Sukiyaki is traditionally a hot pot dish. Each diner is given a bowl of raw egg; beef, tofu and vegetables are slow cooked in boiling sauce in a hot pot at the center of the table; then, each diner picks from the hot pot and dips his food in beaten raw egg before eating.
Because preparing a hotpot meal at home can be a lot of work, we only do it occasionally. Less often than we crave sukiyaki. And, on those days when we want sukiyaki but can’t be bothered to set up a hotpot, we just cook sukiyaki on the stove.
It starts with thinly sliced beef. The best is a well-marbled cut. More pricey than regular cuts but, believe me, the amount of fat in the beef makes a world of difference. Fat renders as the beef cooks and that fat adds so much flavor to the sauce.
Because it’s never a good idea to overcook beef, I just stir the slices around in the pan until the meat is no longer pink. Then, I push the beef to one side of the pan and add the rest of the ingredients. We like mushrooms, so, in this recipe, shiitake and shimeji went into the pan along with carrot slices, narutomaki (fish cakes) and cabbage. Napa cabbage used to be our default leafy vegetable for sukiyaki but I really prefer bok choy.
Next, the liquids that will become the sauce. Dashi, soy sauce, sake and mirin with a bit of sugar added. I stir them all together in a bowl until the sugar is fully dissolved. Then, I pour the mixture into the pot and let everything boil just until the mushrooms and vegetables are cooked through.
Without turning off the heat, all the solid ingredients in the pan are scooped out and arranged in individual bowls. Into the simmering sukiyaki sauce, the soaked noodles are dropped in and cooked until they plump up after soaking up some of the liquid.
The noodles are divided among the prepared bowls, simmering sauce is poured in, sliced scallions are sprinkled in and the sukiyaki is ready to serve. If you’re wondering why there is no mention of the mung bean sprouts that are unmistakably present in the photos, well, that was just an addition. Totally optional. It’s just that we harvested mung beans sprouts again today (yes, we grow them at home!) and I decided to add some to our bowls of sukiyaki.
Sukiyaki sauce (warishita)
Beef, mushrooms, vegetables and noodles
- 500 grams well-marbled sukiyaki-cut beef cut into two-inch strips
- 1 carrot peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 to 8 bunches bok choy cut into halves vertically and rinsed well under the tap
- 8 shiitake (caps only) sliced
- 300 grams shimeji root ends cut off and discarded
- narutomaki slices as many as you like
- 150 grams cellophane noodles soaked in warm water for 20 minutes and drained
- Heat a heavy thick-bottomed pot on the stove.
- With the heat on medium, spread the fatty beef on the pan.
- Cook for a minute or so without disturbing then stir and continue cooking just until no longer pink.
- Push the beef to one side of the pot and arrange the mushrooms, bok choy, carrot and narutomaki on the empty space.
- Turn up the to high, stir together all the ingredients for the sukiyaki sauce, pour into the pot and allow to boil. Cook everything for two to three minutes, pushing down the solid ingredients into the sauce.
- Using kitchen tongs or a pair of chopsticks, lift out the beef, mushrooms, bok choy, carrot and narutomaki, divide and arrange in four bowls.
- With the heat still on, drop in the drained noodles into the sauce and cook for two to three minutes.
- Scoop out the noodles and divide among the four bowls.
- If adding mung bean sprouts, add them now.
- Taste the sauce. If it's too strong, add a little water and allow to boil.
- Carefully ladle the hot sauce into the bowls.
- Sprinkle in scallions.
- Serve your sukiyaki immediately.