I'm all for shortcuts as long as they are shortcuts that don't cut short on quality.
The Japanese have a whole battalion of high quality sauces and dressings that I have no reservations using whatsoever.
One of these is Ebara Yakiniku no Tare, or yakiniku sauce. You can find it in Japanese grocery stores or can buy it online.
Its ingredients are soy sauce, sugar, apple, onion, fermented seasoning, pepper oil, spiced soybean paste, salt, sesame oil,sesame seed, apple vinegar, honey, spice, caramel coloring. I have no problem with any of those ingredients, even the fermented seasoning. Lots of fermented seasonings exist in Asian cooking, including soy sauce, fish sauce, miso, etc., and they all contribute umami to dishes.
While yakiniku means grilled (yaki) meat (niku), the yakiniku sauce is great on meat, tofu, and vegetables. It can be used as a marinade and/or tableside dipping sauce. And you don't have to skewer the meat. You can marinate whole pieces (chicken, steak, pork, etc.) and you can marinate small pieces and stir fry them. It's very versatile.
Of course you can make yakiniku sauce from scratch. I include a recipe below that Inada-san, the wife of my husband's former boss, taught me when I was in my mid-20s.
But tonight I reached for the bottled sauce and chicken thighs. Two ingredients and I had a lovely meal for my daughter and me, along with chicken satay.
Easy Chicken Yakiniku
(cooked under the broiler)
Ebara Yakiniku no Tare bottled sauce (homemade sauce recipe included below)
Chicken thighs, cut into strips
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 20 minutes
Put chicken thigh strips into a Ziploc bag. Add enough sauce to marinate the meat.
Put the Ziploc bag in the fridge for 2 hours. Put bamboo skewers in water to soak.
Cover a cookie sheet with foil and put a cookie rack on top of it (if it's oven safe of course and just made of metal).
Put the oven rack on the top shelf and turn the broiler on high (if you have a choice between low and high.
Thread the chicken on skewers and put on the cookie rack. You can either discard the marinade or reserve it to brush on the skewers once you turn them over.
Before putting the chicken in the oven, tear off a strip of aluminum foil and place under the exposed wooden ends of the skewers and on top of the cookie sheet, as many as the strip will cover (4 or 5 skewers). Fold 1/2 of the strip over the top of the skewer ends up to the edge of the meat. This doesn't have to e perfect -- the main use of the foil is to keep the wood from being overly exposed to the heat source.
Put the chicken under the broiler. Let cook for 8 minutes or until the edges of the meat look charred. Take the chicken out of the oven and turn them over, brushing with marinade if desired. Cook 7 minutes or until the other side is charred and the chicken is cooked through.
Inada's Yakiniku Sauce from Scratch
2 tbs. garlic, minced
1 cup scallion, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sake
2 tbs. minced ginger
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup oil
1 apple, grated
1 tbs. red pepper
Mix ingredients together.