Saturday, October 29, 2011

Beef teriyaki, round #1

If at first you don't succeed: In Hawaii, as you may know, teriyaki is a big deal. Nearly every menu has something grilled and brushed with this sweet-and-salty glaze. (Even McDonald's has a McTeri Sandwich!) Yet strangely, we almost never eat teriyaki when we're there. This may be because it's most commonly paired with chicken or beef, and generally we just eat fish when we're in Hawaii.

When we returned from Maui, I felt like I had failed to consume sufficient teriyaki. A homemade effort was in order. I happen to have a number of Hawaiian cookbooks and plucked a recipe from Sam Choy's Island Flavors. Sam had steered me right in the macadamia nut chicken, so why not beef teri?

The recipe calls for marinating thinly sliced beef in an enchanting mix of soy sauce, ginger, and sugar (among other ingredients) for 4-6 hours before grilling it quickly, then topping it with a teriyaki glaze. Doesn't it look fantastic?

Unfortunately, both the marinade and the glaze (two separate concoctions) were horribly salty. I didn't even end up serving the teriyaki glaze because it was beyond edible. What a debacle!

In the end, good old mac salad saved the day. I LOVE Hawaiian mac salad. The husband and I can really put it away, too. So we ate a little beef teri and a lot of rice and mac.

In one way, I'd like to fiddle with the recipe and tweak it to make it just right. In another way, I'd like for someone to just give me a better recipe that I don't have to fix. I think that way wins. Anyone have a good one to share? I'm ready for beef teri, round #2.


A new acquisition: I recently came to acquire this painting*, done by my father at an unknown date, but most likely before I was born. It made its way to me through my cousin, who was clearing out his late parents' house to prepare it for sale. My dad was a fairly prolific painter, ceramicist, and jeweler, and periodically things of his will sort of reappear in my life.

Although I am fortunate to have several of his other works, this painting has quickly become one of my favorites. I'm not sure why, exactly. The reason why we prefer certain pieces of art over others has always been a mystery to me, but one which I enjoy contemplating. This is a quality passed on to me by my dad, who died nearly 16 years ago.

At the time, because I was on the young side, losing a parent at 22 seemed like a great injustice. Now, with some years on me, it's clear to me that there are far, far worse things to have happen to you in your life, chief among them getting stuck with a crummy parent to begin with. I am fortunate that I lucked out and got two good parents, one of who I am grateful to still have with me.

My dad instilled in me several things which shaped my life:

1) Family is the most important thing, and to have a sibling to whom you are close is a great gift.

2) Food is a source of joy.

3) Art is important.

Some of my best memories of my dad are strolling through museums with him--in San Francisco, Washington DC, Mexico City--and talking to him about art. We started doing this when I was very young. He was never didactic, though when I asked him, he would gladly tell me what he knew about the artist, the period in history, and the significance of the piece. These memories are still very vivid for me. Just recently, I had the opportunity to see an excellent exhibit of Picasso's work, on loan from the Picasso Museum in Paris. As I moved through the galleries, I thought a great deal about my dad, and of how much of the way I see the world--what is beautiful or interesting-- is because of him.

In a few weeks, my dad would have turned 77.  Right after his death, I remember people saying, in some form or another, "He'll always be with you." Hearing this was baffling to me and sometimes made me angry, even though people meant it to be comforting. In the moment, it seemed like the most ludicrous thing to say. With me was the absolute thing he was not.

I understand it a little better now, even though I still miss him. I think once you are over the really sad part of losing someone, you can think back more easily on the good things. And if you're lucky, like me, that person left you with something--an imprint of their perspective, an alternate framework for understanding the world--that you can carry with you the rest of your life.

*Please excuse the poor quality of the photograph...turns out taking good pictures of paintings is rather difficult.


  1. Love the painting.

    As for teriyaki, Cook's Illustrated had a very good recipe a few years ago. The sauce had soy, sugar, mirin, fresh ginger and fresh garlic. Never too salty. I can email you the exact proportions, if you want.

  2. Love the story about your dad, and the painting which is incredibly eye-catching (how big is it if you don't mind my asking?). What a great thing to have.

  3. My mother gave me my love of art just as your Dad did for you. She has been fine for more than 20 years but, yes, she is still with me.

  4. That should read "she has been gone..." I hate it when the iPad guesses what I want to say - incorrectly - and I don't catch it.

  5. Camille: please do!! Thanks!

    Connie: Hm, I think about 2 1/2' wide by maybe 5' tall (maybe a little shorter). It's pretty big.

    Zoomie: I figured.;) Sounds like you're a lucky one too!

  6. I use "Beef Teriyaki with Glaze" recipe from Jang Food 1 (submitted by Carole). But I make double (or triple!) the amount of glaze so there's plenty for the meat AND rice! I've used it on chicken and salmon.

    So glad that painting has a good home. - Pete

  7. I don't really eat a lot of beef, so I never make beef teriyaki. But for teriyaki sauce, it's really just making sure you have equal proportions of the main ingredients of soy and sugar, that way not one is stronger than the other. Another thing to keep in mind, Hawaii people grow up with Aloha shoyu, which I think is less salty than Kikkoman, which is popular on the mainland. Maybe using a low-sodium soy will make the recipe more palatable.

    As for the painting, wow, I love it too! I like the color combinations, the hints of winter, and the strength in the bold strokes. Was he a full-time artist or just hobbyist? Would love to see more of his work.

  8. Beef Teriyaki. It looks and sounds great, but I like "anonymous" idea to make extra for the rice.

  9. Pete: thanks again for the painting. And I love hearing about a recommended recipe that's in a cookbook I already own--a family one, no less.

    Ben: Interesting about the soy sauce. ANd, the proportions of soy to sugar were not close to equal, more like 3 to 1! Thanks about the painting. My dad was an art teacher but did lots of work as well on his own time.

    Jan: Yes, always need extra sauce for the rice!

  10. Lovely post Sam. Your points on what your dad instilled in you really resonated. If I can pass those three things on to my own daughters, I'll be happy. I really do believe art is so, so important. Not just the visual arts, but dance and music and writing are just as important too. You sound like you take after your Dad a lot.

    As for teriyaki, the beef does look great, sorry it didn't taste as good. I always do teriyaki salmon and I just mix up the ingredients (splash here, glug there) and taste as I go to make sure I get the balance right. For a super speedy version, I usually use, soy, mirin, sesame oil, teeny bit sugar if needed and very rarely, salt because I find the soy salty enough already. If I have more time, I might add some finely sliced spring onion or ginger or both to the sauces. Good luck on take 2.

  11. what an interesting piece of art! my walls are bare--some have said that it looks like i'm living in a prison cell, but that's neither here nor there--and i need to acquire some eye-catching stuff like that!

  12. Did your Dad teach at SFAI? I used to work there.

  13. shaz: Oh thank you. Your mini-critics are so lucky to have you as a mom! And thanks for the teri ideas...maybe I should just play around on my own.

    grace: Yes, you need art!!

    Zoom: No, he taught at a local high school for about 30 years. Were you an instructor at SFAI?

  14. I grew up eating teriyaki and mac salad, that's such comfort food for me. I always add water and/or sherry to teriyaki recipes to soothe the salty soy. That painting is awesome, great colors and energy.

  15. Oddly, we only make teriyaki salmon (Dad's recipe, not too sweet) or teri chicken from Sonoko Kondo's out-of-print cookbook. Can send you the recipe. Speaking of Japanese food (ok--local Hawaiian), we had great soba in NYC this weekend along with unusual desserts. More later. The painting looks great. Haven't seen such a vertical one in a long time, nor one in which he used so much electric blue.

  16. foodhoe: yeah, definitely more sugar next time and water is a good idea...

    Jary: Hm, can you send me both? Don't think I have Dad's. The paining is awesome, looks so much better in real life too. Can't wait for you to see it (and take it whenever you want it). Maybe we can chat this weekend?

  17. Loved this post.... It makes me smile to think about your dad. I always think of our camping adventures especially the gourmet feasts and your dad slicing white peaches with that super skinny paring knife by the light of the campfire. Some of my best memories. Good luck with the teriyaki. report back if you crack the code on that one.

  18. I, too LOVE mac salad and eating it with rice is something I particularly like. Anything that is a vehicle for mayo. I am looking into making more Hawaiian food myself!
    Great lessons from dad...sounds like he was a pretty cool guy!

  19. Stace: I loved those camping trips, definitely some of my best memories! Would you believe my mom still has that knife?!

    Simran: You should definitely give Hawaiian food a try, and then you should invite me over :)

  20. Love this post. A great, gentle reminder to make the most of the time we have with all the people we love. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  21. I had no idea McDonalds had a Mcteri sandwich! I rarely go to one...except when I'm traveling. Now I'll have to check, 'cause I love those flavors too.
    How wonderful to have received the surprise of a painting your father did! He sounds like he was a wonderful dad and I know how you miss him. I miss mine every day and he's been gone 12 years.

  22. Too bad about the teriyake---you're right, it does look good. Your dad's painting is awesome, he clearly passed a sense of creativity down to you. I lost my mom many years ago and it still stings.

  23. Barbara: We never go to McD's either. But we always see the commercials for the McTeri and are intrigued (and kind of want one!)

    Sue: Guess you never stop missing certain people, no matter how much time has passed.

  24. You get an "A" for effort with the Teriyaki...I bet your 2nd round will prove to be just right-either because you fixed it yourself or someone provided a better version (smile).
    Now, the macaroni salad that rocks. Reading it, made me think when is the last time I thought about macaroni salad...I now have a sudden craving.

    As for your dad, your memories and the spirit he leaves with you is priceless.

    Thanks for sharing.

  25. No, I was the Career Counselor. I don't really have any art talent, I just admire the heck out of those who do.

  26. Velva: Yes, the mac salad is delicious. I love Hawaiian mac salad with the vinegar base. So good!

    Zoomie: Me too. No art talent but great admiration for those who do!

  27. WOOF. Just pile it on the plate!

  28. Mark: Indeed! (Thanks for stopping by!)