In restaurants, Sukiyaki often contains Nappa cabbage. I think the taste is too obtrusive, so I leave it out. If you don’t have access to a Japanese grocery that sells very thinly sliced sukiyaki beef, buy the best well-marbled cut you can, semi-freeze it, then use a very sharp knife to carefully slice it as paper-thin as possible. The suet makes a big difference – ask your butcher for a piece. If you can’t get it, use peanut oil.
3 oz suet, cut into 2 or 3 pieces
8 oz mushrooms, sliced 1/8″ thick (use white, Crimini, or fresh shitakes)
6 oz fresh (or canned whole) bamboo shoot, cut in half, then sliced thinly
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and sliced thinly
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and slivered (see note below)
1 12 oz block tofu, cut in 1/2″ cubes
1 cup Japanese soy sauce
3/4 cup water
2 1/2 T mirin or sake
2 T sugar
10 – 12 oz shiritake (clear yam noodles), run under hot water in a colander and drained.
1 lb very thinly sliced beef
Heat a large skillet for a minute over high heat, then turn down to medium and add the suet. Turn it occasionally, until most of the fat is rendered out. Add the vegetables and tofu, placing each in a separate section of the skillet, and turn each section carefully to cover all pieces as much as possible in the fat. Saute in this way for about 5 minutes. Mix the soy sauce, water, mirin and sugar in a large measuring cup, then pour into the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer a few minutes, until the onion is al-dente. Add the shiratike in the center and cook for 3 minutes. Lay the beef slices on top and cook, turning it once, until as much of the red color of the meat is gone as you wish (the meat is too thin to be able to cook it to “rare” or “medium,” but you can have some parts of it remain rare, if you wish).
As soon as the meat is done, turn off the heat and ladle the sukiyaki into large soup plates, being careful to get a little of everything in each bowl.
You can, if you wish, give each diner a small dish of beaten raw egg (with the usual caveat about raw eggs in mind). Diners dip each bite of sukiyaki in the egg before eating. This is a traditional practice, but if you’re worried about the safety of raw eggs (which should be avoided by pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system), then simply omit it.
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