There are two styles of sukiyaki that I know about, but I forget which one is Tokyo-style, and which is Osaka-style. Wait, let me back up. Sukiyaki, of course, is a classic shaved beef hot pot traditionally cooked in a special cast-iron pot. We love getting down with sukiyaki on a frigid winter night here at Brooklyn mission control. Especially when paired with a glass of great sake.
At home I use a cast-iron skillet instead of the pot -- one of the few pieces of traditional cookware I haven't found the gumption to schlep back home from Japan. The ingredients I use are straightforward: sukiyaki beef (beef sliced about 1/8 inch thick, find in Asian markets), tofu, shaved burdock root (whittle like a pencil), sliced onions, shiitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, sliced carrots, and itokonyaku (konyaku noodles). The trick is the seasoning sauce, called warishita. I've seen some fancy recipes for this, but stick with the tried-and-true basic warishita, which is 1 part sake, 1 part soy sauce, 1 part mirin, and a sprinkling of sugar. It delivers the mail, trust me.
Okay, let's return to sentence number one of this post, the question of styles. With one of them, you're supposed to grease the pan with a chunk of meat fat, then sauté the beef for a minute or two, before adding the rest of the ingredients to the skillet in separate, neat clumps, after which you pour in the warishita, and cook. (Wait with the spinach, though, to almost the end.) With the other style, which is the one I followed, you grease the skillet, add all the ingredients at the same time in neat clumps, pour in the warishita, and cook. (Ditto about the spinach). Which method to follow? As always, up to you. If you brown the beef first, you'll get more caramel-y flavors, but on the other hand, option number two is quicker. I opted for speed. (It still tasted amazing.)
Final note, on how to eat. First, beat a raw egg in a small bowl. Next, dip ingredients you pluck out of the pot into the raw egg. Then, chow down. Why? The egg adds richness and its own silky texture. If you have access to really fresh eggs, do this (fortunately I live near a local farmers market). And don't forget a steaming bowl of white rice on the side. So that's it: Now it's your turn to cook sukiyaki for family, lovers, friends! Enjoy...