The first time I ate Sukiyaki, I was at a loss for what to do. I was at one of my Japanese friend’s houses, eggs were cracking, things were boiling, and someone kept pouring brown sugar into the pot.
The next time I had it, I was a bit more prepared. I even helped some of the other confused foreigners, who kept asking “How to you eat Sukiyaki?”
Eating Sukiyaki is simple:
1. Figure out what kind of Sukiyaki you’re going to eat. If you are vegetarian, it is possible to just eat vegetarian Sukiyaki (but that’s a bit boring). Some places let you pick your own meat/veggies, but most just provide a platter for you to choose from.
2. Turn the hot plate/stove on and dump some vegetables in the pot. If you’re making it at home, you have to make your own sauce. I usually use a mixture of soy sauce, (sometimes sake), sugar, and water. In general I use 1/3 a cup of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of sake (if I’m feeling adventuresome or have sake laying around that I’m not drinking), 5 tablespoons of sugar (I prefer brown sugar), and a little less than a cup of water.
3. Crack a raw egg in a separate bowl. Beat the egg with your chopsticks until it is thoroughly mixed. This is going to be your dipping sauce. It might sound a little weird, but it’s actually delicious. Do NOT cook the egg.
4. Wait until the vegetable are tender. This usually takes about five minutes, depending on how strong the stove is. I usually just poke the vegetable with my chopsticks until they seem soft.
5. Using your chopsticks, grab a hunk of vegetables and drop them in the bowl with the raw egg. If you are not such a fan of raw egg, you can “lightly” dip the contents in the raw egg and immediately eat. The first time I ate Sukiyaki, I was unnerved by the thought of eating a raw egg, and so I did this. If eating a raw egg doesn’t bother you – great!
6. Coat the vegetables with raw egg and eat. Once I got used to it, I loved it.
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until the pot is nearly empty.
8. Dump meat and vegetables in the pot. Meat takes almost no time to cook – that’s why most people like to wait for the second or third round to start adding meat (to let the broth absorb a nice amount of vegetable juices first).
9. Keep filling the pot, as needed. I like to add veggies every couple minutes, since everything cooks at its own pace. Some people like their meat very raw (meaning they only boil it for around ten seconds), some people like their meet very well done (like me).
As you eat, your egg mixture will become more and more diluted by the pot’s juice. If this bothers you, you can usually ask for another egg.
In any case, I love Sukiyaki. It’s pretty easy to make at home, too.
If you are making it at home you can use shitake mushrooms, grilled tofu, (enoki) mushrooms, negi (leek), cabbage, shirataki noodles, shugiku (chrysanthemum greens), and really whatever else you want. Most people use beef for the meat and make a sauce that mixture of water, soy sauce, sugar, and alcohol (see earlier).
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