Nikujaga literally means meat (niku) – potato (jaga). It is a Japanese braised dish of beef and potato (big surprise!) While this sounds like the making of a stew, there is no thickening involved, only reduction, so the end result is an intense broth instead of a thick sauce. It is one of the ubiquitos Japanese home cooked meal as with the exception of the beef, most of the ingredients are quite cheap and easily found in a typical household. You do need some specific Japanese ingredients for the broth, but these days, there are quite easy to find.
• Onions, cut into medium sized wedges
• Beef, sliced thinly (I used hotpot beef cut)
• Carrots, cut into chunks
• Potato, cut into chunks
• Konyaku noodle*
From the (Japanese) pantry:
• Dashi (I’m using powdered dashi)**
• Salt and sugar
* Konyaku is a jelly food product made from starch of root plant konjak. Once a jelly, they stay like that and will not melt again (unlike agar or gelatin based jelly.) You can find them in block shape (which you can just cut into slices) or look for the noodle shaped one, also called Shirataki noodle. You CAN substitute it with something like the Korean sweet potato noodle if you can’t find konyaku, but you have to add the noodle in the end because konyaku can withstand long cooking time while other noodles get soft and soggy.
** Dashi is Japanese fish stock, do not attempt to substitute this with western style fishstock as dashi is not fishy, the closest substitution would be the water from rehydrating dried shiitake mushroom – failing that, just use water or regular stock, you will not get the same depth, but in the grand scheme of cooking, it’s fine.
Please be aware that the ingredient list part of the picture below is not indicative of how much total food I’m cooking (If you see the final pot, I got a lot more beef, because I’m cooking 1 kg beef when I was doing this… it’s just showing a picture of 1 kg beef isn’t that appealing)
• Brown the beef in a pot with a little bit of oil, do this in small batches if you need to, then set aside
• Add the onion and a little bit of salt into the pot and cook briefly
• Add mirin and sake and cook for a few minutes to help remove the alcohol content
• Add the carrot and potato and mix
• Add the dashi stock, sugar and soysauce and taste to adjust the seasoning
• Add the konyaku and return the beef to the pot, make sure that most of the content is submerged in the broth (The picture below didn’t really show it but the beef is actually quite wet when I closed the lid, you want to do this so the beef can absorb the flavour of the broth)
• Bring to simmer and close the pan and cook until the potato and carrot pieces are tender (In my case I transfered it to a slow cooker and just let time do its thing)
• Leave the lid open and let the liquid simmer to your preferance (I personally like to keep it quote brothy)
• Remove the scum/foam from the soup if necessary and serve
Tips and thoughts:
• While it is not traditional, you can finish it with sesame oil for extra depth
• Additional vegetations you can add to the pot: mushrooms, green bean, snap pea, lotus root, and more. Just remember you want to add delicate vegetables only in the end