Monday, December 5, 2011

Sukiyaki (Japanese Hot Pot)

As I have explained before, I love examining menus at restaurants to get inspiration for recipes at home.  While I only share my successes on the blog, not all of my attempts at making restaurant meals at home have produced desirable results.  Italian food- usually delicious; Mexican food- decent, but not as good as my favorite restaurant; Thai food- I don’t know what kind of secret ingredients restaurants use but my attempts NEVER taste remotely similar!  I grew up eating sukiyaki at  Sushi Village in Whistler and I always assumed it would fall in line with Thai food and be impossible to replicate at home.  Ohhh was I wrong.

Instead of staying at the library to study for my exams, I made much better use of my time by watching ten youtube videos about making sukiyaki and then visiting an expansive Asian supermarket near my new apartment.  I remained skeptical about the results until I tasted the broth- and it tasted EXACTLY like my favorite restaurant version!  After texting my dad to tell him the exciting news (he shares my love of sukiyaki), I took some very precarious pictures (see photo below), and then feasted on my accomplishment.

No that's not a robot.  It is the boiling pot of sukiyaki inside my light tent balancing on a chair in my tiny kitchen- ready for a photo shoot!

This recipe may seem a bit daunting but I promise it is incredibly simple and very hard to screw up.  Watch this video and you will know exactly what to do.  You can also change up the ingredients in the hot pot to suit your tastes.  Traditional sukiyaki calls for cabbage and chrysanthemum leaves.  I substituted sweet onion and scallions instead.  Throw in whatever you want, and the broth will make it delicious.  For a veggie version simply leave out the beef- the tofu is actually my favorite part!  The key to successful execution is preparing all of your ingredients ahead of time because it comes together very quickly once you start cooking. 

Sukiyaki is traditionally cooked at the table and everyone shares the pot.  I don’t have an electric grill so I just put the hot skillet on the table.  In my online research I discovered that sukiyaki is also traditionally served with a raw egg to dip beef in.  I’ve never seen it in restaurants (probably because of health risks) but my boyfriend has no problem eating raw eggs (or raw beef for that matter) so we tried it.  It was yummy but I don’t think it really added all that much flavor so feel free to skip.

Prepped ingredients

makes 4 servings
½ cup water
1 cup mirin
1 cup sake
1 cup soy sauce
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter (authentic recipes call for 1 piece of wagyu beef fat or lard)
1 lb wagyu or flat iron steak, sliced very thinly across the grain at an angle*
1 pack of noodles (either shirataki or udon)
5 scallions, sliced diagonally in ½ inch pieces
1 sweet onion, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 cup mushrooms (either shitake or cremini), quartered
1 bunch Enoki mushrooms (optional)
8 ounces firm tofu, sliced into 2 inch pieces
1 raw egg, beaten (optional)
white rice

Prep all of your ingredients.  To make the broth, mix together the water, mirin, sake, soy sauce, and 4 tablespoons of sugar in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the slices of beef to sear them lightly.  Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.  When they start to brown, add the broth mixture.  Gather the beef to one side of the pan, arrange onions, scallions, mushrooms, and tofu in different clusters in the pan.  Simmer for about fifteen minutes.  Serve in the pot along with bowls of rice and a raw egg for dipping.

*you can ask the butcher to do this for you.  If you are doing it yourself, place the beef in the freezer for 2 hours to firm it up and it will be easier to slice.

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