Pressure cooked in savory Japanese seasonings, this Japanese Beef Tendon Stew (Gyusuji Nikomi) is incredibly flavorful and literally melts in your mouth.
Beef tendon may not be a common ingredient in Western cultures, but it is loved for its luxurious textures and health benefits in Japanese and many Asian cuisines. Every now and then, I receive recipe requests for Japanese beef tendon dishes from readers who have tried and loved them. I procrastinated for a while but finally challenged myself to cook it for the very first time.
Today I present one of the most popular beef tendon dishes in Japan – Gyusuji Nikomi (牛筋煮込み) or Japanese Beef Tendon Stew.
How to Make Instant Pot Japanese Beef Tendon Stew (Gyusuji Nikomi)
Pressure cooked in savory Japanese seasonings, this Japanese Beef Tendon Stew (Gyusuji Nikomi) is flavorful and super tender and melts in your mouth.
What’s Beef Tendon?
Beef tendons are commonly used as an ingredient in some Asian cuisines and I’ve tried them in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese food in the past.
Frankly speaking, they are not my favorite cut of the meat because of the wobbly, flabby, jello-y texture (I like crispy and crunchy food). People who enjoy beef tendon appreciate the soft-tender texture and the rich flavors. Of course, they are high in collagens, which is good for your skin, joints, and hair.
Tendons are tough and fibrous but become tender after a long period of cooking. With the use of pressure cooker, the cooking process can be shortened without compromising the perfect texture and delicious flavors. Properly cooked beef tendons contribute wonderful flavors to the final dish, with deep and rich broth and tendons that literally melt in your mouth.
Beef Tendon in Japanese Cuisine
Growing up in Kanto (east) region of Japan, beef tendon wasn’t a common cut of meat sold in regular grocery stores or in restaurant menus. Tendons are more popular and eaten in Kansai and Kyushu (west/south) regions of Japan, probably due to the geographical distance to the neighboring Asian countries and their cuisine influence. You can find tendons used in stew, Oden, Doteni (どて煮), Okonomiyaki, Yakisoba, and Japanese curry in west/south of Japan.
Japanese Beef Tendon Stew (Gyusuji Nikomi)
Gyusuji Nikomi (牛筋煮込み) is probably the most popular beef tendon dishes in Japan. Gyusuji (牛筋) means beef tendons and nikomi means stew in Japanese.
Beef tendons are prepared first by boiling and simmering, and only after properly prepped, they are stewed in a soy sauce based savory dashi broth with daikon. Some variations of the stew include konnyaku (konjac) and other root vegetables like carrots and gobo (burdock root).
Note that beef tendons sold in Japan often come with some meat. However, beef tendons I can find at Chinese grocery stores here in the US are usually just tendons without meat.
5 Steps to Prepare Japanese Beef Tendon Stew
It takes 5 steps to make the Gyusuji Nikomi properly, and here’s how:
Step 1: Boil Beef Tendons
Hot boiling water helps to rinse off any unpleasant smell of beef tendons, which determines the flavors of your final fish, so do not skip this most important step.
Step 2: Pressure Cook/Simmer with Aromatics
Next, we’ll simmer the tendons with aromatics like ginger and green onions to take care of any residual smell. To achieve the tenderness you’re looking for in a shorter cooking time, a pressure cooker comes in handy. If you’re using an electric pressure cooker, you can even leave the kitchen and do something else.
Step 3: Clean Tendons
Once pressure cooking is finished, you must clean every part of the tendons thoroughly. It’s important to work with clean tendons to get a clean taste.
Step 4: Pressure Cook/Simmer with Broth and Seasonings
Now that you have clean tendons, it’s time to add flavors to them in dashi and seasonings. We give the tendons a head start so they have more time to absorb flavors before adding other ingredients.
Step 5: Pressure Cook/Simmer with Other Ingredients
Finally add the other ingredients such as daikon, gobo (burdock root), and konnyaku. At this step, you just need to make sure daikon is fully cooked, without over or under-cooking.
Homey and comforting, this Japanese Beef Tendon Stew will warm your soul, especially this time of the year.
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Japanese Beef Tendon Stew
- 1 lb beef tendon (rinsed and clean well)
- 3 green onions/scallions (use green part and white part separately)
- 1 knob ginger
- 8 oz daikon radish (3", 7.6 cm)
- ½ gobo (burdock root) (2.1 oz, 60 g)
- 6 oz konnyaku (konjac) (⅔ of the block)
- ½ tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt) (for konnyaku)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Add the rinsed beef tendon and 4 cups water (Add more to cover the tendon, if necessary) in the Instant Pot.
- Press the “Sauté” button and change to your setting to “More” by pressing the “Adjust” button.
- Once boiling, press the “Keep Warm/Cancel” button on the Instant Pot to stop cooking. Take out the inner pot and discard the water.
- Put the inner pot with the tendons back in the Instant Pot and add 4 cups water.
- Peel the ginger skin with the back of the knife or spoon and cut into thin slices. Cut the green onions in half, reserving the white bottom part.
- In the Instant Pot, add the sliced ginger and green part of the green onions.
- Cover and lock the lid. Press the “Manual” button on the Instant Pot. Set HIGH pressure for 30 minutes by pressing “+ (plus)” or “- (minus)” button to change the cooking time. Make sure the steam release handle points at “Sealing” and not “Venting”. The float valve goes up when pressurized. [For stovetop cooking, bring the water to boil and lower the heat to simmer and cook for 3 hours.]
Prep Ingredients while Pressure Cooking
- Using a spoon to cut the konnyaku into bite-size pieces.
- Sprinkle ½ tsp kosher salt over konnyaku and rub with your hands. Salt helps konnyaku release some unwanted smell and then absorb flavors later on.
- Bring water to boil and cook the konnyaku for 5 minutes.
- Peel and cut daikon into ½ inch quarters.
- Using the back of the knife, remove the thin layer of gobo skin (do not peel: flavors of gobo is right under the skin). Then diagonally cut gobo into ⅛ inch (3 mm) slices. Soak in water to prevent it from changing colors.
- When it’s finished cooking, the Instant Pot will switch automatically to the “Keep Warm” mode. Let the pressure release naturally, about 15-20 minutes. Open the lid and take out the inner pot.
- Drain the cooking liquid and rinse under warm water.
- Rinse every part of the tendons with warm water. Drain well and cut the tendons into small pieces. Put them in a bowl and set aside.
- Quickly rinse and dry the inner pot and place it back in the Instant Pot. Add 2 cups dashi, 3 Tbsp sugar, and 3 Tbsp sake in the pot.
- Add 4 Tbsp soy sauce and 2 Tbsp miso, and mix well together.
- Put the cleaned beef tendons and mix together with the sauce.
- Cover and lock the lid. Press the “Manual” button on the Instant Pot. Set HIGH pressure for 10 minutes by pressing “- (minus)” button to change the cooking time. Make sure the steam release handle points at “Sealing” and not “Venting”. The float valve goes up when pressurized. [For stovetop cooking, bring the sauce to boil and lower the heat to simmer and cook for 1 hour.]
- When it’s finished cooking, the Instant Pot will switch automatically to the “Keep Warm” mode. Let the pressure release naturally for 15-20 minutes or proceed with the quick release by turning the steam release handle to the “venting” position to let steam out until the float valve drops down. Hold a kitchen towel and do not place your hand or face over steam release valve.
- Add the konnyaku, daikon, and gobo.
- Cover and lock the lid. Press the “Manual” button on the Instant Pot. Set HIGH pressure for 10 minutes. Make sure the steam release handle points at “Sealing” and not “Venting”. The float valve goes up when pressurized. [For stovetop cooking, bring the sauce to boil and lower the heat to simmer, and cook for 1 hour.]
- When it’s finished cooking, the Instant Pot will switch automatically to the “Keep Warm” mode. Let the pressure release naturally for 15-20 minutes.
- Chop reserved half green onions into thin rounds. Serve the beef tendon stews in a bowl and garnish with green onion. Serve warm.
- You can store the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. I don't recommend freezing as konnyaku will change the texture.