Hey, it’s Yuto (@sudachi.recipes) and today I’m going to show you how to make rich, sweet and delicious Japanese beef hot pot, Sukiyaki.
What is sukiyaki?
Sukiyaki is a one pot beef dish. High quality thinly sliced beef is simmered in a sweet soy sauce based broth with tofu, vegetables and noodles.
The origin of the name sukiyaki (すき焼き) is still unclear. “Yaki” always means to grill or cook and you might have heard it in the names of many other Japanese dishes such as “okonomiyaki“, “yakiniku” or “yakisoba“. But it’s the “suki” part that is not so obvious.
Some people believe it simply comes from the Japanese word for thinly sliced meat, “sukimi” (剥き身). A more interesting theory is that “suki” comes from the Japanese word for spade and that farmers during the edo period would often use a spade for cooking.
Whatever the origin of “suki”, sukiyaki has become a well loved dish in Japan and is especially enjoyed in the winter.
Sukiyaki is almost always made with beef, but it does vary from region to region and pork is used too, especially in Hokkaido and Niigata.
Many sukiyaki hot pots contain noodles, specifically “shirataki” noodles made from yam (konnyaku). They can be hard to find in countries outside Asia so we left them out of the recipe, but of course you can add them if you can get them. You could use glass noodles as a substitute too.
No sukiyaki would be complete without tofu! Firm tofu is usually used and it’s often been grilled on the outside. It gives it a nice flavour and colour but it’s not essential for the dish.
There are many vegetables you can use in sukiyaki. Here are the vegetables used in our recipe.
- Hakusai (Chinese leaf / Napa cabbage)
- Shiitake Mushrooms
- Enoki Mushrooms
- Spring Onion (or leek)
- Shungiku (crown daisy/ edible chrysanthemum)
The “shungiku” is a popular ingredient in sukiyaki, but it’s more for decoration so it’s fine to leave it out. You could replace it with another decorative leaf.
Sukiyaki sauce is called “warishita” (わりした) in Japanese.
Warishita is made up of soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sake. It’s rich and sweet, it’s easy to make too.
If you can’t get sake, you could use dry sherry or white wine.
Kanto Region: Warishita sauce is put in the pot first and beef is added later.
Kansai Region: The beef is grilled with sugar first and then soy sauce and the rest of the ingredients are added later. (Warishita is often not used in Kansai style sukiyaki.)
Our recipe is “Kanto style” and also includes how to make warishita from scratch.
How to cook sukiyaki
Sukiyaki is usually cooked in a cast iron pot on a low heat. Most commonly, it’s set on a heat source in the middle of the table. That way, the group can appreciate the beautiful presentation and then eat it in a “help yourself” way while it’s cooking, adding more ingredients as they start to run out.
Of course, if you don’t have a portable stove, you can just simmer it on a regular stove and then place it on the table on top of a heat proof mat when it’s ready.
One thing to note is the beef is usually eaten while it’s still quite pink, we don’t cook it too much because it can become chewy if it’s overdone.
What kind of beef do you use for sukiyaki?
Although technically you can use any thinly sliced beef, Japanese people like to make sukiyaki rich and special. Usually, expensive cuts of meat are used.
Round, loin or shoulder are the best cuts to use for sukiyaki.
Wagyu beef is a great option for sukiyaki because the fat marbling through creates juicy, tender, melt in the mouth beef. It’s especially good for enhancing the richness of sukiyaki.
How do you eat sukiyaki?
Most commonly, sukiyaki is served in the middle of a table and eaten as it cooks in a “help yourself” kind of way.
One thing that westerners might find strange, is we usually dip the beef into raw egg. I know it seems crazy, but in Japan, eggs are safe to eat raw and the simple taste of the raw egg really compliments the richness of the beef.
If you want to try this too, make sure you use eggs that are safe to eat raw such as pasteurized eggs. You can even pasteurize eggs by yourself at home.
When do you eat sukiyaki?
Because sukiyaki is sweet, rich and uses high grade beef, it’s typically seen as a celebration food. It is often eaten during “bonenkai” end of year celebrations (忘年会) and new year’s gatherings (お正月).
This recipe is for a small batch of sukiyaki to serve two people so double or triple the ingredients if you’re serving more. Let’s get started!