When I think of Japanese food, three things immediately pop into my mind: sushi, ramen, and sukiyaki.
During my second trip to Japan, I decided that I wanted to take a couple of Japanese cooking classes: one on the art of making sushi, and another on preparing a traditional Japanese meal.
When I arrived to my traditional Japanese cooking class in the suburbs of Tokyo, I learned that my ‘classmates’ and I would be working together to prepare a full Japanese meal. I decided that I wanted to assist with making the sukiyaki, which was the main dish of the meal (and quite frankly the star of the show).
Sukiyaki (すき焼き) is a type of Japanese stew soup that is usually eaten during celebrations and special occasions. The dish is called a one-pot dish because all of the ingredients (meat + vegetables) are cooked together in one shallow cast iron pot.
When preparing to cook any meal, it is important to first prepare the items that you will be cooking before you start the cooking process.
The first step to making sukiyaki is to create the broth for the soup using soy sauce, sugar, soup stock, and mirin. (*Tip: Two good brands of mirin to buy outside of Japan are Takara and Toh-Hi Akasake). After you have gathered all of the ingredients, place them into a small pot on the stove and bring them to a boil.
While the soup broth is coming to a boil begin chopping your scallions [at an angle]. You can also take your block of grilled tofu and cut it into bite-sized pieces.
Next, boil a small pot of water and then take your shirataki noodles out of their bag, place them into the boiling water for two minutes, and then drain them.
Next, gather your chrysanthemum stalks, rinse them off in cold water, cut off the tips, and place them in a bowl so they will be easy to access when you go to make your sukiyaki.
After that, if you want to get fancy with your shitake mushrooms, you can cut a decorative ‘X’ into it (called Shitake Hanagiri) like so.
Next, place your soup broth into the pot you will be cooking your sukiyaki in, turn on the heat, and then begin to place the strips of beef into the pot making sure to cook it on both sides (use long chopsticks to turn the meat).
Next, gather all of the ingredients you prepared (noodles, chrysanthemum, mushrooms, scallions, tofu) and place them on top of the beef. Mix the ingredients together using your chopsticks.
Of course, no meal is complete without taking a photograph of it…. (well, at least not for me)
Put the camera down, sit down with some friends, and begin to enjoy your delicious meal. Do you see that raw egg (pictured below) in the glass bowl? …..
… that is used as your dipping sauce! It is deliciously slimy and part of the traditional sukiyaki experience.
Continue eating the sukiyaki by taking small amounts of it from the pot and dipping it in your raw egg.