Teppanyaki (鉄板焼き, teppan-yaki), often confused with hibachi (火鉢, "fire bowl"), is a post-World War II style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food. The word teppanyaki is derived from teppan (鉄板), the metal plate on which it is cooked, and yaki (焼き), which means grilled, broiled, or pan-fried. In Japan, teppanyaki refers to dishes cooked using a teppan, including steak, shrimp, okonomiyaki, yakisoba and monjayaki.
The teppanyaki grills are called teppan and are typically propane-heated, flat-surfaced, and are widely used to cook food in front of guests at restaurants. Teppan are commonly confused with the hibachi barbecue grill, which is called shichirin in Japanese, and has a charcoal or gas flame and is made with an open grate design. With a solid griddle-type cook surface, the teppan is capable of cooking small or semisolid ingredients such as rice, egg and finely chopped vegetables.
The originator of the teppanyaki-style steakhouse is believed to be Shigeji Fujioka of the Japanese restaurant chain Misono. The restaurant claims to be the first to introduce the concept of cooking Western-influenced food on a teppan in Japan, in 1945. They soon found the cuisine was less popular with the Japanese than it was with foreigners, who enjoyed both watching the skilled maneuvers of the chefs preparing the food and the cuisine itself, which is somewhat more familiar than more traditional Japanese dishes. As the restaurants became more popular with tourists, the chain increased the performance aspect of the chef's preparation, such as stacking onion slices to produce a flaming onion volcano.
Japanese-style teppanyaki may also use noodles (yakisoba) or cabbage with sliced meat or seafood (okonomiyaki), which are cooked using vegetable oil, animal fat, or a mixture. In Japan, many teppanyaki restaurants feature Kobe beef or Wagyu beef.
Side dishes of mung bean sprouts, zucchini (courgettes) (though this is not a popular vegetable in Japan and rarely found in that market), garlic chips (crisps), or fried rice usually accompany the meal. Some restaurants provide sauces in which to dip the food. In Japan, only soy sauce is typically offered.
In the United States
In the United States, teppanyaki (more commonly known simply as hibachi) was made famous by the Benihana restaurant chain, which opened its first restaurant in New York in 1964. Though Benihana cooks their food teppanyaki-style, they also serve dishes such as hibachi steak and chicken. Benihana and other chains of teppanyaki restaurants continue to place an emphasis on the chef performing a show for the diners and continuing to introduce new variations and tricks. The chef might juggle utensils, flip a shrimp tail into his shirt pocket, catch an egg in his hat, toss an egg up in the air and split it with a spatula, flip flattened shrimp pieces into diners' mouths, or arrange onion rings into fire-shooting volcanoes.
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