Takano Shares His Family’s Secret

California Democrat made a year’s supply of the family teriyaki sauce over winter recess

California Rep. Mark Takano shares his family’s teriyaki sauce with Roll Call. (D.A. Banks/CQ Roll Call)
California Rep. Mark Takano shares his family’s teriyaki sauce with Roll Call. (D.A. Banks/CQ Roll Call)
Posted March 6, 2018 at 5:00am

An annual ritual for Rep. Mark Takano’s family is steeped in teriyaki sauce.

Over the winter recess, the California Democrat joined his parents, Nancy and Willie, and his brothers to make a year’s supply of the sauce in their family home in Riverside.

Bonding over sauce-making has been a family tradition since before Takano was born. For the third-term congressman, it’s a chance to slow down.

“This job, you really have to consciously pay attention to [spending time with family] because you get so consumed in it, you can leave out family and not visit or communicate with them as often,” Takano said.

The sauce is best brushed over cooked vegetables and meat, which is how Takano prepared it for a lunch with Roll Call.

Watch: Takano Heats Up the Grill With Family’s Homemade Teriyaki Sauce

Loading the player...

The family prefers not to use it as a marinade, because it’s too expensive, Takano said, and “it’s kind of sweet. As the millennials say today, that’s extra. It’s a bit beyond.”

The family recipe comes from a woman Takano calls “Grandma Harata,” whom his mother met when she moved to Riverside from the Coachella Valley in the 1950s, the congressman said.

(Courtesy of Takano)
Takano takes a selfie with his mother and father making the sauce in the background. (Courtesy Rep. Mark Takano)

Takano’s mother met Harata through his paternal grandparents, and she “became kind of a third set of grandparents for us,” he said.

Takano said Grandma Harata wasn’t trained beyond home economics, which around the time of World War II “combined both Japanese food traditions and sort of western American food skills, and my mother went and learned all those things from her.”

His mother later sold the sauce at the summer Sendai festival, named for Riverside’s sister city of Sendai, Japan.

(Courtesy of Takano)
“Grandma” Harata, center, is seen in a Takano family photo. (Courtesy Takano)

“Mrs. Harata’s teriyaki sauce is what we used to baste all the meats. In my mind, it’s very distinctive,” Takano said. “I don’t often order teriyaki at restaurants because I’m often disappointed.”

While the family recipe isn’t all that complicated, “there’s a whole process of buying gallons and gallons of soy sauce and sugar.”

But there are some keys to its flavor.

“Grating — we do the ginger fresh. We don’t put powdered ginger in it. We actually chop up the ginger, peel it, peel garlic. It’s got to steep in the brew. It gets strained and then bottled.”

The sauce is a little different than it was when the congressman’s mother first learned the recipe.

“Our family kind of appropriated it and made it out own,” he said.