Sukiyaki is one of my favourite Japanese meals. It’s a dish my mum would occasionally cook for the family on cold nights and something my uncle would cook when I visit my family in Japan, so it’s a meal that I hold close to my heart. Like a Japanese version of Chinese hotpot, Sukiyaki a mix of thinly sliced beef, tofu, vegetables and noodles cooked in a sweet and salty broth. It’s very much a family and friends type of meal and a dish that encourages conversation around the hotpot as people swoop out the ingredients before dipping it in a raw beaten egg and slurping it down. Yum.
It’s super easy to prepare and you don’t have to worry about lengthy cooking times in the kitchen beforehand because you cook everything on the dining room table as everyone eats. You can do this by buying one of those cheap portable stoves that you’d take when you go camping and it shouldn’t set you back more than $20.
- 750g of flank steak, sliced paper thin
- 5 Japanese naga-negi onions (or a couple big bunches of think shallots), cut into 1 inch lengths
- 2 bunches of enoki mushrooms
- 2 packets of konnyaku noodles, rinsed
- 300 g of firm tofu, cut into decent sized cubes ½ Chinese cabbage, rinsed and sliced
- An egg per person Rice (optional)
- 1 – ½ cups of dashi broth
- 3-4 tablespoons of sugar
- 5 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons of mirin
- 2 tablespoons of sake
Pour all the broth ingredients in a saucepan, bring to boil and set aside.
Find a large plate and arrange the meat, onions, mushrooms, noodles, tofu and cabbage on the plate like a colourful pie chart. You’ll probably need at least two or three depending on the size of your plates, and then take them to the dinner table. Crack an egg into small individual serving bowls for all your guests and lightly whisk. This is about all the prepping you need to do beforehand. Seriously.
On your table, get your portable gas stove going at a medium heat with a nice large cast iron pot – one that’s wide enough to fit the ingredients, but not tall enough to make it difficult to reach the food within. Pour a little oil in and when it’s hot you can start throwing in a small portion of your sliced meat, onions, mushrooms, noodles, tofu and cabbage to sauté. After a minute or so, add a third of the broth and let everything cook for another few minutes. Diners can now tuck in and fish out whatever ingredients they wish! Insist that your guests dip the food into the whisked egg before eating. This adds a delicious flavour and texture and slides easily down your throat.
As the meal goes on, add more meat, tofu, noodles, veggies and broth to the pot. Make sure you have a little extra soy, sugar, sake, and dashi on hand as you may need to adjust the flavours as the meal goes on. But trust me, it just gets better and better. If you want, serve with some rice, but you probably won’t need too much to be honest.
Sukiyaki also happens to be the name of the first Japanese language record to break into the top 100 in the states in the early 60s. Written by Kyu Sakamoto and originally titled Ue o Muite Arukō, it was renamed Sukiyaki for international releases despite the song having nothing to do with the dish. Lyrically it’s quite a sad song, but it carries such a sweet, happy-go-lucky swing to it, that you can’t help but smile.
Don’t know the original but it sounds familiar? The song has been covered countless times by musicians all over the world, but it re-entered the charts in the early 80s with an English language version from A Taste of Honey:
This song eventually made its way through numerous RnB and hip hop records (including Snoop Dogg, Mary J Blige, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony) thanks to Slick Rick singing a verse in his seminal track La Di Da Di. Listen out for the verse at 2.49:
Buy Kyu Sakamoto’s Sukiyaki here.