Sukiyaki will remind you of a warm evening in the midst of Japanese winter. The rich flavours of the vegetables and sauce, married with the umami of the tender meat, make for a sumptuous and warming meal.
Sukiyaki or nabemono, offers a unique dining experience. The Japanese usually prepare and enjoy the hot pot dish on the table. Apart from its impeccable flavours, you will appreciate the versatility and comfort that it brings. Moreover, you'll love it if you enjoy other Japanese hot pot dishes like Shabu Shabu. But unlike the delicate Shabu Shabu, this dish offers bolder flavours with the sukiyaki sauce.
Many Japanese restaurants are famous for their takes on this heartwarming dish. But that doesn't mean you have to travel far to try it. We've created this sukiyaki recipe to replicate the flavourful dish at home. It's an easy dish for dinner parties and our family and friends love it too.
Our recipe will allow you to incorporate healthier and fresher ingredients and easily control the spiciness and sweetness of the dish. So, read on to learn how to make sukiyaki at home!
What does sukiyaki consist of?
This Japanese hotpot consists of meat, vegetables, and other ingredients like noodles. Its broth is a mixture of soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar, sometimes diluted with kombu dashi.
Common vegetables for the dish include mushrooms, tofu, and leafy greens like cabbage, bok choy, and spinach. Some people add boiled wheat udon or mochi at the end to soak up the remaining sweet broth. With that being said, this dish resembles Korean barbecue, except it's cooked on a stove, not a grill.
The beef in this dish is thinly sliced and well-marbled. For the best results, most restaurants use expensive cuts of meat. The meat is slowly cooked or simmered with the other ingredients in a pot of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin.
Interestingly, other countries have taken on sukiyaki and added a twist. For instance, Laos' version of it consists of bean thread noodles, thinly sliced beef, vegetables and other proteins like seafood. It also contains sauce made from coconut, tahini, peanut butter, fermented tofu, garlic, lime, sugar and some spices. Similarly, a raw egg is included in the beef broth. Apart from that, there is also a Thai version that only slightly resembles the Japanese version.
The famous Japanese nabemono that people love and enjoy today typically includes beef as its highlight ingredient. However, it is worth noting that this dish has many variations with different ingredients and names. For example, there is Uosuki, made using fish, and Kanisuki, made with crab.
We recommend starting with the traditional one. Then, try out these variations as they all have unique charms that thrill our palates. Also, there is no fixed rule as to the components of the dish. So, you can create your version of the dish once you've mastered the art of cooking the traditional one.
What does sukiyaki taste like?
Sukiyaki tastes rich thanks to the infusion of the flavours from the meat and veggies in it. The soupy broth also offers a bold taste with its sweet, salty, and savoury flavours. The raw egg also has a hint of sweetness that coats well with the bold-flavoured beef and vegetables.
It balances the flavours and creates a harmonious, sweet, savoury dish. Thus, eating this Japanese one-pot meal will surely tickle your tastebuds!
Sukiyaki vs Shabu Shabu
The main difference between sukiyaki and shabu shabu is the thickness of the sliced meat. The sliced beef in sukiyaki is slightly thicker than that of shabu shabu.
Apart from that, other differences include the broth and dipping sauce used. As mentioned, the broth in nabemono consists of soy sauce, sake, mirin, sugar and Kombu dashi. But shabu shabu typically only uses kombu dashi as the broth. Hence, shabu shabu has a lighter, more delicate taste.
While the beef in a Japanese hot pot is dipped in beaten raw egg, shabu shabu uses Ponzu sauce and sesame sauce. Furthermore, Shabu Shabu is made using a donabe (Japanese clay pot) instead of a cast iron pot.
Kansai vs Kanto Sukiyaki
Kansai style and Kanto style differ in the preparation method. One involves grilling meat, and the other doesn't. The Kansai sukiyaki consists of grilled meat but the Kanto style doesn't. The former combines different beef cuts, but the latter usually uses thinly sliced beef sirloin or ribeye.
Furthermore, the Kanto style has a significant component known as warishita. It is made by boiling ingredients like soy sauce, sugar, sake, and mirin. It can also be diluted with kombu dashi, as preferred by some. Additionally, since it is not grilled, the Kanto style of the dish tends to be less greasy. Our recipe will be in the Kanto style.
Here are the sukiyaki ingredients that you will need:
- Beef or Chicken
- Napa Cabbage
- Enoki Mushrooms
- Shirataki noodles
- Sukiyaki sauce
The beef is the dish's highlight, so we recommend using high-quality meat for the best results. The Japanese typically splurge on high-quality and well-marbled beef to make the dish.
A common type of meat used to make the dish is wagyu which can be expensive. However, you will only need a little of it due to the high-fat content in each slice.
Alternatively, you can get ribeye meat since it has a good balance of fat and lean meat with fantastic marbling. Therefore, we will be using ribeye meat for this recipe. Chuck eye roll is also ideal.
The meat must be well-marbled, so the fat will become tender when you eat it. Otherwise, your Japanese dish will have tough and chewy meat. You can easily find such meats in Asian or Japanese grocery stores labelled "Sukiyaki beef". They are also typically sold pre-sliced, but you can slice the meat thinly at home.
We found that the easiest way to slice the meat thinly at home is to first freeze the meat. We usually will put the meat in an airtight freezer bag at least the night before.
A quicker way to freeze the meat is to put the freezer bag on a metal tray. It will only take about 2 hours to firm it up. If the meat is small, you can freeze it for only one and a half hours. Then, take the meat out and slice it against the grain into ⅛-inch slices with a gentle sawing motion. The meat must be firm yet soft enough for the knife to cut through smoothly.
Chicken is not commonly used in making this Japanese one-pot meal. However, you can still make the dish work with chicken by adding additional steps.
Instead of slicing it thinly, you should cut the chicken meat into small bite pieces after parboiling it. Next, place the pieces into a pot of boiling water and let it lightly cook until the water turns white. After that, remove the chicken from the pot and put it in a container or a tray. Then, continue making the sauce using our recipe as usual.
Once all the other ingredients are ready, pour the sauce into a pot and bring it to a boil. Add the ingredients, including the chicken pieces and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Finally, your chicken Japanese hot pot should be ready to enjoy.
Napa cabbage is a Chinese cabbage easily found at Asian grocery stores. It adds crispness to the dish with a slightly sweet taste on its own. This makes the vegetable versatile enough to be used in many Japanese dishes. We love adding lots of this to our Japanese hot pot meals as it soaks up the broth and tastes delicious.
You can find it in grocery stores called 'Napa Cabbage' or its Japanese name, 'Hakusai'. Alternatively, you can use bok choy, endives, and other cabbages like red and savoy cabbage.
Enoki mushrooms mainly work as a textural addition to hot pot dishes like this nabemono. This is because they are super mild in flavour and almost taste like nothing but have a pleasantly chewy texture. They are usually white or cream-coloured with long thin stalks and tiny caps.
It can be hard to find these mushrooms in some parts of the world, especially outside Asian countries. If you cannot find this mushroom, some good alternatives would be button, portobello, and oyster mushrooms which are as versatile. However, these mushrooms are more earthy and meaty than enoki mushrooms. You can also try using shiitake mushrooms to add more smoky and earthy flavours to the dish.
We highly recommend grilled or yaki tofu for your sukiyaki because it is denser and firmer than regular tofu. This trait is essential to prevent it from crumbling easily in the broth. This also means it can withstand long hours of cooking without crumbling. Not to mention that it would absorb the broth and sauces well since it is porous.
You can get yaki tofu or broiled tofu at most Asian supermarkets. Alternatively, you can get regular tofu and grill it on a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat for about 1-2 minutes. Just make sure that each side of the tofu is slightly brown.
This nabemono incorporates shirataki noodles which are translucent and gelatinous Japanese noodles made out of the corm of konjac yam. They either come in dry or wet forms in Asian grocery stores. Drained and dry roasted shirataki noodles pair well with this hot pot because they have a neutral taste and a paste-like consistency.
Alternatively, you can substitute the shirataki noodles with rice, or wheat noodles. But do note that these alternatives are higher in carbs, and calories and will leave reduce the broth.
You can even replace Shirataki noodles with your preferred pasta or instant noodles. Usually, when we can't find shirataki noodles we will simply omit them from our dish.
The egg used in sukiyaki is not meant to be cooked. It's meant to be enjoyed raw as a dipping sauce instead. However, this is optional, considering that consuming raw or undercooked eggs can potentially make you ill.
Generally, eating raw eggs in Japan is safe. Although, this might not be true in other countries. So we suggest getting pasteurised eggs instead. They are commonly available in the dairy section of supermarkets. But if you can't find them, you can pasteurise the eggs yourself at home on a stovetop or using sous vide.
Using the stovetop method will require you to use an accurate food thermometer to control the temperature. On the other hand, using the sous vide machine is easier as the device will control the temperature for you.
To pasteurise your eggs via sous vide, first attach your machine to a water-filled container. Then, add the eggs individually. Next, set the sous vide to cook at 57°C for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. This is based on the standard 60-gram egg, but if your eggs are larger, you can cook them longer.
Other alternatives for a sukiyaki dipping sauce are Ponzu sauce, sesame sauce, and Yuzu Kosho. Ponzu sauce tastes citrusy and is a common alternative dipping sauce for the hot pot in Japan. Sesame sauce is creamy and has a nutty flavour that pairs well with the dish. Lastly, Yuzu Kosho adds a unique and bold taste to the hot pot with its spicy and citrus flavours.
Veganising the dish is easy since most ingredients used are vegetarian and vegan-friendly, except beef. It may be the star of the dish but you can still make an excellent vegan version of nabemono!
We suggest replacing sliced beef with soy meat or other plant-based substitutes you prefer. This will add a great chewy texture to the overall dish.
Adding more tofu and meaty mushrooms to the dish would also work if you don't want to use mock meat. The sauce is vegan, so there's no need to worry about it.
How to make sukiyaki sauce
You can also add some kombu dashi to your sauce. However, we recommend separating the kombu dashi from the main ingredients to make the sukiyaki broth last longer. Therefore, we suggest that you make the broth without kombu dashi and only add it when you want it.
This recipe follows the Kanto style, so we are making warishita! Making it from scratch on your own is simple. First, you must boil the sake and mirin beforehand to let the alcohol evaporate. Then, add sugar and soy sauce to the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Due to the added sugar, the sauce should be slightly syrupy and thicker than regular soy sauce.
Sukiyaki sauce without sake
You can also follow the sukiyaki sauce recipe without sake and replace it with alternatives like dry sherry or white wine. For a non-alcoholic substitute, you can use rice wine vinegar instead. Otherwise, you can also just replace the same portion of sake with mirin.
Using store-bought sauce
Despite the ease of making the sauce from scratch, it is better to use premade sukiyaki sauce. This would save more time and make the dish's preparation effortless. Plus, mirin and sake can be pricey in certain countries. So unless you plan on using the ingredients regularly, it is more convenient and economical to use store-bought sauce instead. The only downside is that you will have less control over the flavouring of the sauce.
When using a sukiyaki sauce bottle, we recommend using about 300-350 ml of it to make the dish. Watch the amount you put into the dish, as too much sauce can make it salty. You can dilute the sauce by adding water or dashi if this happens. Adding more vegetables to the dish to absorb the salt would work too.
Besides that, the store-bought sauce also allows you to use it for other dishes. For instance, you can use it as a condiment and to braise meats and vegetables. Furthermore, you can use it as an alternative for other dishes' sauces like Oyakodon.
Japanese Sukiyaki Pot
This Japanese one-pot meal is usually prepared in a shallow cast iron pot that’s placed over a portable butane gas stove. However, we recommend using an electric sukiyaki pot for the best cooking results. This is a great purchase if you intend to cook many hot pot foods. We use ours for holding dinner parties too. The modern technology in the pot has made it possible to greatly simplify the cooking process.
Alternatively, a traditional nabe pot with a stove base would be the best option for those on a budget. This will also be a great option to make the most authentic version of the Japanese hot pot. While you can use a nabe pot, note that you cannot use a donabe for cooking the dish. It cannot sustain high heat since it is not made for grilling and searing meat.
However, you can also just get a portable induction countertop and cook the dish in a regular pot. We recommend it if you rarely make hot pots but want quick access to them whenever you want.
What do you eat sukiyaki with?
For the perfect hotpot experience, we recommend that you savour the beef on its own first. Then, enjoy it with other ingredients such as vegetables and tofu.
In Japan, people don't drink sukiyaki broth because the leftover broth can make another meal! It is highly versatile, and almost anything pairs well with the sukiyaki sauce taste.
You can even save it for later by refrigerating it - it should last up to a week. Alternatively, you could freeze the broth for up to 3 months. Just make sure to separate it from the meat and veggies before freezing to avoid chewy meat and mushy veggies.
Here are some of the tasty ways Japanese people savour this yummy dish:
The hot pot tastes impressive by itself, and you can enjoy it just as it is with no other side dishes. This will allow you to fully experience and savour the taste of the dish with no additional ingredients. This also works well for those planning to make it a light meal to enjoy anytime.
The best way to enjoy your Japanese hot pot is by dipping it in raw egg. Japanese people love eating it this way because it gives a slightly sweet counterpoint to the salty broth. If you have pasteurised eggs, we highly recommend eating them this way to tone down the richness of the broth.
With Ponzu Sauce
Ponzu sauce is a popular Japanese condiment that you can enjoy with this hot pot dish. It gives off a citrusy aroma, but it will not make your dish taste lemony! Instead, it is a little bit tangy and will enhance the savoury taste of your nabemono.
With Teriyaki Sauce
Teriyaki sauce is an ingredient you can incorporate into any dish due to its versatility. Apart from enjoying the meat and veggies soaked in the sukiyaki soup, you can dip them in teriyaki sauce. It is the perfect sauce to add a sweet and tangy flavour to the meat.
With a bowl of rice
You can enjoy the sweet and savoury dish with rice to make the meal more filling. Alternatively, you can use leftover broth and rice to make sukiyaki don for later. The preparation of the don is simple as well. You only need to reheat the sauce and serve it with a bowl of rice and some beaten eggs on top.
Add Udon noodles at the end
Another popular way to enjoy your Japanese one-pot meal is to finish it with a different carbohydrate. Apart from rice, the Japanese often finish the dish with some udon noodles. In fact, these noodles are the best option as they can absorb the remaining sukiyaki sauce very well. Just let them soak in the broth, sprinkle some scallions, and enjoy your sukiyaki noodles.
In Japan, people usually serve their guests boiled or dry noodles to finish the meal. Furthermore, some restaurants in Japan require you to order udon noodles separately, while some prepare them as part of the meal.
Add seasonal ingredients
We suggest you add seasonal ingredients to the dish to make it more tasteful and exciting. This allows room for experimentation with other ingredients - you don't have to bore yourself with the same ingredients. For example, many restaurants in Japan use seasonal vegetables in making the dish, such as okra during summer and turnips in winter.
Share it with friends and family
Whatever your preferred side dishes are, the best way to enjoy the dish is by sharing it. Instead of enjoying it alone, cook it and set it on the table in the middle. Prepare a few sets of chopsticks, bowls for the cooked food, and bowls for the raw eggs on the table. You may also need to prepare a few communal cooking chopsticks so everyone can cook the raw meat and veggies.
Sukiyaki Recipe (Japanese Hot Pot)
- 4 leaves Napa cabbage
- 50 g Enoki mushrooms
- 50 g Shiitake mushrooms
- 250 g broiled tofu
- 230 g thinly-sliced beef
- 100 g Shirataki noodles
- Chopped green onions (for garnish)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
To make Kombu Dashi (Optional):
- 240 ml water
- 5 g or 1 pc Kombu
- Make the sauce by combining sake and mirin in a small saucepan and let it boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to simmer and let the alcohol evaporate for about a minute. Then, add the sugar and soy sauce. Mix it and bring it to a boil again until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and set the sauce aside.
- Make the kombu dashi by pouring 240 ml of water into a cup. Then, add a piece of Kombu and let it steep for at least 30 minutes.
- Cut all the vegetables and mushrooms into smaller pieces and soak the shirataki noodles in water for 10 minutes. The napa cabbage should be cut about 2 inches wide. Next, cut off the shiitake mushrooms' stems and the enoki mushroom's bottom part. The enoki mushroom should also be torn into smaller clusters. Then, place all the ingredients on a big platter or tray.
- Once ready to cook, heat the vegetable oil in the pot over a portable or regular stove. Add the sliced beef and let it sear for 10 seconds before drizzling the sukiyaki sauce. Fry the meat until it starts to brown, and remove it from the pot.
- Add the remaining sauce and kombu dashi into the pot and let it boil. Then, add the vegetables in sections. Drain the shirataki noodles and add them to the pot as well. Cover the pot and let it boil. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes until all the ingredients are cooked.
- Re-add the beef to the pot and sprinkle over chopped scallions. Enjoy your sukiyaki with rice and an egg yolk.
- Besides vegetable oil, you can use other neutral-flavoured oil such as canola or rice bran oil.
- Feel free to add more vegetables and other preferred ingredients.
- Make the dish vegetarian or vegan by substituting beef with other plant-based ingredients.
- For better presentation, you can cut the shiitake mushroom caps into a floral pattern. First, make two incisions to form a 'V' on the mushroom cap to cut a sliver off the top. Then, repeat the steps to form an 'X' on the mushroom cap and continue until it forms a flower pattern.
- Remove odour from the shirataki noodles by adding them to boiling water before cooking them.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and is only a rough estimate.
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