The scene is an acquainted one. People sit down around a rectangular table; an easy iron cooktop takes up the bulk of that. Gas flames flicker beneath. A man sporting a tall crimson hat and a white chef’s uniform procedures, pulling a cart full of cold meals, huge cooking utensils, and various sauces bottles. He holds a spatula and a big metallic fork. He brings them collectively: grasp-clang, grasp-clang. Eyes sparkling, he looks across the table. “Welcome to Benihana.”
More normally called hibachi, Japanese teppanyaki-style cooking has to turn out to be a part of the American eating revel in. The combination of noodles, rice, veggies, and meat fried up on a griddle draws clients to these eating places as a great deal as the chefs’ loud and showy flair cooking at the desk.
One of the extra diffused curiosities of teppanyaki restaurants — beyond the stacked onion earrings of fire and a behind-the-again toss of metallic utensils — is a creamy orange-red sauce placed beside your steaming meal. Almost every teppanyaki eating place will serve it, although its name differs depending on whom you talk to. White sauce (a deceptive moniker), shrimp sauce, yummy sauce, yum yum sauce — are all used interchangeably.
Considered using many in America to be a Japanese conventional (one Reddit user is known as it “infamous”; a blogger speculated that there are actually handiest “two types of people that dine at a hibachi eating place, those who get the double white sauce and those that do not recognize you could get double white sauce”), the sauce’s candy, slightly tangy taste varies between restaurants and regions as much because the name does. A little greater sweetness in one place. A little greater tang in every other. Some versions are paying homage to fry sauce, famous in the South. Such variety calls into query whether the sauce we flavor in our neighborhood teppanyaki eating places is even Japanese at all.
Maybe no longer exceptionally, the answer, it appears, isn’t any.
Nancy Singleton Hachisu, the writer of 3 cookbooks on conventional and modern Japanese delicacies, changed into harassed once I first asked her approximately the sauce. She hadn’t heard of it being utilized in Japan and actually objected to my preliminary query approximately hibachi eating places. “Since hibachi is a conventional charcoal heater for the room,” she told me, “I can’t assume that Japan could yield facts in this subject matter.”
Once I despatched her a description of the sauce, which I referred to as shrimp sauce, and she referred to as “essentially red mayo,” she instructed me that there is no proof of its use in Japanese cuisine.
Elizabeth Andoh, who has lived in Japan for half of a century and runs the Japanese culinary schooling program A Taste of Culture, turned into a loss for words. “I do not know of any white sauce or shrimp sauce that is served with Japanese steak,” she said. When I induced her with a greater precise description, she spoke back, “This type of mayo-primarily based … Tomato sauce isn’t part of any Japanese steakhouse repertoire Irecognizee of.”
And Polly Adema, director of the food research application at California’s College of the Pacific, stated that the sauce’s origins are fuzzy, even though probably now not deeply rooted in the Japanese lifestyle. Perhaps, she stated, the sauce stems from congruent American and modern Japanese tastes for mayonnaise.
Andoh did say that, in fashionable, the Japanese are “mayo loopy.” But such speculation would not get you very far.
“Which came first: an affection for mayo or a mayo-enriched dish?” Adema requested. “[It’s] one of those questions we may also never be able to solve.”
The recipe for the sauce is similarly hard to come back using. I reached out to 15 one-of-a-kind restaurants around the U.S. — massive chains and independently-run joints — but everyone turned down my request. “We can’t reveal that data,” a Benihana manager in Maryland informed me. I acquired comparable solutions from a Sakura in New Jersey, an Edohana in Texas, and a Flame in New York.
Chuck Cutler bumped into a completely similar problem 25 years in the past when he first tasted white sauce in a teppanyaki eating place. “I noticed that every one of the other people at the table has been asking for bowls of white sauce … So I attempted it. I became instantly hooked.”
Cutler spent a decade asking exclusive restaurants for the recipe, to no avail. “It’s a Japanese secret,” cooks could tell him. One day, even though he stumbled across a sauce produced by using a teppanyaki eating place in a Florida grocery shop, he stumbled across a sauce. He remembers it being known as a vegetable sauce. So he bought a bottle “and darned if it failed to flavor precisely like what I was searching out.”
Using the elements listed on the vegetable sauce bottle, Cutler changed into providing you with his personal recipe (Chuck’s Easy Recipe). In the form of revenge towards the restaurants that had rejected him, he made a website for Japanese-Steakhouse-White-Sauce.Com. According to Cutler, it was the first good recipe online. Created nearly a decade and a half of in the past, the internet site now has 229 pages of feedback from traffic. There “are hundreds of comments from people all around the international saying, ‘Oh my God, I’ve been looking for this forever,’ ” he said. “Ninety-8 percentage of them is tremendous.”
The recognition and intrigue around the sauce led one teppanyaki eating place proprietor, Terry Ho, to begin bottling it in bulk. He owns more than 20 eating places within the South — a few teppanyakis and a few Chinese. He has lived in Albany, Ga., since the 1970s, whilst his grandfather immigrated to the U.S. From Taiwan.
Ho’s sauce is called Terry Ho’s Yum Yum Sauce.
The name is exclusive — and a nifty branding flow. According to Ho, “Yum Yum Sauce” is more appealing than white sauce or shrimp sauce; neither of those is even a vaguely correct description of the real sauce. “There’s no shrimp in this recipe,” he said. “Why are you calling it shrimp sauce?” Although, Yum Yum Sauce fits: “Well, I mean, it tastes yummy.”
For years, Southerners who had tasted or heard about Ho’s Yum Yum Sauce — which he made a bit otherwise from others (less oil and sugar) — could come to his restaurants soliciting for sixteen or 20 oz. Of it. He would dole it out in Styrofoam containers.