Nikujaga - Japanese style stew

Posted on January 13, 2010 at 9:36 PM

Nikujaga with a variety of vegetables

We had our first snow fall of the year in Tokyo earlier in the week. But it quickly turned to rain. Today, it's back to being sunny again.  I still feel cold though, especially at my parents' house, which does not have central heating. I walk around with a wool scarf around my neck. But what works best to combat the cold is to cook and eat something that has a warming effect on the body. I have been alternating between one pot nabe dishes and Japanese style stews -nimono.

When it comes to nimono, one that is particularly popular with my family is a meat and potato based stew called Nikujaga, which literally means Meat and Potatoes. Nikujaga is cooked in a soy-mirin-sake broth. I use thinly sliced sukiyaki-style cut beef or pork; this dish is like a cousin of sukiyaki, What sets Nikujaga apart from Sukiyaki is the inclusion of potatoes.  I also make other versions of Nikujaga by adding carrots, peas and green beans. Basically, what works in stews will most likely work for Nikujaga. What I like about this dish is that unlike western stewd, Nikujaga has no added flour. So it's hearty but light.

Sukiyaki-style cut - potk shoulder

Cut the potatoes in uniform pieces and bevel the edges so they don't fall apart during cooking.  

Shirataki or Ito konnyaku
These zero calorie yam noodles come in a variety. There are 
dark and light type, some with more dietary fibers than others. Flavor   is bland by itself but takes on the flavors of other ingredients when
cooked together. Boil or blanch in hot water to remove the odor. These noodles add volume and dietary fiber to the dish.  It's a great diet food without feeling like you are on a diet.

Shirataki noodles out of the package.  

Serves 4

4 medium size potatoes, peeled  
1 onion, peeled  
3/4 lbs sukiyaki-style cut beef or pork shoulder
1 shirataki noodles, blanched and cut in half
3 tbls vegetable oil
3 cups of water, enough to cover the meat and potatoes

3 tbls sake
3 tbls mirin
5-6 tbls of soysauce 
1 tbls sugar 

Slice the meat in 2 inch pieces.  Slice the onion lengthwise in half and then cut each half crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces.  Cut the potatoes into six pieces. Bevel the edges.

Cook the shirataki noodles in water for 3 minutes.  Drain. Cut the noodles in half. 

Heat the oil in a medium size pan over medium heat, saute the onions until they are transluscent but still firm. Add the meat, potatoes and shirataki and continue stir frying for a couple of minutes.

Add the seasonings sake and mirin, sugar and 4 tbls of soysauce and the water and turn heat to high. There should be enough water to cover the potatoes but not more. When the liquid boils, cover the pan and lower the heat. Simmer the ingredients until  the liquid is reduced to half the original amount.  Add the rest of the soysauce to make adjustments to the flavor. My Nikujaga is not very sweet.  If you like it sweeter, make adjustments with sugar or mirin.  Cook until the potatoes are done.  

Serve Nikujaga while hot.  Let everyone help themselves to the dish.  Steamed rice and pickles go well.


Categories: Meat

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