In Japanese, “teri” means shiny and “yaki” means grilling or broiling. The shine comes from brushing on tare, the classic Japanese sweetened soy sauce, during cooking.
Teriyaki is the instant version of tare — which is often boiled and reboiled, fed and improved over time, like a starter for a sourdough bread, though it isn’t fermented. It is salty from soy sauce and sweet from sugar or mirin, with depth from sake (it doesn’t need garlic or ginger or scallions or anything else), and it works as a grilling sauce for just about anything. A final sprinkle of togarashi or chile powder adds heat, and a squeeze of lemon juice brightens with acidity.
Although you can simmer the sauce on the stove any time and keep it in the fridge, you can make the following dish even quicker by cooking the sauce in a saucepan right on the grill next to the fish or whatever you’re grilling. (Just make sure your saucepan is heavy-duty enough to handle the heat.) When the sauce sits on the grill, it soaks up some of the smokiness from the salmon and — partnered with broccoli rabe, its leaves charred until crisp — makes for a quick and undeniably satisfying weeknight dinner.