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What is Teppanyaki?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Teppan means iron plate and yaki translates as broiled or fried. Together they create the term teppanyaki, which typically means food grilled on an iron griddle or plate. In restaurants, iron plates are large, flat surfaces upon which multiple teppanyaki foods can be prepared and these include grilled meats and vegetables of various sorts. Other times people at restaurants may get to grill their own foods on smaller plates located at each table.

Many people are familiar with teppanyaki as prepared in Japanese style restaurants in other countries like Benihana. The thrill of watching food prepared and grilled remains entertaining, and these restaurants have been dubbed Japanese steakhouses because they frequently use beef. In Japan, restaurants serving teppanyaki usually cater to tourists and not the Japanese, and the Misono Company owns the most famous chain of these restaurants. Misono introduced the cooking style in restaurants in 1945 in Japan, and companies like Benihana followed suit by creating restaurants in the US in the 1960s.

Though popular restaurants, most teppanyaki foods are not part of Japanese diet, and thus they mostly appeal to westerners or those who don’t live in Japan. One exception is when such restaurants prepare okonomiyaki, which is a cake that is fried on a griddle and contains various ingredients like fish or pork. These may be made in teppanyaki restaurants but are also popular in a variety of Japanese restaurants of other types.

It’s easy to see that teppanyaki more refers to a cooking method than it does to any specific food. Dishes prepared via this method can be variable. Another important element to dining at a teppanyaki or hibachi restaurant is the performance of the chef, which is particularly enjoyed in restaurants like Benihana. Many chefs are trained to not only prepare delicious food, but also to juggle, perform lightening fast cutting and to otherwise entertain guests. This, more than anything served at such a restaurant, may be its ultimate attraction, though numerous guests also praise foods prepared via this method.

Many of the dishes that are prepared use simple ingredients. Meats or fish, veggies, some spices and a little soybean oil may be the principle ones. Some restaurants serve foods with soy sauce or with other dipping sauces, and they may offer diners the option of eating with chopsticks or forks. Much of the food is prepared in bite-sized pieces to make eating with chopsticks simpler, especially for those unpracticed in this method.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By orangey03 — On Jul 24, 2011

A city near my home has a wonderful Japanese restaurant called Shogun. This teppanyaki restaurant serves everything from grilled lobster to California rolls.

The food is amazing, but the building is kind of small. There is only one teppanyaki griddle there and just a few places to sit and watch. That’s why most people just sit at the tables and look across the room.

I absolutely love the teppanyaki lobster. When I first ordered it, I had to ask the waitress what “teppanyaki” meant. She informed me that it was just the style of cooking.

The buttery, saucy lobster meat arrived at my table upon a bed of steamed rice and vegetables. The sauce made everything so delicious that I even ate the mushrooms, which I normally don’t like.

By OeKc05 — On Jul 24, 2011

The best restaurant I have ever eaten at is a combination sushi restaurant / teppanyaki grill. Diners have the option of either sitting at the cooking table or dining at a booth and having their food brought to them.

I don’t like to be close to flames and in close proximity to strangers, so I always sit at a table. I can still order teppanyaki food.

I remember ordering teriyaki salmon. The waiter brought it out to me in an iron skillet. It was still sizzling! The thick teriyaki sauce covered the fish and the sliced onions.

Since the meat came in the skillet, the sides were served on a separate plate. I had fried rice with zucchini and egg, plus some spring rolls and yum-yum sauce.

By shell4life — On Jul 23, 2011

@lighth0se33 - The food prepared on teppanyaki grills is the most delicious food I have ever tasted. I ordered the teriyaki steak dinner at one such restaurant, and the side items were a lot like the ones on your shrimp platter.

I remember rice, zucchini, egg, and carrots, but I also recall seeing him throw some English peas into the pile. There were mushrooms, too, but because someone at our table was allergic to mushrooms, he cooked them off to the side.

My steak was one of the first things to go on the grill, since it takes the longest to cook out of all the meats that they offer teppanyaki style. I believe that chicken takes the next longest amount of time, followed by salmon.

By lighth0se33 — On Jul 23, 2011

The term “teppanyaki” conjures up images of teriyaki flavored food. Japanese restaurants typically do use a lot of teriyaki in the preparation of their meats, vegetables, and rice.

I went to a teppanyaki restaurant and ordered the shrimp platter. Before the chef starts cooking the shrimp, he puts some sort of sauce, probably soy and teriyaki, on the grill, along with butter. First, he piles a big heaping of rice on the grill and mixes the sauces into it.

Next, he chops up zucchinis and carrots and stirs them in with the rice. He also scrambles an egg. The shrimp are cooked last, because they cook very quickly.

By SteamLouis — On Jul 22, 2011

@turquoise-- That's right. The founders of Benihana had a background in theater and restaurants and they wanted to combine the two when they opened their first restaurant in the U.S. Benihana started doing all those tricks at the grill, no one else had thought of that before. So the slicing and chopping and throwing stuff up in the air were all thought of by Benihana.

By turquoise — On Jul 22, 2011

I don't think that Misono Company started the entertainment tradition that teppanyaki is known for. I've been to the original Misono restaurant in Japan and the chef did not do any tricks to entertain us. He was very hospitable and cooked the meal in front of us but that was about it.

So maybe it was Benihana that started this tradition of entertaining guests while cooking. I personally prefer Benihana in the U.S. to Misono in Japan. Of course, the tastes are different, Benihana is a little Americanized. But I like watching the Chef juggling the ingredients of my meal in the air and making big flames. Even if I didn't like the food, I would go to watch the chefs.

By discographer — On Jul 21, 2011

Eating at a teppanyaki restaurant is so much fun! My friends took me there for the first time and I loved it! I thought that it would take a long time for the chef to make everyone's dish one by one, but we were lucky that it was not so busy.

Even as you're waiting you don't mind, because you get to watch the chef cook which is entertaining on its own. I used to get so bored at restaurants when I had to wait for 20 or 25 minutes at the table with nothing to do. Teppanyaki restaurants are so much better for that.

The food was delicious too. I had beef and tasted some of my friend's salmon and both were really good. The beef was thick, well cooked and juicy, just as I like it. It came with rice, cabbage and some sauces. I can't wait to go back there again. I want to try something different next time, maybe fish, prawn or crab.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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