On Cooking Sukiyaki

On Cooking Sukiyaki


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...

Posted by Harris Salat in Beef | Permalink | Comments (11) | Email | Print

Comments (11)

What is the best cut of beef to use if you plan to slice your own (I have the equipment)
is there a way to make a VEGETARIAN version of this dish, you think? (maybe as easy as just subbing the beef for some store-bought vegetarian beef substitute?)
I like the sear-first method. I usually toss a few onion slices in with the first round of meat, so those brown up to. Then those first few bites of meat are so yummy. Then we cook the rest of the ingredients as we eat, adding more "warishita" (so that's the official name) as needed. It's pretty much Hiroko Shimbo's recipe from her book. I love the way she mentions that her Dad always manned up to the table to cook the sukiyaki. Wherever they are, men always love grilling the meat, it seems. I have one of those little table-top single-burner cartridge stoves, so I use that at the table to cook, in a big frying pan. I think the all-at-once version is more dramatic, but the cook-as-you-go method is tastier. We buy our meat at Nijiya, (one) of our local Japanese markets. I buy the more expensive rib-eye cut, because I find the cheaper cut is too tough (although it makes great jaga-niku). I think it's labeled すきやき 用 (sukiyaki use). Someone has told me that there are Japanese markets that will cut the meat to order for you, should you want such a thing done.
Nice article. However, I have to register a small exception: "The egg adds richness and its own silky texture." True, it does. Just got back from Japan where I ate sukiyaki a couple of times. However, I have to say that the egg does not make for a "silky" texture, but rather a slimy one. Now, I'm fully aware that this is a cultural difference (like my not liking bonito flakes on my okonomiyaki) and that Japanese really do like this... And don't get me wrong - I like Japanese food on the whole. But next time I'll pass on the egg wash.
Mom always made sukiyaki in an electric skillet at the table using your second method. It was always delicious. One thing you forgot to mention is the presentation of the raw ingredients on a large platter. So beautiful.
Hi Harris love the blog and bought the books. We have a massive collection of nabe cookbooks at this point and proud to have yours in the mix - it's a wonderful book. :D I believe that Osaka (Kansai) style uses sugar sprinkled onto the meat and sauce added after, and really doesn't use actual warishita. Tokyo (Kanto) style uses warishita which goes in first followed by the goods. Udon can be dropped in after, much like you would for other nabe recipes. Frankly I much prefer the Tokyo style but I'm an American so what do I know. My wife is from Kyoto and she like Kanto better as well, despite her roots. Man, just talking about it is making me crazy hungry. Thanks again :)
Hi, I am totally new at Japanese cooking but simply adore Sukiyaki and really like your simple recipe. Is it ok for children to take this since there's alcohol (sake) involved? Tks!
jk when you cook alcohol it generally burns out. Also, trust me, kids have been eating up sukiyaki for generations at this point. :)
I have been always impressed by your vast knowledge of Japanese cuisine, but I have to beg to differ you in this article. In Tokyo style, you make warishita as you say in the posting, and add to ingredients. In Osaka style, though, you do not make warishita. In the western Japanese style, you add the seasoning separately, meaning, soy sauce, sugar and sake, to your liking. I grew up in Hiroshima which is in the western Japan, and this was the way my mom made. But now I make warishita and make sukiyaki, because it is easier this way to control the taste. I had an aunt who moved to Tokyo for a marriage and she made warishita. But both mom aunt cooked beef fat and meat first and then added seasoning. So I am not sure the order of cooking is different from regions. But I do know the difference between Tokyo and Osaka is the way we season, either by warishita or by soy sauce, sugar and sake.
Thanks for the excellent comments, everyone! Let me respond to them:
David, strip loin or rib eye work great for sukiyaki
Franko, vegetarian beef? why not, give it a try and let us know how it tastes (I'd also more and various mushrooms)
Emily, great point about presenting the raw ingredients. I did mine "family" style, cooking everything at once, but you can certainly cook a little at a time using a tabletop burner.
JK, as Jason says, the alcohol burns off, so it's fine for kids.
Finally, Samazama, Jason, Yoko -- thank you for enlightening us!
-- Harris
Sukiyaki was my first introduction to Japanese food back in the '70's when my husband and I (yes we are married a long time) would always go to one of the two restaurants here that were not 'Benihana-styled". Sushi hit here about early 80's. I remember that first the waitress would use fat to coat the pan and then pour in the sauce. Then each ingredient was placed in its own part of the pan and cooked. It was not Sukiyaki without the egg dip nor was it Japanese food unless it was Tokyo Sukiyaki which was the only restaurant in Montreal to have the guests remove their shoes to put on slippers and then enter their own cubicle. Sadly Tokyo Sukiyaki closed recently as they never were able to sustain themselves without having sushi on their menu. If only they had waited long enough for Izakaya to become mainstream.

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