Monday, January 31, 2011

Niku Jaga

Winter has finally hit were I live and as I sit here thinking about what to write, my thoughts turn toward comfort foods. At our house, one of the comfort foods happens to be Niku Jaga. Really, this is just Japanese for simmered beef and veggies. Much like beef stew here in the US, in Japan everyone makes it with a personal flair.

My favorite version is based on the recipe I got from Gaku Homma's book. This version only uses ingredients that are readily available at you local grocery store. If you want an even more authentic taste, add some yam cake noodles, shiritake, which you can find at some health-food stores packed in water in the refrigerator section, usually next to the tofu. My version doesn't have them due to a personal preference, but you don't have to change the sauce part of the recipe if you do add a package.

Another trick I learned when preparing potatoes for these simmered dishes is to soak them in cold water before adding them into the recipe. It helps to remove some of the starchiness and removes some of the aku. In Japanese, aku is something that is tied into their religious beliefs. To make a long story short, it is the name for the foam that appears during the cooking process. It is bitter and if it isn't removed it will mess with the flavor of your meal. So when removing the aku, you just skim the foam off.

Niku Jaga

1/2 lb. sliced beef in bite sized pieces or ground beef
1 onion
2-3 carrots, chopped
2-3 potatoes
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

2-3 tablespoons sesame oil (not toasted!)
6 tablespoons Wheat Free Tamari
2 tablespoons sake
2 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar

  1. Preheat your dutch oven or large cooking pot over medium heat and coat the bottom with oil. Add the meat and saute until it changes color.
  2. Add the onion and carrots and stir to coat them with oil and cook until the onions begin to appear translucent.
  3. Add the potatoes, also stirring them until they are coated with oil.
  4. Add 4 cups of water to the pot, enough to cover all the ingredients.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the aku is released (the foam I was talking about). Skim the foam off the top using a slotted spoon or fine mesh strainer.
  6. Add in garlic, tamari, sake, and sugar. Cover. Continue to cook 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are soft and the meat is cooked through. Serve with rice.

No comments:

Post a Comment