Beef Teriyaki

I never thought I'd be talking about my heritage in this space, but here I go. I am fourth generation Japanese-American, and I am also eleventh or twelfth or maybe even thirteenth generation Danish/Irish/German/and other Northwestern European. Growing up in Hawaii, I never thought of myself as an "immigrant, or "ethnic", or "yellow", and especially not "different." If anything, I wished I was more "Asian" or "Hawaiian" or even "Portuguese" (I am not Hawaiian or Portuguese). Why? Because while growing up in such a culturally diverse place, each of these unique cultures was celebrated and respected by all. My childhood neighbor was also half Japanese and half haole (Caucasian) and my best friend was (is?) half Filipino and half Chinese. It's fair to say that most of the kids at my school were at least two ethnicities and were all very proud of that fact. And most of them were third or fourth gen, with families who came to Hawaii, to America, for a better life.

My great-grandparents on my mother's side came over to Hawaii for a better life. My great-grandpa on my mother's side started out by working in the sugar cane fields, alongside many other immigrants from Japan, China, the Philippines, Korea, and Portugal, then went on to open a coffee shop, and later a bakery (they were famous for their coconut pie). I'd like to think he served up this beef teriyaki in the coffee shop (I think it was more like a diner, with stuff like saimin (aka ramen), and possibly teriyaki), though I can't say. What I can tell you is that beef teriyaki is now a staple in the islands, along with chicken adobo (Filipino), pork lau lau (Hawaiian), meat jun (Korean), char siu manapua (Chinese), and malasadas (Portuguese). While I can't tell you exactly why my ancestors on my father's side came over, I imagine they came over for the same reason. I also feel like they all brought over their best dishes and traditions, and they've influenced what the US looks like today. Most everyone I know has an immigrant story to share... and that's a little bit of mine. America is a nation of immigrants and I hope that fact continues to ring true in the future. I love the multicultural tapestry that weaves us all together, and I appreciate how beautiful the nation is when we all unite. Beyond my story, here's a list of a few other immigrant food stories, shared by my fellow bloggers.

What's your #immigrantfoodstory? 


Serves 4 to 6


  • 1 c. soy sauce (my mom recommends Yamasa)
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. mirin
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated
  • 1 1/2-inch segment fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 1/2 lbs. flank steak, thinly sliced


  • Measuring cups & spoons
  • Mixing bowls
  • Whisk
  • Large nonstick skillet


  1. Whisk together all ingredients, except beef, until combined, then add beef. Cover and soak for 4 to 5 hours, if using Yamasa, and overnight if using a different brand, to marinate. 
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and cook the meat, a minute or two on each side. The meat is so thin that it will cook quickly. You can also grill or broil the meat if you'd prefer to go that route.
  3. Serve with hot white rice, and other desired sides, and enjoy!

Note: Yamasa brand is the strongest and saltiest brand of soy sauce.