Another American tradition, as it happens.
While sukiyaki and yakitori are both authentic Japanese preparations, teriyaki was created by early Japanese transplants to Hawaii, tinkering with the inclusion of other ingredients, particularly pineapple.
Of course, our concept of teriyaki changed over time. Consider this version of teriyaki advertised in the October 14, 1959 edition of The Village Voice:
Beef en Brochette Char-Broiled wedged with Onions, Green Peppers and a Pineapple Chunk for that special South Sea Island Flavor.
Tossed Green Salad
Baked or French Fried Potatoes
“En brochette” is French for “on skewers.” This take resembles yakitori more closely than current teriyaki does.
The root of all of these words, yaki, means grilled. Tori means bird, suggesting that the person who named the traditional Japanese grilled chicken skewers was not, perhaps, one of the language’s greatest poets.
Usually, yakitori is marinated in a combination of soy, mirin, sugar or honey, and spices. When used as a sauce, it joins a broader category of sauces described as tare. Tare, pronounced roughly like “tah-reh” with a very soft ‘r,’ is a transliteration of a word meaning gloss or luster, a reference to the glistening appearance added by the sauce.
So teriyaki is “luster-grill.” Sounds a bit more poetic than the original, doesn’t it?
From a box sold in Martinez, California.
1 c. shoyu
2 T. sake
1/3 c. sugar
1 T. grated ginger root
2 cloves garlic
dash of Anjinomoto