Daughter Eilene is visiting her sister tonight and this allows us to have something for dinner that she doesn’t like—mushrooms. Last week, I made a Noom adapted sukiyaki that wife Jan really liked. She asked that I make it again, filled with mushrooms.
Wife Jan is on the Noom program and her challenge for the week is to have a completely Vegan dinner. Since, I am already replacing the meat in this dish with mushrooms, this leaves me halfway to a vegan dinner. Replacing the beef broth and dashi with vegetable broth gets me the rest of the way there. Sukiyaki is a dish that allows almost infinite variations—since I am making it for only two people—I have reduced the number and amounts of my vegetables additions.
Traditionally, sukiyaki 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: While a large electric hot pot—to cook and keep the soup warm at the table—is almost a necessity for this dish, today I am making it for only two people—I used a wide pan on the stove and simply brought it to the table when we were ready to eat.
There are few limits to the ingredients you may add to sukiyaki, but a few of 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: While the Noom challenge was to make a completely Vegan meal, Jan wanted me to add a ramen egg. If you wish to add ramen eggs to your sukiyaki, make them several hours before you start the rest of this dish. I have added the recipe at the bottom of this post.
Karl’s Noom Friendly Vegan Sukiyaki
¼ cup Japanese soy sauce
¼ cup saki
1 Tbs. dark soy sauce
8 drops monkfruit syrup
4 slices fresh ginger, cut into matchsticks
1 can (14.5 oz.) vegetable broth, low sodium
2 tsp. peanut oil, separate uses
Note: Like many Asian dishes, it is important that you prepare all of the ingredients before you start cooking.
1. Mix soy sauces, saki, monkfruit, ginger, and vegetable broth in a large microwave safe measuring cup and set it aside.
Tip: You will be heating this sauce in the microwave, before pouring it over your other ingredients. This gives the soup a jump start when you come to the final cooking stage.
Note: I discovered that one of the problems created by covid is that they have stopped making 14.5 oz. cans of vegetables broth. Your only choices are to make your own, buy a 32. oz. box/can—and have a lot left over—or to use a bouillon cube. I used a Knorr cube with two cups of water, but it never completely dissolved.
2. Brush any dirt off and remove the tough stem from the shiitake mushrooms.
3. Slice the mushroom caps into half or thirds—depending on their size—and set them aside.
Note: I have a set of blue plastic bowls that I use as prep bowls. When I want to keep my ingredients separate, each item goes into its own bowl ready to add to the pot.
4. Trim the oyster mushrooms and tear the larger ones into bite sized pieces, set them aside.
5. Trim the enoki and separate them into small bunches and set them aside.
Tip: 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.
Note: I had a small bunch of enoki left over from the last time I made sukiyaki, so that is what I used.
6. Rinse and trim the cabbage leaves, stack them, and slice them lengthwise.
7. Cut the thick white parts of the leaves into half inch wide pieces and keep them separate.
8. Cut the leafy parts of the cabbage leaves and place them in a separate bowl.
9. Drain and cut the tofu into half inch cubes.
Note: Since I was feeding only two people I bought the smallest block of tofu I could find (8 oz.) and used only ⅔ of it.
10. Cut the green onions into 2-inch lengths and keep the white and green parts separate.
11. Peel the daikon and cut the radish in half, slice the halves into thin moon shaped pieces.
12. Drain and rinse the shirataki in a large sieve.
Tip: Use scissors to break up the long noodles.
13. Put a teaspoon of oil in the pot and sear the shiitake mushrooms.
Tip: You want the mushrooms browned, but not overcooked. You want some of the flavor that the Maillard reaction provides, but you do not want tough, chewy pieces of mushrooms.
14. Remove the shiitake mushrooms back to their bowl and add a second teaspoon of oil to the pot.
15. Sear the oyster mushrooms briefly to create more flavorful fond and remove them to their bowl.
16. Deglaze the pot with a splash of sake and remove the pot from the heat.
17. Arrange whatever raw ingredients you are using in an attractive pattern with the tofu in the center.
Tip: Start by placing the firmer ingredients 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.
18. Once all of your vegetable ingredients are arraigned in the pot, place the sukiyaki sauce in the micro wave and heat it for 2-3 minutes.
Tip: You want it hot, but you also do not want it to boil over.
Note: At this point you may put the entire process on hold. If you are not quite ready to serve you can set everything aside for up to an hour and finish the dish off in just a few minutes.
19. Pour the sukiyaki sauce over the vegetables and bring the pot to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer.
Tip: If using an electric pot, transfer the pot with the vegetables to the base set in the center of the table and turn on its heating element. Heat the broth on the stove and pour the hot soup over the vegetables. Set the temperature of the electric pot to low and put on the lid.
Note: Your diners should be seated at the table at this point.
20. Simmer the sukiyaki for 4-5 minutes and serve.
Note: Utensils for this meal should be chopsticks, an Asian spoon, and a small bowl of rice. Alternatively you may put the rice in your soup bowl and spoon the broth, meat and vegetables over the rice. 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.
(Optional) Karl’s Ramen Eggs
2-6 large eggs
1-2 Tbs. dark soy sauce
1-2 Tbs. mirin
1-2 Tbs. sake
½ Tbs. fresh ginger, grated
½ tsp. sugar
1. Put a wire rack in a small pan and add enough water to come up to the rack.
2. Bring the water to a boil and add the eggs.
3. Cover the pot and steam the eggs for 6 minutes.
Tip: This gives you perfectly very soft boiled eggs—egg whites set with the yolks still fairly fluid.
Note: Boiling eggs in the water can give you unevenly cooked eggs. By steaming the eggs, they are surrounded by steam at an even temperature—212º F at sea level, when you put a loose lid on the pot it will raise that temperature by a few degrees.
4. Rinse the eggs in cold water and then put them into a bowl of ice water to cool completely.
5. By quickly cooling the eggs, the egg white shrinks and pulls away from the membrane just under the shell, making them much easier to peel.
6. Remove the egg shells under a stream of running water and place them in a sealable plastic bag.
7. Mix the marinade ingredients and pour it over the eggs.
8. Press out the air and seal the bag.
9. Refrigerate the eggs for at least two hours, but up to six is better.
10. Remove the eggs from the sauce and cut them in half along the long axis.
11. Use the eggs as a topping for ramen or Japanese curry.