Jan asked for sukiyaki for Sunday dinner. This is one of the dishes my mother, Claudia, would make as I was growing up. However, not one of the children thought to take down her recipe.
Note: Starting at 12 o’clock I arranged my ingredients in this pattern: chrysanthemum greens; oyster mushrooms; diakon; bok choy (white parts); enoki mushrooms; shirataki; bok choy (green parts); tofu (I used some tofu to made a shelf to hold the green onions up near the surface); green onions (green parts underneath); napa cabbage (white parts underneath to hold up the leafy parts); and shiitake mushrooms. I put the excess shirataki on the bottom in the center to hold up the beef.
Traditionally, this is a fairly dry dish. The meat seared in a pot at the table, vegetables are added and cooked briefly, and then a little sauce is added. After the diners have eaten the first round, the process is repeated with more meat, vegetables and sauce. The modern version of sukisaki—served at most Japanese restaurants and as served by my mother—is more of a soup with the ingredients arraigned in artistic bunches around the pot.
Note: Traditionally, a raw egg is also served on the side as a dipping sauce. This is uncommon in America and is probably against restaurant health codes.
A large electric hot pot—to cook and keep the soup warm at the table—is almost a necessity for this dish. Sukiyaki is similar to shabu-shabu, as they are both nabemono—Japanese hot pots. The main difference between them is in when the ingredients go in the pot. For sukiyaki most of the ingredients are put in the pot to cook together, while with shabu-shabu the diners select individual pieces of the raw ingredients to cook in the hot soup.
There are few limits to the ingredients you may add to sukliyaki, but the standard basics are: beef, tofu, negi (a large green onion), leafy greens (like napa cabage and chrysanthemum greens), mushrooms, and shirataki. For the sauce, it is important that you use a Japanese soy sauce, because it is less salty than the Chinese product.
The arrangement of your ingredients should be visually appealing. You should alternate dark and light, green and white to make pretty picture. Separating the thick white pieces and green leafy parts of the onions, bok choi, and cabbage gives you two contrasting vegetables with which to work.
Note: You may make this a pesco-vegetarian dish by leaving out the beef and replacing the beef broth with dashi. In the final preparation, place the tofu in the central spot.
1 lb. thinly sliced beef rib eye
½ cup Japanese soy sauce
2 Tbs. Karl’s Orange Infused Sugar
½ cup saki
⅓ cup mirin
2 tsp. HonDashi (dried Bonita fish stock)
6-7 slices fresh ginger
2-3 baby bok choy
6-8 leaves napa cabbage
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch chrysanthemum greens
3 inches diakon radish
12 shiitake mushrooms
½ lb. oyster mushrooms
1 pkg. enoki mushrooms
11 oz. yam noodles (shirataki)
1 block tofu
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 can (14.5 oz) low sodium beef broth
Note: Like many Asian dishes, it is important that you prepare all of the ingredients before you start cooking.
1. Put the rib eye in the freezer for 30 minutes. When meat is firm (but not frozen solid) remove and slice thin at a steep angle across the grain.
Note: I have a Japanese market within only a few miles. I was able to buy pre-cut “beef for sukiyaki,” which was slightly thicker than their “beef for shabu-shabu”—3/16th of an inch vs. 1/8th of an inch.
2. Sprinkle the meat lightly with sugar and set in the refrigerator to air dry.
Tip: The sugar helps the meat to brown more quickly.
3. Mix soy sauce, sugar, saki, mirin, HonDashi and ginger in a bowl and set it aside.
4. Remove most the leaves from the bok choy and cut the green leaves from the fleshy white stalk, keep separate.
5. Slice the remaining centers of the bok choy in half or thirds, vertically and place these with the white parts of the bok choy.
6. Cut the green onions into 4-inch lengths and keep the white and green parts separate.
7. Cut off the lower third of the napa cabbage leaves and set them aside.
8. Cut the top pieces of the cabbage leaves in half vertically and keep separate.
9. Rinse and trim the stems of the chrysanthemum greens.
Tip: Put the chrysanthemum greens stem first into a bowl of cold water to freshen them while you finish your prep work.
10. Peel and slice the diakon into half inch slices.
11. Cut the radish slices into quarters and set them aside.
12. Stem and cross cut the tops of the shiitake mushrooms.
Tip: The cutting of a pattern into the tops of the shitake is not really necessary, but it is more visually appealing than a solid dark mushroom cap.
13. Tear any very large oyster mushrooms in half.
Tip: Oyster mushrooms come in a wide variety of sizes—from half an inch to some as big as your hand. When you purchase yours, try to select those that are close to the same size.
14. Trim the enoki and separate them into small bunches.
Note: Enoki mushrooms are sold in solid, stuck together bunches with their roots—which are covered in their growing mulch—still attached. Cut away the lower third of the bunch to remove the dirty roots.
15. Drain and rinse the shirataki in a large sieve.
16. Cut the tofu into 1 inch cubes.
17. Add a little vegetable oil to a small pot and brown the shitaki mushrooms lightly on both sides.
18. Remove the shitake to a plate and brown the oyster mushrooms in the pot.
Tip: Add more oil, if necessary.
19. Remove the oyster mushrooms to a separate pile on the plate.
20. Sear the beef strips, in batches, on one side and then transfer the meat to a separate plate.
Tip: You want the meat browned, but not overcooked. If there is still some red meat showing it is OK.
Note: You want some of the flavor that the Maillard reaction provides, but you do not want tough, chewy pieces of beef.
21. Deglaze the pot with the sauce mixture and simmer the sauce for one minute.
Tip: This ensures that all of the sugar is dissolved.
22. Add the beef broth and remove the pot from the heat.
23. In the bowl of the electric pot, arrange the raw ingredients in an attractive pattern.
Tip: Start by placing the firmer ingredients—like the mushrooms—around the pot. Wedge the other ingredients in between in an alternating color and texture pattern. The goal is to have some of each ingredient rising above the surface. My family really likes shirataki noodles—I used to buy only the 4 oz. package—so this time I bought the large package. I placed the excess noodles in the center of the pot to keep the beef on the surface. You may not be able to put in all of the bok choy and chrysanthemum greens. Set them aside on the table and add them as the sukiyaki is consumed.
24. Return the soup mixture to the stove and bring the pot to a boil.
25. Place the bowl of the electric pot—with the ingredients—in the center of the table and turn on its heating element.
Note: Your diners should be seated at the table at this point.
Tip: Utensils for this meal should be chopsticks, an Asian spoon, and a small bowl of rice.
26. Pour the hot soup over the vegetables.
27. Set the temperature of the electric pot to high and put on the lid.
28. When to soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 1 – 2 minutes.
29. Remove the lid and if any of the ingredients look a bit under cooked push them down into the soup.
30. If necessary, continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes.
31. Each person then uses their own chopsticks to serve themselves their favorite bits into their small bowls.
Note: It is common practice in Asia for each person to use their own chopsticks to pick bits out of the common pot. If you are at all squeamish about this, you may provide serving chopsticks or a serving spoon for your diners.
32. After everyone has eaten their fill of the solid ingredients, the soup is served and shared.