“Teri” anything—chicken, burger, steak, fish—is a plate lunch favorite, distinctly different from the Japanese origins that the name evokes. In Japan, teriyaki is made by combining soy sauce and mirin, the Japanese sweet cooking wine, and it is used to marinate fish and as a basting sauce for broiling; the term came from “glazed” (teri) and “seared with heat” (yaki). In Hawai`i, the tale passed down from mother to daughter is that the Local Japanese substituted brown sugar for the mirin and added ginger and green onions. The addition of substantial amounts of sugar to soy sauce would have been natural where mirin was virtually unobtainable but where sugar was king. Ginger and garlic may have been Chinese additions. By the 1960s, and probably much earlier, Hawai`i-style teriyaki sauce had become one of the culinary symbols of the Islands.


(Yield: 2 cups)

2 cups soy sauce
¾ cup sugar, preferably turbinado or Demerara variety
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon monosodium glutamate (optional)


Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Pour into sterilized bottle. Use this sauce to marinate fish and meat before broiling. It keeps for a week or more in the refrigerator.

Note: To grate fresh ginger, use the fine side of a grater or, better, one of the handy Japanese ginger graters that can be found in Asian stores. I have also extracted ginger juice successfully in a juicer, but the ginger must be fresh and tender.

Reprinted with permission from the author. Originally published in The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary HeritageUniversity of Hawaii Press, 1996.