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If you've been to a Japanese restaurant, you may have sat at a teppanyaki table -- those large griddles on which chefs theatrically stir-fry food, then serve it to the patrons seated around the cooking area. To have a teppanyaki evening at home, the first decision you'll need to make is whether you want to recreate the whole experience of teppanyaki cooking or to simply emulate the food.
To evoke the teppanyaki experience at home, seat your guests along one side of the dining table, and set up electric skillets or a large griddle on the other. If you have an open-style kitchen with a breakfast bar, you can achieve a similar effect with two or more pans on your stovetop. Cookbook author Marie Wilson suggests giving guests access to platters of pre-sliced meat and vegetables and letting them cook and assemble their own dinner, but you'll have to decide whether this is practical in your home.
For a classic teppanyaki, use the best quality boneless beef, chicken or pork you can find. Adding a firm-fleshed seafood component, such as shrimp or scallops, delivers additional interest. To serve eight people, you'll need a total of 2 to 3 pounds of meat and seafood. Of course, you can use one kind of protein only, or omit seafood altogether in favor of pork and chicken, for example. For guests who are avoiding other types of meat, pair seafood with protein-rich shiitake mushrooms. For the chicken, pork or beef, slice the meat into bite-sized cubes or thin strips.
Vegetables add color, crunch and nutrients to teppanyaki, and it's traditional to provide several kinds mixed together. You'll need at least 5 cups of chopped vegetables when cooking for a crowd. Among the vegetables you might choose are an Asian variety of squash known as opo, Japanese eggplant, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, onions, bell peppers of various colors, sweet potatoes, baby corn and bean sprouts. Chop any of these except the bean sprouts so they are all a similar size, as well as similar in size to the meat you've sliced.
To create a basic teppanyaki dipping sauce, whisk together equal parts soy sauce, water or chicken stock, and lime juice. Pour the sauce in individual small bowls, and garnish with grated ginger and chopped scallions to taste. If your guests can handle a bit of heat, sprinkle the surface of the dipping sauce with shichimi togarashi, a seven-spice mixture that includes peppercorns and dried hot peppers.
For the most dramatic presentation, bring the chopped, uncooked proteins and vegetables to the cooking area in separate, decorative platters. Spread your griddle or skillets with an oil that won't smoke at higher heat, such as peanut or canola. When cooking the meal components side by side, start the proteins about 5 minutes sooner than the vegetables, on medium-high heat. Cook the veggies at medium heat. Have some large bowls of cooked rice or cellophane noodles at the ready, along with the individual bowls of dipping sauce. When the food is done, present the proteins and vegetables on separate, clean platters, or combine them on a large serving platter.
Ellen Douglas has written on food, gardening, education and the arts since 1992. Douglas has worked as a staff reporter for the Lakeville Journal newspaper group. Previously, she served as a communication specialist in the nonprofit field. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Connecticut.
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