I love a night like this. The air is chilly, darkness encroaches earlier and earlier, and the wet, chilled weather just demands that you keep your arse indoors. It is a nikujaga night.
Nikujaga is a dish that holds a special place in my cold, blackened heart. It’s such a simple dish with no frills and a lot of good taste. It was one of the first Japanese dishes I learned to make when I started cooking Japanese food in high school. I got the recipe from a friend, and have since modified it to my own family’s tastes. In fact, part of the beauty of a dish like nikujaga (cooked almost exclusively at home) is that almost every recipe you find is a little bit different. At its core, it’s stewed meat and potatoes. Well, most recipes include onions of some sort. It’s hard to find a recipe without mirin, and even harder to find one without soy sauce. However, every house is almost guaranteed to have its very own variation of this dish. Here’s mine:
1 pound sliced beef strips
About four medium potatoes, cut into cubes
1/2 of a medium onion, sliced thin OR five green onions, hacked up real good
1 cup (yes, an entire cup) soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
About 1 cup frozen peas
Nine ingredients. How hard is that, chowderheads? Onto the procedure! Naturally, you should chop, mince, slice, and fuck up your foodstuffs first. I won’t hold your hand for that.
Next, dump the onions and meat into a heated pot (or a large skillet, I suppose) and add the garlic. Add a little tiny bit of oil just to lube things up. Once the meat is mostly cooked, chuck the taters in and pour the remaining ingredients – EXCEPT THE PEAS – in after them. Stir the mixture together.
Cover and bring to a boil. Once the stew boils, cut the heat down a bit and let it simmer, still covered, for about ten minutes. Then, take the lid off and let the stock reduce by about a fourth. This will help concentrate the flavors. Once the stock has reduced enough, remove the pot from the heat. Quickly add the peas and stir them into the stew. Let the stew stand for three to five minutes before serving.