January 24, 2015

Sukiyaki Hot Pot

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Sukiyaki has something for everyone: caramelized beef, tofu, noodles, leafy greens, mushrooms and more, artfully arranged in a savoury sauce. And if you are looking for a shirataki signature dish, this hot pot is the one. In Japan, eating Sukiyaki is a ritual. It is consumed family-style, straight from the pot. It may be prepared right at the table, with more ingredients and dashi broth tossed in as the meal progresses. Tidbits are dipped in a side bowl of raw egg, perhaps mixed with soy sauce. (Like me, you may prefer to omit that step or switch to a poached egg.) Once everything is consumed, cooked udon or soba noodles may be added to mop up the delicious pan juices. There is a great Sukiyaki divide: In west Japan, the meat is simmered in sauce and perhaps broth. In east Japan, the meat is seared in the pan, then other ingredients are added. My recipe is eastern-style Sukiyaki, which is more popular. There are only 255 calories per serving, thanks in part to the shirataki noodles. (Info: Do You Believe in Miracles?)

       A Japanese family feast. Credit: Susan Sampson


1/4 cup (60 mL) each: sake, mirin, low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) golden brown sugar
8 oz (250 g) white shirataki spaghetti noodles, rinsed
1 tbsp (15 mL) peanut or canola oil
1 tsp (5 mL) golden brown sugar
8 oz (250 g) sirloin, thinly sliced across grain
8 oz (250 g) firm tofu, pressed, seared or broiled, cubed (1 inch/2.5 cm)
4 oz (125 g) chrysanthemum greens, blanched, coarsely chopped
4 oz (125 g) napa cabbage, thinly sliced
2 oz (60 g) enoki mushrooms
4 large shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, flower-cut
2 large green onions (white + green parts), cut in segments on diagonal (1 inch/2.5 cm long)
1 carrot, flower-cut

Sauce: In small measuring cup, stir together ingredients.

Sukiyaki: In small pan of boiling, salted water, boil shirataki on medium heat 1 minute. Drain. Line baking sheet with paper towels. Spread out shirataki to air-dry. Cut strands into manageable lengths.

Heat 12-inch (30 cm) cast iron skillet on medium-high 5 minutes. Add oil and swirl to coat pan. Add beef and spread out across skillet. Sprinkle with sugar. Cook, tossing and turning often, 2 minutes, or until no longer pink. Add 2 tbsp (30 mL) sauce and toss. Cook, turning often, 1 to 2 minutes, until browned in patches. Remove from heat.

Push beef to side of skillet. Add tofu, greens, noodles, napa, enokis, shiitakes and onions so they occupy separate sections of skillet. Scatter carrot over noodles or enokis. Pour 2 tbsp (30 mL) remaining sauce over noodles. Pour remaining sauce over vegetables. Return to medium-high heat. When sauce comes to boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes, or until noodles are hot and vegetables are tender-crisp.

Makes 4 servings.

  • The shirataki for this recipe are measured drained. Water amounts vary by package. About 10% to 20% may be water weight.
  • Japanese cast iron Sukiyaki pots are wide and shallow. A cast iron skillet is a good stand-in because you have to get the pan very hot.

M is for Mirin: Japanese sweetened rice cooking wine is called mirin. Some supermarkets sell it.

Oh No: Japanese cooks believe the calcium in the shirataki toughens the meat, so traditionally, they are never placed next to each other. (I remain skeptical.)

Shopping Cart: Use marbled, thinly sliced meat for Sukiyaki. Japanese, Korean and Chinese supermarkets conveniently sell pre-sliced beef. If you are stuck with slicing the beef yourself, partially freeze it first. Always slice across the grain, for maximum tenderness. Beef tends to get leathery in Sukiyaki, so the Japanese use very fatty meat. Sirloin works for me, as long as it is not cooked too long. Also, the Japanese use negi (a.k.a. Welsh onion) in Sukiyaki. It looks like a scallion on steroids, and is hard to find. I substitute the stem of a spring onion (which looks like a giant green onion with a bulb) or use large green onions.

How-To: Prep chrysanthemum greens. These greens (also known as shungiku in Japan) are the traditional choice for Sukiyaki. To combat bitterness, blanch them before using: Trim tough stalk ends, then toss whole stalks into boiling, salted water for 30 to 60 seconds. Drain, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking, then drain again. Chop coarsely. When I can’t get chrysanthemum greens, I substitute komatsuna (tender mustard greens), yu choy sum or even shanghai bok choy. (Want to know more? Refer to my Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook.)

How-To: Prepare tofu. To press: Pat it dry. Place it on a plate lined with paper towels. Cover with paper towels and another plate. Place a weight (such as a can) on top. Set aside 30 to 60 minutes. To sear: Pat it dry. Cook it in a very hot cast iron pan with 1 tsp (5 mL) oil, turning once, 2 minutes, or until golden. To broil: On a baking sheet, broil tofu until the top is golden-brown, then flip and repeat. Alternatively, you can buy pre-broiled tofu, called yakitofu.

How-To: Flower-cut. To make a simple carrot flower: Cut off the thin tapered end of the carrot. (Save it for other uses.) Peel the carrot. Cut 5 lengthwise divots at an angle. Or gouge with a vegetable decorating tool. Scrape along the cuts with a bamboo or metal skewer to make them even and tidy. Rinse the carrot. Cut it crosswise into 1/8 inch (0.5 cm) thick slices. To flower-cut shiitakes: Cut crosswise three times across the cap (like spokes). Cut the slits at an angle to expose the white part of the cap.