• 32 COOL
  • 13
    Ranking

Sukiyaki — a homemade family dish for celebrations, and a feast on special occasions

“Sukiyaki” was the title of a hit song in 1963. Sukiyaki as well as sushi and tempura are among of the most popular Japanese dishes for foreign visitors. Founded in 1895, Ningyocho Imahan sukiyaki restaurant is now celebrating its 120th anniversary. Executive Vice President Tetsuro Takaoka tells the story behind this authentic cuisine.
Sukiyaki was originally homemade cuisine for special occasions. In Japan, beef was first popularized during the mid-Meiji era (1880s-1890s) when it was still an expensive rarity. People could only eat it at a feast.
The most common way to cook sukiyaki is with beef. You can add sweet scallions — eaten in winter when nabe (hot pot) dishes are popular - yakidofu (grilled tofu), leafy fragrant shungiku (garland chrysanthemum), sweet Chinese cabbage, shirataki (konnyaku noodles), and o-fu (wheat gluten).
“There are different styles of cooking sukiyaki in Kanto (east Japan) and Kansai (west Japan). The Kanto recipe begins with pouring a medium warishita sauce made of soy sauce, mirin (liquid sweetener), sake, and sugar into the pan. Whereas in Kansai, the beef is seared lightly in fat with scallions in the pan, and then seasoned with thick tamari soy sauce and sugar,” says Mr. Takaoka.

Enjoy the art of eating sukiyaki only at an authentic established restaurant

Sukiyaki at Ningyocho Imahan combines the best of Kanto style that uses warishita sauce and Kansai that doesn’t. A legacy of over 100 years of nabe cooking, warishita is poured into the pan, just enough to cover the bottom. When boiling starts, a beef slice is spread, placed in the pan, and “fried.”
Mr. Takaoka says, “If slices overlap, the taste loses focus. Turn the slice over when the warishita and meat bubble up and the color at the edge turns from pink to brown. When the meat is rosy it’s medium rare, and for those who want medium done, wait and take a deep breath once or twice. If you prefer well done, breathe two or three more times. Meat texture and taste differ according to heat.”
After you’ve finished eating the first slice, it’s time to add scallions to the pan. While these cook, have your second slice of beef (repeating steps above). When the meat is done, the scallions will be ready, too.
Mr. Takaoka advises, “We recommend you courageously try dipping fast-cooked sukiyaki ingredients into raw egg. Eggs we serve are delivered to us on the same day they’re laid. The fresh mouthfeel of egg brings out the taste of beef and vegetables, and you can enjoy sukiyaki to the fullest with egg dip.”

As a speciality shop, Imahan cares most about serving sukiyaki at its best

After eating beef and scallions, next comes tofu. Since tofu needs time to absorb the sauce flavor, place it in the pan in advance. The only problem is that it gets very hot. That’s why Imahan recommends dipping tofu into egg.
The shiitake mushrooms should be lightly fried on both sides — the bottom side first and next the cap. When liquid is released from the gills, it’s time to eat the shiitake while the texture is still firm. Shungiku (garland chrysanthemum) that easily wilts with heat is best eaten crispy to enjoy the fragrance.
Sukiyaki is a nabe (hot pot) cuisine with a robust flavor and many ingredients, but be careful not to cut corners on how you cook it, as the taste can be ruined easily. The Kanto-style recipe using ample warishita for mild taste is for cooking under any condition, yet it tends to spoil the true natural flavor of the meat and vegetables.
“At Imahan, our serving ladies attend each table and take care of the cooking so our guests can eat all ingredients at the best timing. Actually, our chefs say they cannot match our attendants who actually cook and serve the food at the very last stage,” says Mr. Takaoka.
To improve the quality of their services, Imahan chefs and attendants gather three times every month to conduct training and role-playing. Such efforts and practice support the longtime success of Imahan taste.

Typical SUKIYAKI

  • SukiyakiSukiyaki

Tetsuro Takaoka's Favorite Tools

  • Egg stirrer

    Egg stirrer

    This tool is used to mix the raw egg in a bowl for dipping sukiyaki and maximizing its taste. Three bamboo prongs help mix yolk and egg white without damaging the egg. This is an indispensable device for skillful preparation of the egg without creating bubbles.

  • Egg cracker

    Egg cracker

    This egg-shaped utensil called nise-tamago is made in an Aritayaki ceramics factory. It’s considered best to crack an egg with another egg, with one egg remaining in the end. That’s why Imahan uses this imitation egg to crack eggs — one of many services at a sukiyaki shop.

  • Pan

    Pan

    Our cast-iron sukiyaki pans are exclusively custom-made by traditional craftsmen with a 400-year history in Nambu region, Iwate pref. The model shown is used for two persons, and a larger-sized pan serves a party of three to five. Pans are said to improve iron intake — good for health.

TEMPURA
天婦羅
SUKIYAKI
すき焼き
RICE CAKES
KAISEKI
懐石
Gyudon(beef-on-rice bowl)
牛丼
Ultramodern vending machine
次世代型自販機
Food model
食品模型
Decorate anything
デコる
Yakatabune
屋形船
Ramen Museum
ラーメン博物館
Tokyo Tower
東京タワー
Gundam 1/1
ガンダム1/1
Steakhouse
ステーキハウス
Haarii
ハーリー
Utaki
御嶽
Taketomi Island
竹富島
Japan
Suite PreCure
Hong Kong
BRAVE10/ TIGER&BUUNY
Japan
Kiki's Delivery Service
China
Kuroko's Basketball/ Magi
The color wizard behind 80s kawaii revival.
“Twintail” — simple dream-come-true magic for change.
Toybox kawaii shop shows people power.
Cute community character promotes local charms.
Ippon udon
一本饂飩
Live music events at Machiya
京町家の音楽
Yokai Costume Parade
百鬼夜行
Shohekiga
障壁画
SPACE BROTHERS
super-popular manga depicts the dreams of youths dedicated to space
OSAMU TEZUKA
creator of Japan’s manga and anime cultures
BRAIN WAVE CAT EARS
cutting-edge tech joins Japan’s “fetish” (moe) culture
FUJIKO F. FUJIO MUSEUM
manga master who “visualized” children’s dreams
Elevator attendants
エレベーターアテンダント
Japanese knives
包丁
SIRI SIRI
SIRISIRI
Daruma
達磨
TABAIMO
HISASHI TENMYOUYA
Nerhol
MANABU IKEDA
SANJA MATSURI
NEBUTA MATSURI
AWA ODORI
MENBURYU
KARATEDO
空手
NOH
NIHONBUYO
日本舞踊
JUDO
柔道
FOOD MODEL CRAFTSMAN
食品サンプル職人
EDOKIRIKO
江戸切子職人
SUKIYA-DAIKU
数寄屋大工
KATANA-KAJI
刀鍛冶