I love sukiyaki! It’s so delicious with the rice noodles, but I think my favorite part is the broth. The only other great sukiyaki that I have ever had was at Kyoto, a small local family-own, family-run Japanese restaurant in Rohnert Park, which also has tasty, tasty sushi. I also love their dobin mushi, another soup I must make. Kyoto is the only restaurant where I have seen it served. I highly recommend their food! I like all Kyoto’s sukiyaki soups (chicken, seafood, beef and combination) so much, I went to Japantown in San Franciso to buy the special ceramic clay pot to make this great soup for myself at home.

Last year my mom asked for a new ceramic casserole dish for Christmas. So when Anise and I went to San Francisco last December to visit the Ferry Building Farmers Market and Japantown,  I knew exactly what I wanted to get my mom. A ceramic donabe or Japanese hot pot. It was my understanding that you can cook with them on the stove and in the oven, so I thought it would act as a two-in-one. That way she could make hot pot soups and oven-baked casseroles. Alas, I didn’t realize glazed ceramic pots will crack and break if you bake them; the unglazed ones can go in the oven after soaking in water for two to three hours. (The soaked up water prevents cracking in the oven; the walls of the glazed pots can’t absorb water, which is why glazed ones can’t go in the oven.) I got the wrong kind. Oh well. No big deal, since the off-white pot I got her has beautiful blue flowers on the lid. Thankfully this type of pot is still usable on the stove and easily cleaned with boiling salted water (kind of like cleaning cast iron pots with oil and salt to preserve seasoning and remove food bits).

Beef Sukiyaki Hot Pot
Adapted from Setsuko Yoshizuka’ Beef Sukiyaki and Beef Sukiyaki from Japanese Hot Pots by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat
Serves 4 to 6

Sukiyaki Sauce Ingredients
3/4 + 3 1/4 C Filtered Water
1/3 C San-J Gluten-Free Tamari Soy Sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
3 T Hakutsuru Junmai Sake
5 T Sugar, Turbinado or Sucanat
2 tsp Better Than Bouillon Beef Bouillon
2 T Kikkoman Aji-Mirin

1 lb Sliced Beef Rib Roast, cut into 1″ squares*

Hot Pot Ingredients
1 Bunch Chinese Cabbage or Bock Choy, cut into 2″ lengths
1 Bag Wild or Spring Mix Salad Greens
1 Leek, ends trimmed, cut into 2″ lengths
8 Shiitake Mushrooms, stemmed, sliced**
6 3″ wide Portobello Mushrooms, sliced**
1 pkg Maifun Rice Noodles, soaked, rinsed, cut into 3″ lengths or kelp noodles, rinsed

*Cutting the meat slices so small is not necessary, but they shouldn’t be bigger than 4″ across.
**If your mushrooms are small enough, you don’t have to slice them; I just wanted ours bite-size. You can use Enoki, like the original recipe called for, but we couldn’t find them at the store.

Directions
Arrange your cut-up vegetables on a large platter into separate piles in order to make organizing your ingredients easier later on when it’s time to add them to the donabe.

In a small sauce pan, combine 3/4 cup of water, the tamari, sake and sugar. Heat the sauce through on the stove over medium.

Warm up some of the sauce over medium heat in the donabe. Add the meat, and saute it until it reaches medium doneness. Dissolve the bouillon in the remaining water, sauce and mirin on medium-high heat. Deglaze the pot with a bit of sauce, scraping off any meat stuck to the bottom if needed.

Push the meat aside, and add the bok choy. (Cabbage always goes on the bottom of the donabe when you are adding your groups of soup goodies.) Arrange the other vegetables and noodles in separate sections in the pot on top of the cabbage. It may not look like they will all fit, but just wedge them in. Pour in the rest of the sauce. Remember the lid is domed, but if you have to, wait a few minutes for some of the greens to wilt before you add more. (If there still isn’t room, add more after the first four bowls of soup are served.)

Cover the pot with the lid, and cook the sukiyaki over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Remove the lid to check on the ingredients. Push any ingredients down that are sticking up out of the broth, so everything cooks evenly. Return the lid, and cook the soup for another 3 minutes. If necessary, press the ingredients down again. Recover the pot again. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat; cook it for 30 seconds. Turn the off the burner.

With hot pan holders or oven mittens, transfer the hot pot to the dining table, placing it on a trivet. Under the trivet I spread out a thick towel (or you can use an absorbent placemat, in case of spillage while ladling the servings). The trivet only covered half of the towel, so that I had room to put down the very hot donabe lid. Make sure you keep a hot pan holder or oven mitten at the table with the hot pot, so you don’t burn your hands.

Serve the soup into bowls with a ladle and cooking or plating chopsticks or tongs. Make sure you get a bit of everything in each bowl. If you have any additional vegetables that are still uncooked and didn’t fit in the pot before, you can add them now to the still hot broth. Returning the lid to maintain the heat in the donabe and keep the steam in.

Here’s a video of “The Aimless Cook” on Youtube that I also used as a reference for cooking the meat directly in the donabe. It also has some nice vegetable preparation ideas to make your vegetables look prettier.

Donabe recipes are so flexible, that you can really be creative when putting your soup together.  Treat the recipes like guidelines when coming up with flavor combinations; you can add or omit most any ingredients you like. Just make sure you pay attention to the amounts each type of ingredient. An overstuffed pot can boil over during cooking, and you want to make sure the piled in meat and vegetable piles are so high that they lift the lid away from the pot. The lid needs to  completely close. Remember that you can add more ingredients to the hot remaining broth and other soup bits after you make some room by serving portions to your dinner mates.

If you are concerned about sodium and sugar, those are adjustable, too. You can use low-sodium or sodium-free tamari and omit the mirin or use less sugar, adjusting the flavors afterward. Also If you want to add a garnish, you can sprinkle on furikake or shichimi togarashi, both of which come in several different seasoning mixes, as shime or garnish. You can even make your own, like I did; stay ‘tooned for my upcoming Shrimp & Vegetable Nabe post.

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