Sukiyaki is more than just a meal. It’s an event. Sukiyaki is a time for sharing food, stories, laughs and a bit of fun at the end of a busy week. Usually reserved for family dinners or dinner parties with friends, it’s a special kind of meal. The dinner table flows with fresh ingredients and accoutrements, the sake is out and you all cook. At the table. Together. It’s the most wonderful way to eat a meal with loved ones. As I write this, we are at the beginning of our 2nd month of the coronavirus quarantine and I think, now more than ever, we need to create reasons to celebrate with each other. So I encourage you to gather your quarantine mates (or facetime your besties), get the table laid, pull out the sake, put your favorite playlist on and give this a try.
Despite the visual complexities and busyness of a Sukiyaki dinner table, it is actually quite simple and healthy to make. You need an array of fresh vegetables and thinly sliced meats as your stars of the show. Next comes water and sauces. Then, if you can have them, you also need firm tofu, eggs and noodles. I’ll walk you through the details in the ingredients list. Everything is either cooked at the same time at the dinner table on a portable tabletop burner or camping stove, OR if you don’t have one, you can prepare everything at the stove and bring it over to the table at the last minute. Main thing is to have everything prepared and setup to go ahead of time.
serves 4, or 2 if you’re piggies like Chris and I.
A few bunches of Vegetables like mustard greens, bokchoy, mizuna, chrysanthemum greens, chopped into approx. 2inch pieces– There should be an array of mild and bitter greens. If you can’t find Asian greens, spinach, dandelion greens, rapini or even kale could work. Feel free to choose anything you want, just make sure that while the greens should be hearty, they should not take a long time to cook.
Shiitake Mushrooms (Optional), about 3 per person– Be sure to remove the woody ends. We normally put mushrooms in our sukiyaki but decided not to when we took these photos. Enoki mushrooms are also lovely in Sukiyaki!
3 stalks of Green Onions (halved lengthwise) or Chinese Chives, cut into approx. 2in pieces– Leeks could also work here. Cut them diagonally at a 1/2inch thickness.
1 block of Firm Tofu, cut into 1inch squares– Soft tofu could work but it needs to be able to keep its shape. If possible, do not use the extra firm tofu, the kind that you can grill. It should have some kind of softness to it.
1 Packet of Shirataki Noodles OR 1 bundle of Saifun cellophane noodles, drained– Shirataki noodles are not readily available everywhere but Saifun noodles usually are. Basically any very thin vermicelli clear noodle will work. I even invite you to use thin pho noodles if that’s all you have. If you are using saifun noodles, make sure you soak them in warm water for 30 minutes ahead of time. If you don’t have anything at all, no worries, its not essential.
1lb (approx.) of marbled Meat (omit if Vegan or Vegetarian)– Traditionally, Sukiyaki is eaten with beef but you could also have pork, chicken or even lamb if you wanted. Make sure it is fatty and marbled OR is tender like a pork loin. It must not go tough when it is cooked. Slice the meat very thinly on the diagonal into approx 3×4 inch ribbons. To make slicing easier you could freeze the meat first and then cut the meat like shavings. Just be careful not to let your knife slip!!!! If it is too difficult, don’t worry, just cut it as thin as you can. It will be fine as long as the meat is marbled or a tender cut.
Cooking Broth: 1 cup water, 1/4 cup mirin, 1/3 cup light soy sauce– Mirin is, in simple terms, a mixture of cooking sake and sugar. If you don’t have mirin, you could use 1/4 cup of sake or dry sherry mixed with half a tsp of sugar dissolved into it. I’m not sure about sweet sherry but I dare you to try it. I mean, it won’t be bad.
1 fresh egg per person (omit if Vegan)– these must be fresh and I’ll explain why in a sec.
Extra soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar and water.
Japanese Rice for serving
Notes on the egg: This is meant to be your dipping sauce! Raw! Don’t be afraid of this! It is delicious! Each time you add the hot meats, vegetables and sauce it will slightly cook the egg rendering it a creamy, custardy sauce halfway through. If you’ve ever had a proper Carbonara before, you’ve had raw egg. It’s basically the same thing. Raw egg as a sauce. It will change your life. If you absolutely can’t stomach the idea though, no worries, it’s not essential. Because it is raw, you must be sure the egg is the freshest you can get. A trick to make sure the egg is fresh is to submerse it in a glass or bowl of water, if the egg stays at the bottom, it is fresh. If it rises significantly or floats, it’s not really fresh enough to eat raw.
Prepare your table with a set of the following for each person: 1 rice bowl, 2 medium egg dip bowl, 1 medium serving bowl for the sukiyaki, chopsticks and a soup spoon. Also put out a bowl with the eggs uncracked (and for the egg shells later), the extra soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar and water.
Also lay out on the table (if cooking at the table): all the raw vegetables (on one plate), meats, tofu and drained noodles in their own serving dishes.
Place the portable tabletop burner on the table if you have one.
Crack one egg into each dipping bowl, one per person.
Portion out rice into the rice bowls.
Mix the cooking broth together with the ingredients above in a heavy-bottomed shallow pot. We like to use a chinese claypot for this bc it looks so purdy, but you could also use a shallow cast iron pot or anything which has a similar shape to what is in the pictures.
Either on the stove or on the tabletop burner, heat the broth gently over medium. As it heats, lay out a portion of each of your vegetables along the inside perimeter of the pot, along with a portion of the tofu and noodles, then lay a portion of the meat slices in the middle. You will keep going back for more so don’t pack everything all in at once. Once it starts to simmer, turn down the heat so it stays at the lower simmer. When the meat has changed color it is ready to eat and you can turn the heat down to low. If you’ve cooked this on the stove, now is the time to turn off the heat and bring the pot to the table (on a heat resistant hot plate!).
Whisk the egg in your dipping bowl with your chopsticks in preparation.
Either use a serving spoon to scoop small portions of the cooked ingredients into the medium serving bowls or allow diners to use their chopsticks to serve themselves directly from the pot. We do the latter. Try not to take too much broth so you have some left in the pot. Also, don’t empty the pot out immediately. The idea is to keep going back for more, eating little by little.
Once you have finished the first round, check how much liquid you have left, top it up with the liquids on the side if you don’t have enough and repeat the whole process for Round 2, adjusting the heat as necessary. Repeat this until you’ve finished all the raw ingredients or until you are full.
Note: There will be a lot of things on the table. Don’t be overwhelmed. This is meant to be fun! Feel free to go at your own pace, take breaks, whatever. And make sure you enjoy a good drink with this too!