What is teppanyaki?
Teppanyaki is the Japanese word for flat iron grilled foods. It’s a combination of the words teppan and yaki. Teppan meaning flat iron grill and yaki meaning grilled (as in grilled foods).
In America, you may have heard of Benihanas, a teppanyaki restaurant where the chef performs a crazy cool show with the cooking utensils.
It’s not really a show in Japan
Well, at least not like you may be used to at places like Benihanas.
It’s generally far more low-key professional. Where the “show” is the skill at which the chef in front of you moves the ingredients around on the teppan and how fluidly they carve, flip, and cook.
It’s a little hard to explain in words, so it’s video time!
As you can see there’s a lot less food throwing going on. 🙂
When you hear teppanyaki there’s a good chance your mind immediately jumps to spectacular A5 wagyu sizzling on a hot iron grill.
That’s part of it.
But in Japan, there are many ingredients commonly grilled at a teppanyaki restaurant.
A few seafood items like shrimp, scallops, lobster and even things like octopus and squid sometimes.
Veggies are essential and the most common are bean sprouts, carrot, onion, and Japanese green peppers.
Here are the common ingredients in Japanese just in case you need them at restaurants that don’t have much English support (which are often the best ones).
- えび (ebi) — shrimp
- ほたて (hotate) — scallops
- いせえび (isēbi) — lobster
- たこ (tako) — octopus
- いか (ika) — squid
- にんじん (ninjin) — carrots
- たまねぎ (tamanegi) — onion
- ぴまん (pīman) — green peppers
- もやし (moyashi) — bean sprouts
And if you need some help ordering, check out my guide on how to order just about anything in a restaurant in Japan.
Common Teppanyaki Dishes
Besides the obvious grilled meats and seafood, you’ll also find teppanyaki restaurants in Japan offer a few other awesome dishes cooked on a teppan too.
チャーハン (chāhan), fried rice, is the tried and true favorite. The super hot sizzling teppan is a perfect partner to cooking amazing fried rice.
Generally, you’ll find garlic fried rice when meat is the main dish and often shrimp rice pilaf when seafood is your main.
Yakisoba even has the word yaki in it so you know it’s made on a hot flat surface. Yakisoba literally means grilled soba noodles.
Homemade yakisoba is generally cooked on a pan on the stove, but at a teppanyaki restaurant, the flat iron grill makes it simple to make — and utterly amazing to devour.
I won’t deep-dive on yakisoba in this article but will come back to it in the future, but one more point to make about yakisoba.
It’s a very common festival/street food. Where you’ll find stalls offering a variety of yakisoba each with their own small twist on the typical recipe.
It’s very filling, cheap, and easy to eat (plus it cooks quickly so the festival stalls can keep up with demand).
I really tell all about okonomiyaki in my guide, but real quick, it’s a dish with ingredients like shrimp, pork, cabbage, egg, etc… in a flour mixture — cooked on a teppan.
The result is a pancake-like dish with a fabulous flavor made to your expectations (using the ingredients you want).
Okonomiyaki is also very common in festivals and as street food (especially in Osaka and Nagasaki).
And that pretty much sums up what teppanyaki is. Now for the part you may have been waiting for: my teppanyaki restaurant recommendations in Tokyo.
Are teppanyaki and hibachi the same?
No. The teppan is a flat iron grill. A hibachi, aka shichirin, is a barbecue grill.
You’ll often find hibachi are small ceramic/clay “pots” with a mesh grill on top. They are small enough to sit on a tabletop and the material keeps the hot charcoal heat inside while the outside remains cool.
At home, a teppan is usually some sort of flat iron electric “grill” where you can cook items a normal mesh grill cannot (like eggs).
What are teppanyaki grills made of?
Iron. They’re almost always iron, well… in the restaurants in Japan they are.
There are companies who produce glass-ceramic based teppan grills. I cannot attest to their effectiveness, but they do look nice.
How hot are teppanyaki grills?
Actually, the teppan will have areas of varying heat levels. Right in the center, where a teppan is usually the hottest, it will be somewhere around 430 degrees Fahrenheit.
Good teppanyaki chefs will use the center to caramelize and sear while moving food away from the hottest point to cook.
How to pronounce teppanyaki?
Teppanyaki is pronounced tay-pah-n-yah-key.