copy of this article and thought I should write this post.

A Brief History of Teriyaki

The Japanese word "teriyaki" just means "glazed and grilled."  In Japan, it was originally sake, sweet mirin, and soy sauce, and applied to fish.  In Japanese cooking, the marinade is wiped off prior to grilling and then re-applied after, preventing the sauce from burning.  According to the article, the use of teriyaki sauce on chicken and beef is more of an American invention, although this invention eventually returned to Japan.  I had Seattle teriyaki before I ever ordered it in a Japanese restaurant.  I don't order it in Japanese restaurants anymore because I am always disappointed.

Toshi's Teriyaki

What makes Seattle teriyaki unique?  Kaufmann writes that "on March 2, 1976, Toshihiro Kasahara opened Toshi's Teriyaki Restaurant at 372 Roy Street, on lower Queen Anne."  But the dishes being sold were different from the Japanese version in numerous ways.  In the teriyaki sauce, Kasahara substituted sugar for the sweet mirin, but more importantly, he did not wipe off the sauce prior to grilling.  Instead, he allowed it to drip down on the grill and create flame, which slightly charred the exterior in a manner similar to American barbeque.  The result was a depth of flavor that went beyond traditional teriyaki.  But the culinary story does not end there.  I just mentioned American barbeque, which originated in southern states.  American barbeque - the southern version at least - is paired with cole slaw in mayonnaise.  Kasahara developed a salad dressing with Asian ingredients that yielded a similar combination of flavor elements.  There was also a third innovative sauce, the optional hot sauce consisting primarily of pepper flakes and pineapple.  I find that the most dedicated fans of Seattle teriyaki tend to be those who order the dishes spicy with the third sauce.

Toshi's restaurant was doing middling business with familiar faces until it got a glowing review from Seattle Times' critic John Hinterberger.  From then forward, the restaurant was packed.  Toshi eventually opened a second restaurant - take out only - in an old building near Green Lake, about five blocks from where I was living at the time in 1985 or so.  I discovered the joys of Seattle teriyaki a few weeks later, and have been eating it regularly ever since.  When I eat it (always spicy!), I take a little bit of meat, rice, and salad in each forkful, and the combination of the three sauces is exquisite.   biggrin.gif

It came from Hawaii

The one other place that I know of that has "teriyaki joints" is the suburbs around Honolulu.
There, a more authentic Japanese style of teriyaki is often paired with Korean pickled veggies.

Like most innovations, the Seattle version of teriyaki was cobbled together from borrowed pieces, most of them Hawaiian.  Kauffman's research revealed that the use of sugar rather than sweet mirin in the teriyaki sauce dates back to at least the 1930s in Hawaii.  Pairing teriyaki with fresh salad is also most likely a fusion of Japanese with Korean that likely occurred in Hawaii.  And of course, putting pineapple in the hot sauce has an obvious Hawaiian connection.  Hawaii has long had a large contingent of ethnic Japanese, so it is no surprise that there is some fusion cuisine.

Teriyaki is never there waiting for you like a McD's burger.  But now in the era of cell phones, I can call ahead on my way back from the mountains, pick up my teriyaki on the way home, and pair it with my favorite cold beer.  Now that is living!

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Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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Chief Joseph
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PostSat Dec 19, 2020 9:18 am 
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I am a Teriyaki lover, this is my go to place in Marysville is Marysville Teriyaki at 9501 State Ave, in North Everett I usually hit up Teriyaki and Burger stop located at 3517 Rucker. When I am in the Sandpoint Id., and Newport Wa area, there are no Teriyaki places for some reason? There is one Chinese place in each town, but they both suck. Too cold for the Teriyaki cooks over there?

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Anne Elk
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PostSat Dec 19, 2020 10:47 am 
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Wow, who knew?  Now I want to try it.    epicure.gif  Thanks for posting this, Sculpin.  But maybe it should be in "food & grub"?

From a quick google search, it looks like the original - Toshi's - has become something of a franchise - locations now in the Bay area, closest to me is near Children's Hospital.

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Slugman
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PostSat Dec 19, 2020 12:04 pm 
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Teriyaki Town by Fred Meyer in Lynnwood is my favorite. I also like Highway Teriyaki in James Plaza on Highway 99.

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Sculpin
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PostSun Dec 20, 2020 1:00 pm 
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Anne Elk wrote:
it looks like the original - Toshi's - has become something of a franchise - locations now in the Bay area

Kauffman goes into considerable detail on how it spread, I guess I forgot to summarize that in my post.  Kasahara made his money by establishing a successful restaurant, and then flipping it for two more.  When he sold one, the recipes went with it.  He failed to trademark the name "Toshi's" and eventually had to settle with one of the restaurant buyers to get it back.  But he did not retain control over his recipes, so they spread rapidly.

In some ways this story parallels the Sriracha story.  The name was never copyrighted, so it was stolen and all sorts of "sriracha" sauces hit the market.  That made it really famous, so the inventor slapped "original" onto his product and proceeded to make even more money than if he had copyrighted the name.  At least that is how he tells the story!

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Malachai Constant
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PostSun Dec 20, 2020 3:40 pm 
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Sriracha is a generic Thai name for hot sauce. It has been used for years before the American version came out. It cannot be trademarked.

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Sculpin
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PostMon Dec 21, 2020 7:32 am 
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I think the American version could have been trademarked when it first appeared on the market.  The story is somewhat complicated:

https://www.lawinc.com/sriracha-trademark-history

I don't even like Sriracha sauce!   gag.gif

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PostMon Dec 21, 2020 7:50 am 
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You were always able to get Thai sriracha sauce in asian stores in Washington and California. Interestingly we tried to trademark the major brands of Nuic mom (Vietnamese fish sauce) in the late 70ís but were unable to because there was still an embargo in place. Thus we could not get US sales.

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uww
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PostFri Dec 25, 2020 12:32 am 
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In my opinion, this is the best thing about Seattle. My favorite is now gone, but it's all about the same. Never had one I didn't like. Portion sizes can differ, but value always good. I usually go to I Love Teriyaki on 34th in Seattle, and sometimes Teriyaki Madness on 45th- interestingly there is a large chain of the same name https://teriyakimadness.com/

Anyone got a recipe?
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PostSun Dec 27, 2020 9:45 pm 
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I think the best is still Toshi's, the one still run by the man himself up in Mill Creek. It's a tiny restaurant, but he produces far better food than most teriyaki joints around here. The chicken is cooked to order and (almost) always to perfection. I find that too many other places precook and/or overcook the chicken.
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PostMon Dec 28, 2020 10:32 pm 
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Sculpin - thanks for this. It took me back to Bothell....1990, maybe '91, as a sophomore in highschool. I'd just kicked the flu or some other bug. My best friend called me up to check on me and caught me right on that first day when your appetite returns with a vengeance and you realize you haven't eaten anything substantial in days... particularly rough for a teenaged boy. "I'm taking you to teriyaki!" he exclaimed.

Up to that point, teriyaki had been this steak my mom made that I only tolerated. I wasn't so sure. He said he'd pay for it. I agreed. Little did I know my culinary world was about to be rocked.

We jumped in his VW Squareback and hummed down to Kenmore's Minami Teriyaki where I remember ordering the chicken/beef combo at my friend's recommendation. I distinctly recall adding what we then called "rooster sauce" to the chicken. Sooo good! I destroyed that plate!

The love persisted... lots of trips to Nasai near U-Village and Ave. during the 90s while a Husky (still am, go dawgs).

Now, living in the Methow, I've had to learn to make my own, which I've done pretty successfully. When in the 206, I take my 10yo daughter.... well, last time I was there I did, about a year ago.
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