Eiko Ahuna’s Sukiyaki
Author: Celia Spivack
Recipe type: Beef, Chicken, Tofu, Entree, Vegetarian, Dinner Party
When I started work at my very first “real” job, I met a wonderful woman of Japanese descent who came from Hawaii. She was a great cook who was happy to share her expertise with friends, including me when I was a newly married young woman transplanted from the east coast to the west. This dish is the version of sukiyaki that Eiko taught me to make to wow dinner party guests. The ingredients can be arranged attractively on a tray or platter and cooked at the table in an electric skillet in front of your guests. It is actually very easy to prepare. A rice cooker can steam rice while you are preparing the dinner. Serve the sukiyaki with steamed rice (white or brown), a salad (with Asian-style dressing from a bottle or homemade), and a pickled vegetable such as Asian-style pickled cucumbers with sesame seeds. The sukiyaki can be made vegetarian by using only tofu as the protein component. You can eliminate the step with the meat and increase the amount of tofu used later or cut the additional extra firm tofu into cubes, dry them on a dish towel or paper towels, dredge them in cornstarch (pat off the excess) and sauté them in hot oil in a non-stick pan until they are golden brown on all sides. Continue with the recipe with the sautéed tofu in place of the meat.
- 2 lbs tenderloin or rib eye beef, sliced thin or 3 chicken breasts sliced thin
- Oil for sautéing the meat
- 1 can of bamboo shoots (approximately 8 ounces)
- 1 can of water chestnuts (approximately 8 ounces)
- 1 bunch of green onions (tops included), cut in 1 inch slices
- 1/2 pound button mushrooms, sliced
- 3 bundles of dry rice noodles (~ 6 ounces total)
- 1 pound of bean sprouts
- 1 pound Extra firm tofu, cut into cubes
- Several large handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup soy sauce (low sodium or “light” soy is fine)
- 3 tablespoons dry white wine or mirin
- Mix the sugar, soy sauce, and wine in a small cup, pitcher, or bowl. Set aside.
- Heat the electric skillet or large pan and add some vegetable oil to film the bottom of the pan. Add enough meat to fill half the pan. Sauté quickly until the meat no longer looks raw. Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Move the meat to one side of the pan and add the vegetables, tofu, and noodles, ensuring the noodles are in the liquid to soften them. Cook for 10 minutes or until done.
- Serve with rice, a green salad and a pickled vegetable for a complete meal. Serve tea at the end of the meal.
- The easiest way to slice the meat thin is to freeze it for a while first so that it doesn’t move with the knife strokes. If you have a food processor, that is effective for slicing the slightly frozen blocks quickly. Just make sure that you cut the meat against the grain so that it will be tender. You can also buy the meat already sliced at Asian grocery stores or have your butcher do it, but it tends to be very expensive that way.
- You can use any vegetables that appeal to you and except for including the sauce, most ingredients are optional and to your taste. Spinach leaves wilt down to almost nothing very quickly, so don’t worry about putting in a lot even if you have to do it little by little because of the size of your pan.
- The rice noodles come in small bundles of about 2 ounces. They are the white crinkly ones you see fried in some Chinese dishes. In this recipe, they turn soft and glassy.