Niku jaga, literally means “meat and potatoes” in Japanese. I’ve had such a hankering for this simple hearty stew lately. I first tried it in the depths of a very snowy Saitama Winter when my neighbours Kei-chan and Masa-chan invited me over for dinner. Slightly sweet, savoury and rich with soy and caramelised beef, this is more comforting than a Hello Kitty onesey. It might seem a bit odd to add sugar to a beef stew, but my mum always adds a hefty pinch to her phenomenal meat curries and here the see-saw of salty-sweet really works. The niku is traditionally wafer-thin slices of fatty steak but I found it to be just as satisfying with some leftover roast topside. If you do invest in steak, the whole thing is padded out with enough potatoes, carrots and shiitake mushrooms to justify matters. Perfect with a fat tangle of udon or steaming rice and fantastic the next day once the flavours have done that developing thing.
- 1 tbsp. oil for frying
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped into wedges
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
- 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
- leftover roast beef or steak, thinly sliced
- 500ml dashi stock/beef stock
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tbsp. sake/dry sherry
- 3 tbsp. mirin
- 4 tbsp. soy sauce
- shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 100ml boiling water
- handful of green beans
Heat the oil up over a medium heat and saute the onions. After a few minutes add the potatoes and saute for another five minutes.
Add the carrots and mix well. Finally stir in the beef and continue to cook until it’s just turned pink.
Sprinkle over the sugar and stir until everything begins to caramelise then throw in the sake and reduce. Add the mushrooms and the soaking water.
Add the dashi, mirin and soy and bring to the boil (skim off any scum that arises)
Reduce and simmer for 15 minutes, add the beans.
Simmer for a further 5 minutes and serve.