A Japanese hot pot you can cook at home
Sukiyaki is a Japanese dish. Traditionally it is cooked at the table in a special charcoal brazier. The food is arranged on large plates, and everyone helps themselves to what they want, cooking for themselves as they go along. It is great fun, and atmospheric, and the sauce is slightly sweet so children love it. Nowadays an electric wok as pictured above is ideal for 4 people at home, placed in the centre of the dining room table. There is a certain amount of preparation involved.
As children my mother used to take my brother and myself as a treat to the Japanese restaurant at the top of the Daimaru department store in Hong Kong. We always had sukiyaki and loved it.
HOW TO MAKE SUKIYAKI
This dish requires some preparation. I have separated the preparation stage into six sections: the beef, the rice, the vegetables, the egg, daikon, and the cooking liquid. All the ingredients are readily available in good oriental grocers. There are no hard and fast rules about the vegetables but the mushrooms, the bean thread noodles, and the tofu, all add to the authenticity of this recipe. Some sort of cabbage and onion are essential. The Japanese use mirin wine, and dried bonito flakes to make the stock, but I find ordinary sake acceptable and delicious.
At least the day before, a whole piece of beef must be frozen: I prefer rib eye, or sirloin. You need perhaps 1kg for four people.
It is essential that the beef should be sliced wafer thin, so it is tender and cooks in seconds. The freezing makes the beef easier to slice.
3 hours before serving remove the meat from the fridge and let it thaw. Obviously the time you need depends on the size of your joint and the temperature of your kitchen.
Slicing the beef
Start checking your meat after one hour, but it might take as many as three until it is thawed enough to slice. You need a large freshly sharpened knife. In order to cut thin slices, the beef must be firm enough to hold its shape so you can do this. If you slice too early it will be hard for your knife to cut through. At the right stage it is easy to cut whole slices about two millimetres or so thick. As you progress the colder inside of the joint softens, so you can slice that easily as you reach it. If the beef is too hard your knife is prone to slip, and you run the risk of cutting your fingers, so you must be careful! It is easier to stop slicing when the remaining beef is about three quarters of an inch thick as it becomes difficult to hold. Lay the beef slices elegantly on a large flat as pictured.
Rice should be placed on the table. Each person should have a rice bowl and can serve themselves. Please see my blog: An easy way to cook white rice perfectly every time
About 12 Chinese dried mushrooms (pictured further down). these can be bought at oriental grocers. They should be ideally soaked in cold water for several hours but can be soaked in hot water for an hour if time is short.
1 punnet of fresh tofu. Usually bought in oriental grocers in the fridge section. Sliced into 1-inch cubes
6 pak Choi Chinese cabbages. Additionally or alternatively Chinese leaves can be used
A pack of water cress
A pack of bean thread noodles (pictured further down). These can be bought in Oriental stores. They should be soaked in water for 10 minutes.
1 large onion sliced.
All the vegetables should arranged on a large plate at the table
Some people like to dip the beef and vegetables they have cooked into raw egg. For those who like this, an egg with its shell on is placed in a small bowl. If desired, they can break it into their bowl and stir it, ready to dip into as they wish. Others prefer to pour the egg over their rice. Some don’t bother with the egg at all, but I love it!
Daikon is a Japanese pickled radish. It is usually yellow and often served as a condiment together with Japanese food. It can be purchased in oriental grocers. It is sliced into small pieces as shown above, and served in a little dish.
THE COOKING LIQUID
The ingredients are as follows:
3 cups fresh chicken stock. For a recipe please see my blog, How to Make light Chicken Stock
½ a cup of ligsht Soya sauce or Japanese soya sauce like Kikkoman
1 cup of sake which is Japanese rice wine
2 tblspns of sugar
Just before serving mix the above and heat up in a saucepan until boiling. Place in a jug on the table.
As soon as everyone is sat at the table the host turns the wok to high and adds some fat. This is ideally beef suet but chicken fat or even oil (though not olive) will do. A handful of chopped onions are placed in the pan and cooked quickly until soft, stirring all the time. At this point some hot stock is poured into the wok, up to say an inch deep and the mixture will start to bubble. You cannot fill the wok too much as it does not have the power to boil a full wok of liquid, it is after all a frying pan.
Now the free for all starts… everyone uses chopsticks to help themselves to what they want leaving it in the pan until it’s cooked. The beef cooks instantly, the mushrooms onions and cabbage take a little longer, the tofu and noodles are quick. As the stock level lowers more stock is added. If it runs out add hot water. Soon the plates will be empty and everybody will be full.
NB. The stock becomes more and more delicious as the meal progresses; I there is any left over, it makes the base for a wonderful soup!