I was working and living in Beijing when I first tried Sukiyaki. Work lunches near my office in Sanlitun, an area filled with great restaurants and shopping, are the things I miss most about living there. Having lunch in China is taken very seriously. It’s not common to hear, “I’ve been so busy at work I completely forgot to eat lunch today.” By lunchtime, workers from every city office have left their desks for the city’s cafes and restaurants.
When it was time for lunch, I’d go out with coworkers to try various cuisines. Everything from Cantonese roast meats to sushi made in the California style at Hatsune to Yunnan-style hot pot to hand-pulled beef noodle soup in a hip, tucked-away noodle bar. Furthermore, the cost of each lunch was reasonable.
That’s right; the decadence served during the weekday lunch hour was through the roof. I eat more than the microwaved leftovers at my New York City office.
Every few weeks in Beijing, I’d stop by a Japanese restaurant just a few minutes from my office and treat myself to a Sukiyaki lunch for one of the most memorable lunches I ever had. My coworker took me there and told me it was like a “Japanese hot pot.” When I first moved to Beijing and started working there, I remember thinking, “I could get used to this,” as I sat at a trendy restaurant in the city and dipped thin slices of fatty beef into the rich egg yolk.
Japanese Sukiyaki: What is it?
There are a few mainstays for making authentic Japanese Sukiyaki. Napa cabbage, fatty beef, enoki mushrooms, tong ho (a chrysanthemum green with a distinct, slightly medicinal flavor that pairs wonderfully with the sweetness of the Sukiyaki sauce/broth), and noodles are all staples of this dish. (I’m not usually a fan of this veggie, but it worked wonderfully in this dish.) However, bok choy or spinach would work just as well in its place if you can’t find tong ho, or you could always omit it altogether.
Sukiyaki is typically served with a bowl of raw egg yolk to dip the beef in after it has been cooked in the bubbling pot. Even though I enjoy eating raw eggs, my responsibility as your friend and blogger is to inform you that eating raw or undercooked eggs has a risk of food poisoning. You don’t have to add the egg yolk, but if you do, make sure to use pasteurized eggs.
While Sukiyaki is traditionally prepared at the table, it can also be prepared on the stove and then brought to the table to serve.
For the Sukiyaki Sauce:
- 2 tbsp. of sake
- ¼ cup of mirin
- 1 tbsp. of brown sugar
- ¼ cup of soy sauce
To Prepare the Sukiyaki:
- ½ block of firm tofu (sliced into ½ inch thick slices)
- 5 pcs. of dried shiitake mushrooms (rehydrated if dry)
- 1 package of enoki mushrooms (ends trimmed and rinsed)
- 2 cups of napa cabbage (cut into 2-inch pieces)
- 2 cups of tong ho (chrysanthemum greens, washed)
- 2 scallions (white and green parts separated)
- 1 bundle of dried mung bean vermicelli noodles (or shirataki noodles)
- 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil
- 12 oz. of thinly sliced fatty beef
- 2 cups of dashi stock (mushroom soaking liquid, or chicken stock)
- 2 cups of steamed rice
- 2 egg yolks (pasteurized, optional)
- Place 2 tablespoons sake, 1/4 cup mirin, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and 1/4 cup soy sauce in a saucepan and heat over medium heat on a portable electric or gas cooktop (or on your regular stove). Simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove from heat and pour into a bowl.
- Then get your tofu slices, rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, napa cabbage, tong ho, and scallions ready for your Sukiyaki.
- Put aside on a plate. We recommend rehydrating dried vermicelli noodles in hot water for ten minutes.
- Get a pan hot and add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to it. Cook the scallion whites for 2 minutes in the oil. Prepare the scallion greens by chopping them very finely.
- Thinly sliced beef should be added to the scallions in the pan. Don’t leave the beef in the pan for more than 10 seconds; drizzle some sukiyaki sauce over it. The meat should be cooked until it just starts to brown in the pan. It should be slightly pink in the middle. Take out of the pan and put in a separate bowl.
- Combine the remaining sukiyaki sauce with the additional 2 cups of stock. Then, add the tofu, mushrooms, napa cabbage, and tong ho in batches as the water returns to a boil. You can also add the drained vermicelli noodles that you soaked earlier.
- Simmer, covered, until it reaches a boil. Simmer for about 7 minutes on low heat, checking frequently, until meat is tender.
- Lift the lid and return the beef to the pot. Enjoy with rice and egg yolk, and sprinkle with the chopped scallions (if desired).