The classic form of sukiyaki is the version in which the broth is simmered at the table on a portable stove while diners serve themselves from the pot. It’s a pleasant social gathering centered on a delicious meal. Since I’m usually cooking for one, it’s easier just to put the ingredients together on the kitchen stove and then serve it up as a finished meal, like any other dish. This takes a little adaptation, since all the recipes for sukiyaki I have are written to walk you through the process of dividing the food up into separate portions and cooking at the dining table.
I used Hiroko Shimbo’s recipe from The Japanese Kitchen last night. I stir-fried the thin beef slices in some oil, then added the broth, heated it, and added the remaining ingredients to simmer for about five minutes. The Asian supermarket sells frozen beef sliced paper-thin, which makes a big difference when you’re cooking a dish like sukiyaki or shabu-shabu. Stir-frying the slices is a little awkward, though; at least, it is in the big skillet I usually use for stir-frying. It might be better in a wok, but my wok is once again sporting a light patina of rust and I’m procrastinating on cleaning it.
Last night’s sukiyaki was additionally inauthentic because I used dried porcini mushrooms instead of shiitakes, and I substituted half a cup of the porcini soaking water for half of the shoyu used in the recipe. I was hoping to get some nice smoky porcini flavor into the sweet soy broth, but the result wasn’t too different from regular sukiyaki broth (not that this is a bad thing). I also added two fresh sage leaves, torn up. This was more successful, as the strong sage flavor gave an autumnal kick to the sukiyaki, but only using two leaves meant it didn’t overwhelm the broth.
Last night’s music to cook by: Blinded by Science by Thomas Dolby (1982). Science!