No… I’m not going to bust out singing that Japanese pop song from the 60’s that got renamed for the US market by some culturally insensitive prick record executive. Instead you get my rendition of this ubiquitous dish that’s become synonymous with Japanese food. Not that I have anything against record execs, or even renaming songs, but really… did ya have to name it after a hotpot dish? I wonder how that guy would have felt if I took a song like “Unchained Melody” and renamed it “Beef Stew” in Japan because it’s easier to say and more catchy.
There are many styles of making this, but perhaps the most common way is to cook meat and veggies in a sweet soy sauce based broth at the table. While I’m a big fan of the table top cooking method (especially for Shabu Shabu), I actually prefer to pre-cook the stuff separately and just serve the sukiyaki in a large bowl in the center of the table.
Regardless of how you decide to cook it, it makes for a really simple weeknight meal that requires no more than some washing and cutting of veggies. It’s typically made with thin slices of well marbled beef, but you could really use just about anything. Japanese markets tend to have the meat pre-sliced and packaged. I lucked out and got a pack of wagyu end-cuts (kiriotoshi) for a couple bucks. Because they were the end cuts the pieces were kinda irregular (which would be a problem for shabu shabu), but works just fine for sukiyaki. The most important thing is that the meat is tender and has a good amount of fat marbled with the meat.
For veggies you can use just about anything. I went mostly traditional using Tofu, green onions, bamboo, enoki mushrooms, and chrysanthemum leaves, but I also added some fresh summer squash I got at the farmers market the other day. It’s a good way to clean out the vegetable drawer in your fridge.
Traditionally it’s eaten by dipping the cooked meat into a raw egg, but due to the potential for getting salmonella I wouldn’t recommend it. You could soft poach or coddle the egg, but I still don’t think that would technically be “safe”. Instead I just grate some raw yamaimo (japanese mountain yam) also known as nagaimo which has the texture and slimy consistency of a raw egg when grated. If all this talk of slimy things is turns you off, or you can’t find it, you could always just skip it.
Leftover sukiyaki makes for a great bowl of udon (with some boiled noodles and egg cooked in the broth), or you could turn it into a donburi by reheating it with some beaten egg on top then serving it over a bowl of rice.
for table top cooking
- If you're cooking it at the table (I use a fondue pot), double or triple the recipe for the broth and mix all ingredients in the pot and heat. You'll need enough broth to mostly submerge your food as you won't get as much heat out of a fondue pot.
for stove top cooking
- If you're cooking it on the stove, heat a pan on high until hot then add a bit of oil and sear the beef. You don't want to cook it all the way through, just enough to brown the meat and get some fond on the pan. Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside.
- Add the ingredients for the broth into the pan. There should be around 1/2" of liquid in the bottom of the pan. Double the recipe if you need more. Start with the aromatic veggies then transfer to a serving bowl as they cook. Then move on the the "other stuff", then the mushroom, then the leafy veggies, and finish by putting the beef into the stock until it's cooked (careful not to overcook it). Dump the meat and broth over everything else and serve.
- Goes well with some grated yamaimo to dip the meat in and a bowl of rice.