This is how I recall sukiyaki tasted like - soy saucey, comforting and savoury in all the right ways.
The steps for preparing this particular recipe, though, are heavily adapted from the version in "Let’s Cook With Nora". I cook the tofu, beef and vegetables separately, because I’ve had way too much overcooked beef and mushy greens with the one-pot method on a regular electric stove - where it’s much harder to regulate heat, versus the single-burner adjustable flame stoves that most sukiyaki recipes are written for. Apart from substituting bok choy (available in most groceries) for Napa cabbage, my ingredients are the same as Nora’s.
Looking into the history of sukiyaki as a Japanese dish, however, makes me wonder - how exactly did this noodle dish make its way to the Philippines? I would love to trace its route and local adaptations. How did sukiyaki become so well known (and fiercely loved) among Filipinos, given the plethora of noodle soups and dishes we already had?
This is how I recall sukiyaki tasted like - soy saucey, comforting and savoury in all the right ways. Adapted from "Let's Cook With Nora".
150 g thin vermicelli rice noodles (about half a small package)
500 g beef round (either top or bottom round cuts, placed in the freezer for 15 minutes then sliced as thinly as possible (see step 1))
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup butter
4 cloves garlic (minced)
2 large onions (chopped)
5 dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked in warm water for 20 minutes then drained and cut into thick strips)
220 g firm tofu (half of a regular block, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 stalks leeks (cut into 1/2-inch long pieces (about 2 cups))
1 large carrot (peeled then cut into thin rounds about 1/2-inch thick)
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp light soy sauce
1 cup beef or chicken stock (preferably homemade, I’d avoid the boxed kind!)
450 g bok choy (rinsed then trimmed)
Salt and pepper
Thinly sliced beef is essential to a good sukiyaki bowl. Please use a sharp knife (I can’t stress this enough!) or a mandoline if you have it. The easiest way to prepare the beef is to work with a piece that’s partially frozen, enough so that it feels cold to the touch and the slab stays put on your cutting board. Ideally, we want the slices to be less than 1/2-inch thick. If they’re not, that’s totally cool - they’ll still be delicious!
Make the marinade: in a medium bowl, combine the sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil. Whisk well.
Add the sliced beef to the marinade and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
Prepare the noodles: bring a kettle of water to boil. Place noodles into a large bowl, then pour enough water into the bowl to cover the noodles by 1 inch. Set a timer for 5 minutes.
Once your timer rings, drain the noodles into a colander. Fill the large bowl again with water and empty an entire ice tray into it. Return the noodles to the bowl and set aside.
For the stew: start by heating a large pot over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, add the slices of tofu. Try to lay them out as flat as you can, though some overlapping edges are okay! Fry the tofu for 2 minutes, then flip over the pieces to fry on the other side for another 2 minutes, or until browned.
Remove tofu from the pot and transfer to a plate (no need to line with paper towels). Set aside. Place the pot back over medium heat.
Add the butter and melt. Add garlic and onions then cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions begin to caramelize.
Add mushrooms and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are mostly dry.
Transfer the garlic, onion and mushroom mix from the pot into a small bowl. Set aside. Return the pot to medium heat.
Using tongs, transfer the beef from the bowl of marinade into the pot. Set the sauce aside. Distribute the pieces evenly in the pan and fry for one minute (not any longer, as the pieces will overcook!).
Remove the beef from the pot and pile this on top of the tofu you’ve put onto a plate.
Add the leeks, carrots, sugar, soy sauce and stock into the pot. Add the reserved marinade from the beef. Stir everything together well, cover and bring to a boil, about 10 minutes.
Once the stock boils, add the bok choy. Drop the heat to medium-low, cover again and simmer for 5 minutes.
Re-introduce the fried tofu and beef back into the pot. Make sure everything’s well combined! Simmer for another 3 minutes, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until ready to serve.
To plate: remove noodles from the ice water bath and transfer to a colander. Drain well.
Using tongs, transfer about 1/2 cup of noodles into a large soup bowl. Then take a few slices of beef, tofu and some vegetables from the pot and place them on top of the noodles (I like laying them down in thirds, so they look like a pie chart of noodle toppings).
Using a soup ladle, pour about 1/2 cup of soup from the pot into the bowl. Enjoy while hot!
Equipment: 1 small bowl, 1 medium bowl, 1 large bowl, 1 tray of ice, colander, tongs, wire whisk, plastic wrap, 1 large pot or Dutch oven, soup ladle