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February 19, 2024
Teriyaki Chicken: Why Not Make It a Sandwich?

A sandwich inspired by Seattle teriyaki, salad dressing, and the delicate art of mixing your food.

My home city of Seattle, Washington, is known for its signature, sticky-sweet style of teriyaki: marinated, charbroiled chicken thighs painted with a glistening, sticky sauce and served over rice. Most teriyaki joints also include a very simple green salad topped with a mild, creamy, lightly sweet dressing. Anyone who’s anyone knows that the best way to indulge in our local specialty is to mix everything together and enjoy the magical combination of syrupy teriyaki sauce and creamy, sweet, and sour dressing. It occurred to me that this intermingling of foods is similar to how meats, veggies, and sauces get cozy in a sandwich. Then I realized I needed to make a teriyaki sandwich.

This sandwich has only two main components—the chicken and the salad—which necessitates that both be packed with flavor. The chicken gets marinated in a combination of equal parts soy sauce, mirin, and sugar, which is later cooked down and glazed onto the finished meat. To re-create the charbroiling effect at home, I cook the chicken right under my oven’s broiler. It results in a light char that gives it a convincing grilled flavor and appearance while offsetting some of the sauce’s sweetness.

For the salad element, I initially wanted to keep the classic greens topped with creamy dressing, but this sandwich demanded something with more crunch, punch, and color. A slaw made of shredded red cabbage, carrots, cucumber, and jalapeño slices takes inspiration from components of a classic Vietnamese bánh mì. It pulls double duty, acting as pickle and salad, thanks to a bright and briny dressing that holds its own next to the teriyaki sauce.

Serve this sandwich on fluffy, squishy burger buns that have been lightly toasted. To bring in some of the creaminess from the classic teriyaki joint salad dressing, it’s imperative to slather both sides of the bun with your favorite mayonnaise (a great time to use Kewpie). The teriyaki sauce, briny dressing, and mayonnaise all mingle together to create a sandwich that’s sweet, salty, tangy, and unabashedly saucy. It brings the same joy as eating a jumble of chicken, rice, and salad out of a Styrofoam takeout container, but it’s all nestled neatly in a bun for a little taste of everything in each bite.

RECIPE: Chicken Teriyaki Sandwiches With Pickle Slaw

Zola Gregory

Zola Gregory is a writer and recipe developer based in Seattle. Having previously worked as a pastry chef and baker, she now enjoys helping others find success in their own kitchens through her stories, recipes, and baking classes.