When I started studying Japanese when I was back home, my textbook had an activity involving Sukiyaki. We had to put the recipe instructions in order, then narrate to the class how we made the Sukiyaki. Our teacher at that time told us that all Japanese people knew how to make Sukiyaki and that the order was extremely important. The flavor changes dramatically when something is done before another, or something like that.
Years later, fast forward to the present time, I couldn’t believe how correct my Japanese teacher was. I did the activity with a bunch of friends as a sort of game, and they really knew their stuff. Funny thing was, they came up with totally different recipes, notable to mention was that people from the Kansai region had a different sauce style from the Kanto people. I can’t decide which one I prefer, though, as both are really quite good.
I read a story a long time ago about how Japanese people only started eating meat a hundred years ago or so, and their main protein source was tofu. So I was wondering when and where Sukiyaki originated. After asking a few people and getting a few vague answers, someone told me it was possible fish was used. I checked a few sources online, but wasn’t able to find what kind of fish was used, though I found a recipe using salmon with the beef.
Sukiyaki is a really good dish to serve when you’re having friends over. You can set up your nabe (鍋, a cooking pot) on your table, put out your ingredients and have your guests cook their own food. If you have a small group, there are actually small nabe, too.
Here’s a really good recipe for Sukiyaki (courtesy of a very good friend of mine):
Ingredients for Sukiyaki: (good for 2-3 people)
600g paper-thin slices of beef, 30g beef suet (beef fat), 5 stalks leeks, 200g shirataki (noodle-like jelly made from a Japanese yam), 1 block yaki-dofu (broiled or grilled tofu), 1 bunch shungiku (Chrysanthemum leaves), 1 pack Japanese mushrooms, 1/4 of a Chinese cabbage, 100 g soy sauce, 100 g mirin (sweet Japanese cooking sake), 3 tbsp brown sugar, a raw egg per person, whisked lightly in a dipping bowl (for serving)
- Cut the leeks diagonally into thin slices.
- Clean and break off the stems of the mushrooms.
- Cut the yaki-dofu into little blocks.
- Wash the shungiku, discard the hard stalks.
- Boil the shirataki for about a minute. Drain then soak in cold water. Squeeze out excess water, then cut in half.
- Cut the Chinese cabbage into bite-size squares.
- Arrange the meat and other ingredients in a large serving platter.
- Mix soy sauce, mirin and brown sugar in a sauce pan. Boil. Turn off the heat then set aside.
- Heat the sukiyaki skillet on the stove. Add the beef suet and melt it over a low flame.
- Pour the broth on the skillet. Put the ingredients into the pan little by little, starting with the leeks, vegetables, tofu, shirataki then the beef. Don’t overcook the beef.
- To serve, each person should have a dipping bowl of egg and another bowl of warm rice. If you are worried about having raw egg, you can nuke the whisked egg in the microwave for about 5-7 seconds. You can also skip the raw egg if you’re not sure about its freshness.