Cozy up at your get-together with friends and family with this homemade Japanese sukiyaki recipe, served with seared marbled beef and a variety of vegetables cooked in a soy sauce broth.
Sukiyaki (すき焼き) is a popular Japanese hot pot dish which is often cooked and served at the table, similar to Shabu Shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ).
If you are familiar with the Japanese hot pot dish, you have probably heard of Shabu Shabu. With Shabu Shabu, you cook thinly sliced beef and pork in a clear kombu-based broth. The flavor is subtle and you dip the food in a ponzu or sesame based sauce.
Sukiyaki is completely different; the food is cooked in a sweet and salty soy sauce-based broth and full of bold flavors straight from the pot.
Besides the broth, the pot used to cook sukiyaki is also quite different from Shabu Shabu. Traditionally it is cooked in a cast-iron pot while Shabu Shabu is cooked in a Japanese clay pot called donabe (土鍋), and the thinly sliced beef (but slightly thicker than Shabu Shabu meat) are seared first in the pot before adding ingredients and broth.
Despite having a different flavor and cooking pot, most Sukiyaki ingredients are similar to Shabu Shabu, such as leafy vegetables, tofu, shiitake mushroom, and so on.
Kansai Style vs. Kanto Style
As my mom’s side of the family is from Osaka (Kansai) and my dad’s side is from Tokyo (Kanto), my sukiyaki recipe is the combination of both Kansai style and Kanto style.
In Kansai (Osaka) area, we sear the meat and season with sugar, soy sauce, and sake. Then we enjoy some of the meat first before the rest of the ingredients are added to the pot. However in the Kanto (Tokyo) area, we make Sukiyaki Sauce (Warishita, 割り下) first, and all the ingredients are cooked at the same time in the Sukiyaki Sauce.
For the sliced beef, if you shop at Japanese grocery stores, look in the meat section. There is usually pre-sliced beef, and they are specifically labeled as beef for Shabu Shabu or Sukiyaki.
The Japanese like to splurge and enjoy really good quality meat for both Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu. Wagyu (beef from cows raised in Japan) is very expensive ($40/lb), so typically each person only enjoys about 120-150 grams of sliced meat.
When you shop for the meat, find a well-marbled piece of meat so that fat of the meat becomes tender when you eat. Otherwise, it’ll very chewy after being cooked.
If you can’t find pre-sliced beef, you can try slicing the beef chunk at your home. Follow my directions and tricks on How To Slice Meat.
Substitutions of ingredients for Sukiyaki
Some of the ingredients we put in Sukiyaki (or Shabu Shabu) like napa cabbage and shungiku may not be easy to find in where you live. If so, use available mushrooms and leafy vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, and bok choy.
You can substitute Leeks and scallions/green onions for Tokyo Negi. Instead of shirataki noodles (yam noodles), you can use vermicelli.
Cooking at Dining Table
Sukiyaki is usually cooked over a portable stove at the dining table and each person uses their own chopsticks to pick up the ingredients from the pot and add more ingredients as the food disappears from the pot.
It’s a fun dinner for family and friends’ get-together, and not to mention, all you have to do is to chop ingredients before dinner time!
How to Eat Sukiyaki the “Authentic” Way
I am a bit hesitant and actually slightly reluctant to talk about the “authentic” way the Japanese enjoy Sukiyaki as some of you may not find it appetizing. However, I do want to let you know in case you end up enjoying this dish in Japan and you won’t get caught off guard.
So, in Japan, a lot of people dip the cooked ingredients in raw egg. I know, I can almost hear “eww” from some of my readers but that’s the fact. I actually recommend you try if you are in Japan where eggs are sometimes safe to consume raw. The sweetness from raw egg coats well with salty vegetables and meat and it balances out the flavors very well.
Here in the U.S., raw eggs are not safe to eat, so purchase pasteurized eggs (they are actually hard to find) or you can pasteurize your eggs at home using sous-vide method.
I hope you enjoy making my Sukiyaki recipe!
- 2 servings udon noodles (180 g dry udon noodles; 500 g frozen/boiled udon noodles; udon is served at the end of the meal after all the ingredients are cooked and the broth is left in the pot.)
- ½ head napa cabbage (10 leaves; 1.8 lb or 690 g)
- ½ bunch shungiku (tong ho/garland chrysanthemum) (7 oz, 200 g)
- 1 negi (long green onion) (1 leek, 3 green onions)
- 1 package enoki mushrooms (7 oz, 200 g)
- 8 shiitake mushrooms (or other kinds of mushrooms)
- 1 package yaki tofu (broiled tofu) (9 oz, 255 g)
- ⅓ carrot (optional)
- 1 package shirataki noodles (7 oz, 198 g; or cellophane noodles, yam noodles)
- 1 lb thinly sliced beef (chuck or rib eye) (slice your own meat)
To Cook Sukiyaki
- 1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc) (or beef fat if your sukiyaki beef package comes with it)
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar (we use it for the first batch of meat)
- 1-1.5 cup dashi (Japanese soup stock; click to learn more) (or water; to dilute the sauce)
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Make Sukiyaki Sauce
- Combine 1 cup sake, 1 cup mirin, ¼ cup sugar, and 1 cup soy sauce in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat and set aside. This Sukiyaki sauce can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a month.
To Prepare the Ingredients
- If your udon is frozen, cook it in boiling water until loosen. Remove from heat and soak in iced water to prevent overcooking them. Drain and transfer to a plate covered with plastic. You will not need it till the end of the sukiyaki meal.
- Prepare sukiyaki ingredients. Cut napa cabbage into 2” (5 cm) wide then cut in half right at the middle of the white part.
- Cut shungiku into 2” (5 cm) wide, and slice Tokyo negi. Discard the bottom part of enoki and tear into smaller bundles.
- Discard the shiitake stem and decorate the top of shiitake if you like.
- Cut tofu into smaller pieces (I usually cut into 6-8 pieces).
- If you like, you can slice some carrots and then stamp them into a floral shape for decoration.
- Drain and rinse the shirataki noodles (sorry no photo). Put all the ingredients on one big platter for the table or into smaller individual servings.
To Cook Sukiyaki
- Set a portable gas cooktop at the dining table. Each person should have a medium-sized bowl where the cooked food is being transferred to from the pot. Heat a cast iron sukiyaki pot (or any pot) on medium heat. When it’s hot, add 1 Tbsp cooking oil (or beef fat).
- Place 2-4 slices of well-marbled beef to sear and sprinkle 1 Tbsp brown sugar. Flip and cook the other side of the meat. You can pour a little bit of Sukiyaki Sauce over the meat and enjoy some (or all) of the sweet and nicely caramelized meat now (this is to enjoy the good quality meat), and continue to the next step.
The First Round of Sukiyaki
- Pour half of the Sukiyaki Sauce you made (1 ⅓ cup) and 1 cup dashi (or water) in the pot.
- Add vegetables, tofu, and other ingredients to the pot (keep the udon for later). Add more Sukiyaki Sauce or dashi (or water) if necessary. The ⅔ of the ingredients should be submerged in the broth. Put the lid on and bring to a gentle boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat and simmer until the ingredients are cooked through. Once ingredients are cooked through, you can add more beef as beef will cook fast. Enjoy the first round of sukiyaki. If the sauce gets too salty (from evaporating), add dashi (or water) to dilute. If the vegetables diluted the sauce too much, then add more sukiyaki sauce.
The Second/Third Round of Sukiyaki (Optional)
- When there is less cooked food in the pot, divide the leftover into individual bowls. Then start cooking the second round by adding more ingredients to the pot (repeat the previous step). While the second round of sukiyaki is being cooked, you can enjoy the leftover from the first pot or any side dishes.
To End the Meal
- We usually end the sukiyaki meal with udon. When most of the ingredients have disappeared, add udon to the pot. Cook until heated through and enjoy.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for a month. Tofu does not freeze well, so take them out if there is any.