The Very American Roots Of Hibachi Yum Yum Sauce

It's that delicious cup of pinkish-whitish mayonnaise-based sauce you get with nearly every meal at hibachi restaurants and Japanese steakhouses. You can use this multi-purpose creamy condiment to dip your shrimp, chicken, steak, and veggies — or just pour it generously over your rice or noodles so that it envelops your entire dish. (If you know, you know).

We're talking about yum yum sauce. And even though you're accustomed to having it served to you in Asian restaurants, much like sriracha, yum yum sauce aka shrimp sauce is believed to have actually been invented — or at least popularized and mass marketed — in America.

According to NPR, despite its association with Japanese restaurants in the U.S., yum yum sauce isn't a feature of Japanese cooking at all. While its exact origins are a bit murky, what is clear is that yum yum is a hit with patrons of Asian food restaurants in this country. One entrepreneur and visionary took the yum yum concept and capitalized on its appeal by manufacturing their own version of the sauce.

Building a sauce empire

A restaurateur spotted an opportunity when he noticed people constantly requesting additional sides of yum yum sauce with their meals and leaving his restaurants with extra containers. His customers just couldn't get enough. Observing people's obsession with yum yum at his Hibachi Express establishments, Taiwanese immigrant and Georgia resident Terry Ho, who owns more than 20 restaurants (Japanese and Chinese) across the South, made the decision to bottle and distribute his own recipe, called Terry Ho's Yum Yum Sauce.

What started out in Southern supermarkets such as Piggly Wiggly in 2012 eventually grew into a sauce empire and is now available in thousands of grocery stores nationwide. Ho has even since expanded into selling other bottled sauces including Japanese Ginger Sauce.

Should you become inspired to craft your own yum yum at home, you can follow our yum yum sauce recipe and see how it stacks up to hibachi restaurants or store bought-varieties like Ho's. Just make sure you prepare the right sauce-to-food ratio. The last thing you want to do is run out of yum yum with no backup plan for extra containers.