Beef Sukiyaki

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By Katharine Fish

As each grey January day ticks by, many in London will be losing the battle of the New Year resolution. No doubt many of these will be weight loss related, despite our natural instinct to pack on the pounds during the cold winter months. So as our willpower melts away, let’s hark back to the better days when winter was reserved for hearty, comforting foods. Because let’s face it, that sounds a lot more appealing than a juice cleanse…

With this new kind of resolution in mind, I can think of nothing more warming and comforting than a big bowl of my Grandma Sugiyama’s ground beef sukiyaki. This recipe is hearty, healthy and won’t break the bank. But it is also the perfect reflection of the way food can adapt with new and changing cultural influences.

Sukiyaki is a traditional Japan peasant dish, which was once cooked in a farmer’s plough, hence the name ‘suki’ (plough) – ‘yaki’ (to fry or grill). However, beef was not commonplace in the Japanese diet, as the Buddhist teachings forbade the killing of four-footed animals. As such, sukiyaki was made using sweet potato or chicken. But after the introduction of Europeans to the island during the Meiji Era, beef began appearing on the Japanese table in the form of sukiyaki.

Despite its far-flung origins, if you live in Brixton than the ingredients are right on your doorstep. The Wing Tai Supermarket on Electric Avenue carries everything you need for the sukiyaki sauce and they even have an amazing selection of Asian mushrooms and greens.

So if you’re looking for a way to melt those winter blues, than do as my Grandma would and cook up this comforting crowd pleaser!

Beef Sukiyaki

Serves 6

Approx 40 minutes cooking time

  • 1 teaspoon sunflower oil
  • 800g beef mince
  • 1 block firm tofu, cut into pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 100g mushrooms, sliced thickly (enoki, shitaki, brown or white button)
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 50g bean sprouts
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 110 ml light soya sauce
  • 75ml Mirin
  • 100ml water
  • 1 pack bok choi
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed
  • dash of soya sauce

While Sukiyaki is usually prepared at the table in a cast iron skillet, for the sake of simplicity, I make it in a large frying pan on the hob.

Put the frying pan on a low heat and add the oil. Cook the onions, stirring continuously, until they are translucent. Then, add in the minced beef until browned, ensuring that you break up any chunks.

Mix the soya sauce, mirin, water and sugar into a bowl. The strength of each component can vary depending on brand and type, so you should taste a bit of your mixture to make sure the balance is just right. It should be sweet, salty and a little sharp, so if one element is too overwhelming than even it out with a combination of the other liquids.

After preparing your liquid mixture, add half of it to the pan of browned meat and then sprinkle  the cornflour over it all. Turn the heat up to medium low and stir the meat until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add half the remaining sauce and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the celery, mushrooms, and two thirds of the spring onions. Cook for another 10 minutes.Put in the tofu, bean sprouts and the remainder of the sauce. Cook until the liquid has reduced, and the meat is saucy, but not soupy (this should be about another 5 minutes).

The final step is to cook the bok choy. Heat up some oil in a small frying pan on a low heat. Add some the garlic, and then the bok choy. Make sure the greens are coated in the garlicky oil, and then cover with a lid and cook until tender.

Serve the sukiyaki on white rice, making sure to dollop some of the juices overtop. Arrange the greens around the edge of the bowl and sprinkle on the remaining spring onions.

Like most one pot recipes, this is even better the next day once all the juices have fully absorbed into the meat!




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