What is Teppanyaki?

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What is Teppanyaki?
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This may make you laugh a bit. Because what you might think teppanyaki means, and what it really is, could be different.

Teppan meats flat iron grill. Yaki means to cook, but in this instance, more accurately, to grill.

So teppanyaki means grilled on a flat iron grill.

It doesn’t distinguish what types of food grilled.

So it’s not just steak and shrimp.

Teppanyaki in Japan isn’t a show. 

Well, not in the sense where the chef is flinging spatulas and salt shakers. 

Instead, the masterful use of utensils and the knife is incredible to watch.

Top-grade wagyu beef is the star of the show in Japan.

A5 wagyu, when cooked by a master chef on a teppan grill, is one of those life-altering experiences; it’s that good.

But don’t forget the supporting cast of other ingredients too.

Things like shrimp, scallops, lobster, octopus, and squid — along with a range of seasonal veggies.

Teppanyaki restaurants tend to be a higher-tier meal in Japan. 

A meal for special occasions or a romantic evening out.

Look to spend at least ¥5,000/person, usually higher.

But you can find many street foods cooked on teppanyaki too. Garlic fried rice, yakisoba, and okonomiyaki are easy to find during festival season in Japan.


RECOMMENDATION: Reserve Ishigaki Yoshida Michelin 1-star Teppanyaki in Tokyo

Tajima beef is famous for its succulent texture and deep, mellow flavor. Awarded 1 Michelin star in 2017, Ishigaki Yoshida, offers superior teppanyaki-style (iron griddle) cuisine that results in especially flavorful and soft-textured meat.

Highlights

  • Reserve seats for Ishigaki Yoshida in Tokyo.
  • Taste famous Tajima beef served teppanyaki style.
  • Enjoy the stylish and intimate atmosphere.

What kind of food is teppanyaki? Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine, and is derived from the words ‘teppan’ (iron plate) and ‘yaki’ (grilled, boiled, or pan-fried). So, it literally means ‘grilling on an iron plate’. The dishes cooked using an iron plate include meat, seafood, and noodles. —KobeJones

How do you make teppanyaki style? Heat the vegetable oil on the teppan (or skillet) at high heat. Start by grilling the vegetables because they will take longer than the meat, then cook the sliced meat alongside the vegetables on the teppan (or use a separate skillet for the meat) and add the Yakiniku sauce to the meat. —BiteMyBun

Why is teppanyaki so expensive? Not only is the visual enjoyment, but the skill of Teppanyaki chefs combined with the finest ingredients is the main reason for the high price of teppanyaki. Snowflake cows, Japanese cowboy bones, French lamb chops, Australian lobsters, etc. These ingredients must be present in teppanyaki cuisine. —CookerYaki

Let’s dive deeper into teppanyaki, the incredible grilled food of Japan

Okay, what exactly 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.


Teppanyaki isn’t 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. 🙂


Typical Teppanyaki Ingredients

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

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.

Fried Rice

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

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).

Okonomiyaki

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.


Teppanyaki Q&A

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.


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