Jerod McCann of EN In-house fine dining shares his Nikujaga recipe
THERE is a category of cooking in almost every cuisine, ‘mother’s cooking’. It means something that’s simple, homely, filling, and invokes strong feelings of nostalgia. In Japanese this is called ‘ofukuro no aji’ (mother’s flavour). Nikujaga, or stewed potatoes with meat, is one of the mainstays of Japanese-style mother’s cooking.
Nikujaga literally means ‘meat (niku) potatoes (jaga)’, and to most Japanese (as well as this Gaijin) it’s comfort food. It’s a simple dish of thinly sliced beef stewed in sweetened soy sauce with potatoes, shirataki noodles (also known as konnyaku noodles; a low carb, non-wheat noodle), carrots and onions.
* 1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 4 to 5 pieces each
* 1/3 lb. beef, thinly sliced
* 2/3 lb. yellow onions, sliced (about 1/3 inch wide)
* 2/3 lb. carrots, roughly chopped
* 1 pack shirataki noodles (also known as konnyaku noodles) optional
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 400 cc water (about 1 1/2 cups)
* 3 tablespoons or more soy sauce (to taste)
* 3 tablespoons or more brown sugar (to taste)
* 2 tablespoons sake or white wine
1. Prepare vegetables as described above. (Cutting vegetables for Japanese dishes requires little skill as they believe the more cuts the vegetable has, the more likely flavours will be absorbed).
2. Heat a deep pot or pan until smoking hot and add the oil and beef. (Sautéing in hot oil adds deep flavours that will leach out in the cooking liquids; giving rustic colour and flavour).
3. Sauté for a couple of minutes then add your onion, potato, carrot and shirataki noodles. Continue sautéing for 5 minutes. (Personally, I like to sauté a bit longer, giving nice brown caramelisation on the vegetables).
4. Add water, soy sauce, brown sugar, and sake or wine. Bring to a simmer half covered. Give a quick taste. It should be a mild sweet/salty flavour. As the cooking liquid reduces, flavours will intensify.
5. Skim off any foam and cook for about 20 to 30 minutes until potatoes are done. For a naturally thick stew, remove half the cooked potatoes and set aside. Continue simmering until the remaining potatoes break apart and thicken the stew. Make sure not to over cook the other vegetables. Add remaining potatoes and serve immediately.
6. Keeps well in the fridge for three days.