This Barbecue Fried Rice Is Sweet, Sticky, And Seriously Delicious
Bachan's Japanese Barbecue Sauce Founder Justin Gill often makes the comforting dish on frenzied nights.
Justin Gill has his priorities straight. The founder and CEO of the incredibly popular Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce company is guided by a simple mantra: Family comes first. This is no stale platitude: He makes a point of working from home whenever possible, to feel more connected to his family, and unless he’s traveling for business, he makes sure to be home for dinner every night. He silences his phone during family meals and other kinds of dedicated family time. And he has blocks of time on his work calendar dedicated to family activities, soccer (all three of his daughters play competitively), and school events.
“I just always have it at the forefront of my mind, and it helps me prioritize anything that might feel like a fire drill at work,” he says. “Of course, there are times when I have to work late and or something critical is happening in the business and that makes it hard to be present. Overall, I think I do a good job at being present with my family, while still setting a real example for them for what it takes to build a successful business.”
“The most important thing for me as a dad is making sure that my daughter’s know that I love them, support them, and believe in them no matter what.”
Family has always been front and center of the Bachan’s brand. It’s in the name itself. Bachan means “grandma” in Japanese and was chosen in honor of Gill’s grandmother, Judy, whose lifelong support and stewarding of the family sauce recipe inspired him to begin the company in 2013. When he first launched the product to market in 2019, Gill’s daughters frequently joined him in stores to help encourage customers to try a sample. In the early days of production, his entire family — including his wife, daughters, parents, brother, sister, and bachan herself — helped box orders for shipping.
“It was literally a family affair,” he says.
Today, Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce is a regular sight online and in grocery stores across the country, its vibrant squeeze bottles and distinctive lettering standing out from the crowded sauce aisle and its unique flavor drawing legions of loyal customers. The company made $35 million in revenue in 2022.
Starting Bachan’s was a natural step for Gill. Food and cooking were always a part of his life and, as a kid, he was always pitching his family his business ideas. He grew up in the Bay Area surrounded by relatives. His bachan lived on the same property and frequently cooked for his family and often cared for Gill. All his aunts and uncles and grandparents would gather to eat lunch together every day.
“They had a big garden, were fishermen, and would also trade a lot with friends for fish, fertilizer, and other things that they could use,” he says. “I got a taste for Japanese food and food that was fresh from the garden, or the sea, from a very young age.”
Ever-present among those meals was the family’s version of tare sauce, a sweet, savory Japanese sauce that’s commonly used when grilling. Bachan’s is the family recipe, passed down through generations, and features only 10 ingredients, including soy, ginger, cane sugar, tomato paste, and green onion. The sauce, which Gill says is best described to American palettes as “teryaki-ish,” and now comes in five flavors — original, hot and spicy, yuzu, gluten-free, and miso — has no preservatives and is bottled using a unique cold-fill technique that, unlike thermal pasteurization, better retains the natural flavors of the ingredients.
Mealtime is important in the Gill household and everyone loves to cook. Justin himself enjoys grilling, his wife, who is Cambodian, enjoys making meals that incorporate the flavors of her upbringing, and his daughters like to bake. A typical dinner at the Gill household is a protein, rice, and a vegetable with a blend of Asian-influenced flavors. They often get together with the extended family for big potluck dinners where everyone contributes.
The ultimate measure of success for me is if my daughters think I am a good dad and see what I am building, are proud of it, and it shows them what is possible in this world if you work hard.
And yes, the family sauce is front and center on the table. One of Gill’s favorite meals to prepare — and one that he likes to keep in his back pocket on busy nights when soccer practices run long — is barbecue leftover fried rice. It needs only a few ingredients and comes together fast.
“It’s something I’ve been eating since I was a kid and absolutely think it is something others would enjoy making,” he says about why he chose it for his Dad Special. “It’s a very easy and approachable, and it’s really good. It’s a comfort food for my family.”
For Gill, family is always front and center.
“The most important thing for me as a dad is making sure that my daughter’s know that I love them, support them, and believe in them no matter what,” he says. “That’s what my parents did for me and that is why I have always had a strong sense of self-belief.”
“The ultimate measure of success for me,” he adds, “is if my daughters think I am a good dad and see what I am building, are proud of it, and it shows them what is possible in this world if you work hard and are passionate about what you're doing.”
Justin Gill’s Barbecue Leftover Fried Rice
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
- 2 tbsp Bachan's Original Japanese Barbecue Sauce
- 2 cups cooked rice
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
- 1/2 tsp ginger powder
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup leftover BBQ meat, chopped into small pieces
- 1/4 medium onion, diced
- Fluff the rice and gently mix in 1-2 tablespoons of water, 2 teaspoons of oil, and the garlic and ginger powder. Coat the grains of rice evenly and set aside.
- Add 1 tbsp oil to a large frying pan or wok and scramble the eggs over medium-high heat until the eggs until are mostly set but slightly runny. Remove and set aside in a bowl.
- Add 1 tbsp oil to a large frying pan or wok and sauté the chopped BBQ over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Add the onions and cook, tossing, about 1-2 minutes.
- Turn the heat down to low and add the rice, breaking up to cook and crisp, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Cooking on low ensures that the rice stays fluffy and moist.
- Turn the heat up to high, stir in Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce to taste, and fry, ensuring everything is smoky and crisp. Enjoy immediately.