What is Teppanyaki?
Teppanyaki comes from two words. First, there’s teppan, or iron plate, and yaki, which describes food that is boiled, pan-fried or, grilled. Since teppanyaki restaurants are cooked on an iron plate, it’s fitting. The art combines the East and the West, cooking American-style Asian dishes, and combines ancient cooking techniques with modern art.
In 1945, the first teppanyaki restaurant chain opened in Kobe. It was called Misono. Teppanyaki existed hundreds of years beforehand, but it was mostly limited to family gatherings. The restaurant seemed to be more popular with western tourists, as they loved the performance, and the food was Americanized versions of Japanese foods, making them feel more at home. So naturally, the teppanyaki experience found its way to the west shortly after WWII. The first US chain was in New York, 1964, and it was called Benihana.
If you’ve been in a teppanyaki restaurant, you probably have an idea of the foods they cook. If not, here are some of the foods.
Meats: teppanyaki uses meats, typically steak, chicken, fish, or shrimp.
Rice: you’ll typically see rice of all kinds in a teppanyaki restaurant, as well as yakisoba, or fried noodles. Yakisoba is typically in more Japanese establishments.
Pancakes: The restaurant may cook these pancakes known as okonomiyaki
Vegetables: Veggies are typically cooked too, and they may be mixed into the rice.
If you’ve never been to one of these, the process is simple. You’re seated at this table, which has the teppan grill in the center. After ordering your food, the chef starts the show. He’ll usually begin by throwing his utensils around, juggling his knife, spatula, or whatnot, and he may even do a drum solo on the grill.
Then, the cooking starts. He may set the grill on fire using his oil, or performing little tricks. Besides the catching the egg in the hat trick, he may make an onion ring volcano, throw food into the guests’ mouths, and more.
The food typically is served to you separately. You may get the rice first, then the meat, then the veggies. You can wait to eat it all at once, or just munch on what you have as the performance is going on.
Afterwards, the show is over. Make sure to tip your chef.
Teppanyaki is fun, and best of all, you don’t need to go to Japan to experience it. Most towns have some kind of teppanyaki grill, or there’s a town nearby that has one. Take your friends and enjoy.
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