While going out to eat is a huge part of experiencing Japan, it can be quite costly and not ideal for people who will stay in Japan for a long time. One way to continue enjoying Japanese cuisine while being smart with budgeting money is to buy ingredients and cook the food at home. You can cook it in large quantities to last you a few days which can make money stretch farther. Cooking at home sounds good, but what is a good starting point? An easy meal to cook meal meant for home cooking is Sukiyaki. Here is how to cook it.
1. What is Sukiyaki?
Before cooking anything, it is important to know what it is that you are cooking. Sukiyaki is thinly sliced meat, usually beef, that is slowly cooked at a simmer using a table-top cast-iron pan or a shallow iron pot. It is cooked along with various vegetables and sauce. Once cooked, the sukiyaki is eaten by dipping the food into raw beaten eggs. Even though some American versions of sukiyaki is cooked with a spicy taste, Sukiyaki is usually made to have a sweet and salty taste. The dish is a winter dish and is commonly found at end-of-the-year parties.
2. What You’ll Need
Sukiyaki can be made in many different ways depending on many variables like who’s cooking and where it’s being cooked. You will need soy sauce, mirin, sugar, beef for sukiyaki (not beef for shabu shabu as shabu shabu beef tends to be sliced thinner than beef for sukiyaki), a cast-iron pot, and tofu. For vegetables, you can use enoki mushrooms, napa cabbage, Negi leeks, shirataki noodles, and some people like to have udon with their sukiyaki. You will need a neutral flavor oil like vegetable or canola oil and brown sugar.
3. Gather All Ingredients
Gather all ingredients that you will need. It is a bit easier if you pre-measure everything in advance so that all you will have to do is pour it in when it comes time to. You should gather:
Rice and Eggs – enough for everyone
1 to 2 packages Udon noodles
1 package of Shirataki noodles
½ of a head of napa cabbage
½ bunch shungiku (Tong Hao or Garland Chrysanthemum),
1 package enoki mushrooms
8 shiitake mushrooms
1 package Yaki Tofu (Broiled Tofu)
1 Tbsp neutral flavor oil, 1 lb thinly sliced beef (chuck or rib eye)
and 1 Tbsp brown sugar.
For the sukiyaki sauce you will need:
1 cup sake
1 cup mirin, ¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup soy sauce
1-1.5 cup dashi or water to dilute the sauce.
4. Preparing the Ingredients
Cut the Negi into two-inch diagonal slices. Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes. Cut the shitake by removing the stem and carving a design. Slice cabbage leaves down the center and cut them into 2 inches in length. Fill a bowl with water and use this to dunk the shungiku. Make sure to fully submerge them as it helps to freshen them. Cut the shungiku into 3-inch pieces. If you did not buy pre-sliced beef, you can slice the beef at home. If the udon is frozen, cook it in boiling water until they unstick, then place them in iced water to avoid overcooking.
5. Kanto vs Kansai
The first step varies depending on if you are cooking Kanto style sukiyaki or Kansai style sukiyaki. For Kanto style sukiyaki, you will need to combine the of sake, mirin, soy sauce, and a fourth cup of sugar into a pan. Bring it to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn it off and set it to the side. With Kanto style sukiyaki, the sauce is made first and all of the ingredients are cooked simultaneously; however, with Kansai sukiyaki, the meat is cooked first and other ingredients are added afterward.
6. Set Up and Begin
You can set up the cooking area, portable stove top, and dinnerware at the table where the sukiyaki will be eaten. Sukiyaki is a nabe or Japanese hot pot, so everyone will need a bowl and chopsticks or eating utensil of their own. Once the table is set and the stove top is ready, heat the cast-iron sukiyaki pot on a medium flame. Once it’s hot, add 1 tbsp. of oil to the pot. Some people grease the pot with fat from the beef. If you are cooking Kanto style, you can add the sauce and let it simmer. If you are cooking Kansai style, add the beef instead of the sauce and let it brown slightly.
7. Add More Ingredients
If you are cooking Kanto style, take out the beef fat pieces and add a quarter of the beef. If you are cooking Kansai style, you can add a little sauce and brown sugar and enjoy some of the beef, but this is optional. If you want to continue with cooking, add 1 and a third of the sauce and one cup of dashi or water to dilute the sauce. Add until two-thirds of the food is submerged. Add all ingredients but udon and cover it with a lid. Bring it to a boil. For both Kansai and Kanto styles, add these ingredients only after the beef has been cooking.
8. Let It Simmer
Once the pot has come to a boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer until the ingredients are fully cooked. After everything is cooked, dig in. Crack an egg into a small bowl or use pasteurized eggs if eating raw eggs is not safe in your country. Whisk it to use for dipping the food before eating. The egg is not mandatory, but it brings out the flavor of the beef. When the ingredients get low, don’t forget to add more. Don’t wait until there is nothing left or else you will have to wait for it to cook.
9. Other Sides and Alternatives
Cooking Sukiyaki is possible, but what if some items are unobtainable? Instead of a Japanese cast-iron pot, you can use a large pan with high sides. Make sure it has high sides so that you can add all of the ingredients at one time. If shungiku is unavailable you can use spinach, cabbage, or bok choy instead. An alternative for Negi is a leek, green onion or long onion. Instead of shirataki noodles, you can use vermicelli.
The Japanese like to enjoy rice with this meal. Afterall, what is a gohan without gohan? Sukiyaki can be eaten all year round, but it’s much more common to have during the winter. It is also not a cheap dish considering beef tends to be expensive, so it’s great for parties and special occasions. Gather your friends and family together to try this easy-to-cook dish designed specifically for home cooking.
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