Combine the sake, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat and set it aside. This Sukiyaki Sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month.
To Prepare the Ingredients
If your udon noodles are frozen or parboiled, blanch them in boiling water until loosened. If using dry udon noodles, cook them according to the package directions. In either case, remove the cooked udon from the heat, drain, and soak in iced water to stop the cooking. Drain, transfer to a plate, and cover with plastic. You will not need it until the end of the sukiyaki meal.
Prepare the sukiyaki ingredients. Cut the napa cabbage 2 inches (5 cm) wide, then cut the pieces in half down along the thick white center of the leaves.
Cut the shungiku 2 inches (5 cm) wide and slice the Tokyo negi diagonally. Discard the bottom part of the enoki bunch and tear it into smaller bundles.
Discard the shiitake stems and make decorative cuts in the shiitake caps if you'd like
Cut the tofu into smaller pieces (I usually cut it into 6-8 pieces).
If you’d like, you can slice some carrots and then stamp them with a vegetable cutter into a floral shape for decoration.
Rinse and drain the shirataki noodles. Put all the ingredients on one big platter for the table.
To Cook the Sukiyaki
Set a portable gas cooktop at the dining table. Each person should have a medium-sized bowl where they can transfer the cooked food 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 the suet).
Place 2-4 slices of well-marbled beef in the pot to sear and sprinkle 1 Tbsp brown sugar on top. Flip and cook the other side of the meat. I recommend that you pour a little bit of the sukiyaki sauce over the meat and enjoy some (or all) of the sweet and caramelized meat now to consume this good-quality beef at its best. Or you can leave the meat in the pot and continue to the next step.
The First Round of Sukiyaki
Pour half of the sukiyaki sauce you made (1⅓ cups) and 1 cup dashi (or water) into the pot.
Add the vegetables, tofu, and other ingredients to the pot (keep the udon for later). The ingredients should be partially submerged in the broth, about two-thirds of the way; add more sauce or dashi (or water) if necessary. Put the lid on and bring it to a gentle boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat and simmer until the ingredients are cooked through. At this point, you can add more beef, as it cooks fast. Transfer the cooked ingredients to the individual bowls and enjoy the first round of sukiyaki. If the cooking broth gets too salty due to evaporation, add more dashi (or water) to dilute. If the vegetables have diluted the broth too much, then add more sauce.
The Second/Third Round of Sukiyaki (Optional)
When there is less cooked food in the pot, divide the leftovers into the 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 cooking, you can enjoy eating the second portion from the first round or any side dishes. Cook a third round of sukiyaki to finish any uncooked ingredients that remain.
To End the Meal
We usually end the sukiyaki meal with udon. When most of the ingredients have disappeared, add the prepared udon to the remaining broth in 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 remove it before freezing the leftovers.
How to Enjoy Sukiyaki in Japan: As I mentioned in the blog post, we prepare an egg for each person at the table. Everyone cracks their own egg in their own small bowl, beats it, and dips the cooked ingredients in the egg to enjoy. The salty and savory sukiyaki ingredients become mild and sweet after dipping in the egg. Here in the US, raw eggs are not recommended for consumption, so I don't recommend doing so. When you get a chance in Japan, please try this traditional way to enjoy sukiyaki. Cooking Pot: You can cook Sukiyaki in a large pan or a cast-iron sukiyaki pan (here’s one and another one with a lid on Amazon).