Sukiyaki

sukiyaki02

Heard of sukiyaki?  Probably.  Ever actually eaten it?  It’s a Japanese dish that’s popular by name but probably not as much on the kitchen table.  It’s so popular that a 1960s Japanese song by Kyu Sakamoto was renamed “Sukiyaki” for English-speaking countries just so it would sound familiar to their listeners (it was originally titled “Ue o Muite Arukō,” or “Look Up As I Walk”).  And yup, the song has absolutely nothing to do with sukiyaki. Just talking about it makes my mouth water.

Sukiyaki is actually incredibly easy to make.  So easy, I wonder why my own Japanese-American family didn’t make it all the time.  Maybe it’s because my family was too busy eating dishes from recipes my mom got from her high school Home Economics class, like “Texas Hash” and “Chicken and Broccoli.”  But sukiyaki is so sweet, salty, and full of umami… Mix some soy sauce, sake, and mirin (a sweet rice wine), add a little sugar, and you can simmer a whole pot of thin slices of beef, an array of vegetables, tofu, and noodles.  Get a bowl of rice, and you’re ready to dig in.  Don’t hesitate to invest in getting those bottles of soy sauce, sake, and mirin either. Those are major staples in Japanese cooking that you’ll be adding to everything (teriyaki sauce, tempura sauce, and other marinades).  The following recipe is only a suggestion of what ingredients you can add to your hot pot.  If it’s just a meal for two, feel free to just make half the recipe. There will be plenty for the both of you.

Sukiyaki (Yield: 4 servings)

1T vegetable oil
1 pound thinly sliced beef ribeye (shabu shabu style)
2 tsp brown sugar
1 8 oz. package firm tofu
½ head nappa cabbage
8 oz. mizuna greens or shungiku
1 (3 oz.) package enoki mushroom
1 (12-16 oz.) package konnyaku/shirataki noodles (low carb yam noodles where the difference is generally the size of the noodles, with the latter being thinner than the former)
1 cup dashi broth (or water) (kelp and fish-based broth that you can get in powder form.  Don’t be scared – it’s also the base for miso soup)
1 (6-7 oz.) package udon noodles

Sukiyaki Sauce:

1 cup sake
1 cup mirin
3/4 cup soy sauce
¼ cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Sukiyaki sauce: combine 1 cup sake, 1 cup mirin, ¼ cup sugar, and 3/4 cup soy sauce in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat, and set aside.
  2. Trim and cut rest of vegetable ingredients into bit size pieces (except for mizuna greens).
  3. Drain and rinse the konnyaku/shirataki noodle
  4. Rinse and dry mizuna greens.
  5. Prepare the udon noodles according to package (dry or fresh), but only cook for half the cook time.  Then dunk immediately in cold water to prevent overcooking. Set aside to enjoy at the end of the meal where they will finish cooking in the sukiyaki hot pot.
  6. Place all the ingredients on the same serving dish or in separate dishes in order easily add to the pot.
  7. Turn the hot pot on (or regular cooking pot on the stove) to medium heat with 1T of vegetable oil.
  8. When oil is heated, place slices of beef in the pot to cook. Sprinkle one side with brown sugar to caramelize.  Flip when just cooked.
  9. Pour ½-1 cup of sukiyaki sauce and ½ cup dashi/water in the pot with the meat.  Add sauce and dashi as desired to either enrich or dilute the hot pot.
  10. Pick and choose additional ingredients to add to the pot. Put the lid on and bring to a boil. When it reach a boil, turn down the heat to simmer until vegetable, tofu and/or noodles are cooked to the desired consistency.  
  11. You can each pick what you want out of the hot pot and add ingredients, sauce, and dashi broth as desired.
  12. Just when you think you’re on the edge of full, bring out the udon noodles.  Add the noodles to the hot pot and finish cooking through before serving.  
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