How to Make the Best Sukiyaki

by Knopp Benjamin

Benjamin Knopp

Co-founder of Kurashu and in charge of spreading the word on sake.

There's one major rule to making the best sukiyaki. Don't just boil your beef, pan fry it first! 

We don’t care if every other recipe you find online says that you should just plop it into the sukiyaki sauce. That’s Tokyo-style sukiyaki, but Osaka-style (where you first pan fry the meat) is way better.  

Why? Because of the Maillard Reaction, which gives browned food its distinctive flavor. 

If you want boiled beef then stop reading this, go to a mirror and re-evaluate yourself. Ok, it's not that drastic but yes, the taste does differ a lot. 

The best sukiyaki is basically a three-step process; meat first, then veggies, then udon. 

Here are some of the traditional ingredients for sukiyaki, but actually you can also get a bit creative - as long as you get the right beef!

Here’s how to make the best sukiyaki!

Buy Your Fresh Ingredient

  • Sukiyaki beef (fatty, sliced thin) 
  • Leeks, cut diagonally in 2cm long pieces
  • Mushrooms (enoki or shiitake) - put a cross onto the shiitake, remove the root from the enoki and break them up a bit
  • Tofu, cut into 2cm squares
  • Shungiku (chrysanthemum greens), trim the bottom
  • Chinese cabbage, cut in 3-4 cm pieces
  • Udon noodles, pre-cooked, from the chilled section at the supermarket
  • Ito Konyaku, a noodle-like product made from taro with zero calories - can be found in the chilled section at the supermarket
  • Best eggs you can find

These burners are cheap and ubiquitous in Japan, and essential for any nabe dish.
Slightly sweet sakes with a good body and complexity will fit dishes like sukiyaki nicely.

Gather Your Pantry Items

  • Sugar  
  • Sake 
  • Soy sauce 
  • Cast iron pan with a lid 
  • A small tabletop stove / burner
  • Long chopsticks

Prepare Your Dish

  • Cut and clean all the veggies, arrange the beef nicely and get all your pantry items ready on the table.  
  • Give each guest a bowl and crack an egg inside. Mix it up with your chopstick.  
  • Place your cast iron pan on tabletop stove in the middle of the table. 
  • Your sukiyaki beef should come with a small block of fat (or suet), put that into the pot and move it around until it  starts smoking a bit.  
  • Pop a few slices of beef into the pot - spread them out - then add a bit of sugar and some soy sauce (you will need to experiment here how much soy sauce and sugar you like). 
  • Cook your beef until done. It should brown a bit but not take longer than a minute or two (otherwise your pan is too cold). Take your beef out, dip it in the egg and enjoy. 
  • Marvel at how good it tastes and take a big sip of sake while cheers-ing with your friends.  
  • Repeat a few times until half or more of the beef is gone.  

Preparing your beef first gives the flavor of the dish much more depth.
While plopping everything in at once may be easy and look loverly, your beef will not be browned.
  • Add the rest of the beef and cook it the same way. 
  • Now you can add any of the vegetables and the tofu that you like, drizzle with soy sauce and sugar, and add either water or sake until you have enough liquid to just keep the bottom of the pan covered (the vegetables should now swim in the sauce, this is not hotpot!). 
  • Cover and wait a few minutes. Turn down the heat a bit so the veggies don’t burn. 
  • When the veggies look done open the lid and eat them. Dip the vegetables into the raw egg as well if you’d like.  
  • Take another sip of sake and discuss if Osaka-style or Tokyo-style sukiyaki is better! 
  • When everything is done you should have some delicious sauce left on the bottom, if not add some sake or water as well as a bit more soy sauce and sugar. 
  • Add some udon noodles and cook them for a few minutes in the broth, which will thicken up nicely.  
  • Enjoy some of the best udon noodles you've ever had.
  • Finish your sake bottle and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Promise yourself to repeat soon.

Are you looking for the complete experience and want to have a matching sake? Check our our recommendations for sake to pair with sukiyaki below!

Kurumazaka Junmai Daiginjo ¥2'035

Fukuiwai Junmai Ginjo ¥1'980

Hanzo & Junmai Daiginjo ¥2'200

Suiryu Junmai Ginjo ¥1'870

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