Guest Author - Chidori Phillips
Stewing usually involves hours of cooking time in order to break down tough cuts of meat that are used for stews. Typical stew beef comes from chuck meat which contains a lot of connective tissue which melts during lengthy cooking and adds flavor. Nikujaga is stew-like in that it is a pot of meat, potatoes and vegetables but because it uses thinly sliced higher quality beef, it needs less cooking. In fact, overcooking this will result in dry meat.
Nikujaga is similar to sukiyaki and other nabemono (one pot dishes). Some Nikujaga recipes use dashi-based broths as in sukiyaki and nabemono, but I like to use beef broth for a heartier flavor. Otherwise, Nikujaga could taste too much like sukiyaki, only with potatoes.
It is a good way to enjoy a hearty winter stew without investing hours. Did you ever crave a beef stew only to lament not thinking about it earlier in the day so you could have set it on the stove for the required hours? This one cooks in under 15 minutes.
Nikujaga Japanese Beef and Potato Stew
1/2 lb. sukiyaki beef slices
1 small onion. sliced thinly
˝ block Konnyaku, sliced (optional)
1 5Epiece of konbu kelp
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into balls using a melon baller
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
2 cups beef broth
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. mirin or cooking sake
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. water
In a thick-bottomed skillet with a lid, heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add minced garlic and sliced onion and cook until onions are translucent. Add chopped carrot, konbu kelp, beef broth, soy sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover and simmer for five minutes. Add beef slices, potato balls and Konnyaku slices (if using). Add mirin and cover skillet with lid and simmer for additional five minutes. If you cook this too long, the meat will get tough and the potatoes will dissolve.
Make a slurry with cornstarch and 2 tsp. water. Add to pot and stir until stew thickens slightly. Serve with hot steamed rice and tsukemono pickles and hot tea.
Sometimes, I add frozen peas to this recipe because I adore green peas. I have to hold back though because my husband complains too often that I make green pea stewEinstead of beef stew!