Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I popped by the Asian foodstuffs supermarket the other night to grab some more miso, noodles and vegetables. It's always a bit of a trip down memory lane when I go in there as I spent 18 months living in Japan and then another six months travelling around Thailand and Malaysia, so I see all these wonderful foods and reminisce. Japan holds a particular place in my heart as I have many friends still there and the food from Japan has to be my favourite type of food. Its simplicity, subtle blend of flavours and elegant presentation never fails to amaze me.

I was lucky enough to live above a sushi shop, and so on many a night the family and I would share sake, green tea and laughter as we battled the language barrier. In amongst this, I learnt some of the cooking skills that Japanese women take for granted and I would share some insights into Kiwi life and food. I was also lucky enough to have lessons in Japanese cooking from one of the sushi chefs there. Becoming a sushi chef takes years of training and dedication and they are trained in all aspects of food and food presentation, so it hardly skimmed the surface, but I did take away some valuable skills.

Miso soup and sushi would have to be my favourite Japanese foods, but sukiyaki comes a close second. It is not something a Japanese housewife would cook frequently at home and is considered somewhat of a luxury meal, but it is uniquely Japanese with its flavours. It is basically a one pot meal with beef, vegetables and rice noodles cooked in a sweet soy sauce broth. Raw beaten egg is traditionally used as a dipping sauce but it can be enjoyed without it. It is also traditionally served with a bowl of white rice too.

I tend to use whatever vegetables are in season here, as fresh Japanese vegetables out of season are impossible to come by in this little town! I usually grow shungiku but not at this time of year, so I used pak choy. And shiitake mushrooms are hideously expensive, so I just used ordinary old button mushrooms. I threw in carrots as the kids love them, and brussel sprouts for Tony as he is a fan of them...(the only person I have ever met that likes that vegetable!). I just throw everything in my wok at the table. Half the fun is the novelty of dining like this.


1-2 cups of dashi broth
3-4 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons of soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sake

750 grams well marbled beef, (eg sirloin) cut into paper thin slices
green onions, sliced diagonally into 4cm lengths
1 cake firm tofu, cut into large cubes
1 bunch shirataki (fine rice noodles), boiled for 3 minutes first, then drain
1 bunch shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves), or spinach or watercress or similar green vegetable
shiitake mushrooms

Combine broth ingredients in the wok. Once it starts to boil, add some of the meat and vegetables. As it cooks, diners can help themselves to whatever they want, dipping the food into individual serving bowls of beaten egg before eating. Add more meat and vegetables as the meal progresses. And, of course, chopsticks are a must!


Linda F said...

Wow Deb, that is cool and looks delicious (and healthy!) I wonder if I could get my family to embrace it??????:)

Cakelaw said...

The finished dish looks so light and delicious, but I am drawn by the photo of the neatly chopped veges and tofu sitting ready on a plate - it is so inviting.

Kevin said...

That sukiyaki looks good! It would be so fun to spend that much time in Japan, Thailand and Malasia!!