Nikujaga, the Japanese stew

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P1060295I ate Nikujaga in Sapporo where I lived for a while due to work. I found it a super comfort food, really delicious. But what is Nikujaga?

It is a Japanese dish of meat, potatoes and onion stewed in sweetened soy sauce sometimes with ito konnyaku (konjaku, konnyaku potato, devil’s tongue, voodoo lily, snake palm, or elephant yam) mirin-Sake and vegetables. Generally, potatoes make up the bulk of the dish, with meat mostly serving as a source of flavor. It is usually boiled until most of the liquid has been reduced. Thinly sliced beef is the most common meat used, although minced/ground beef is also popular. Pork is often used instead of beef in eastern Japan.

The beef can be anything from ground chuck to short ribs; just make sure you use a cut with enough fat, otherwise the meat will get dried out. As the name implies, you need to add potatoes, but I also like to add carrots and onions for color and flavor. Beyond that you can add pretty much whatever you want. As for the seasonings it’s traditionally flavored with soy sauce, sugar and mirin which gives it a savory sweet taste, but you could have some fun here and season it with ginger, garlic and herbs. Because there are plenty of potatoes in it, Nikujaga can be served by itself with a frosty beer. Like any stew, this is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day, so make a big batch and enjoy the leftovers for a few days!

Ingredients: 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, 225 grams beef (sliced thin short ribs work great), 1 onion, 4 potatoes, 2 carrots, 4 shiitake or other mushrooms (stems removed and quartered)1/2 cup Sake, 2 cups dashi (beef stock also works), 2 tablespoons sugar or one tbsp honey, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 140 grams Shirataki noodles (drained and rinsed), 200 gr green beans

Directions: Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, then stir-fry the beef until cooked through. Transfer to a bowl, with tongs or a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the oil in the pot as possible. Add the onions and fry until translucent. Add the potatoes, carrots, and shiitake mushrooms and continue stir-frying for about 3 minutes. Add the sake and bring to a boil until you stop smelling alcohol (1-2 minutes). Add the dashi, sugar, salt, soy sauce, and shirataki, and then return the beef to the pot. Simmer, partially covered for 30-40 minutes, or until the meat is tender and the carrots and potatoes are very soft. Add the green beans and cook uncovered until they are cooked through. Serve immediately, or refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to develop.

Konnyaku (yam cake), being cooked and consumed primarily in Japan. The two basic types of cake are white and black. Pushing the cake through a grid of sharp blades at the end of a wooden box gives noodles, called Shirataki, which are also sold in white and black colors. usually served with a miso-based dipping sauce rather than soy


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