I recently found out that one of the criterias of a good Japanese housewife is you must know how to cook Niku-Jaga and miso soup from Obachan's blog. Since I can cook a decent but not brilliant Niku-Jaga, I guess if Splashie Boy and I part ways, I can opt for a Japanese husband instead.
Niku-Jaga is a popular Japanese dish of braised beef (niku) with potatoes (jagaimo). You don't get this in many Japanese restaurants in Malaysia as this is home cooked food. I learnt to cook it from this excellent cookbook called Japanese Homestyle Cooking by Tokiko Suzuki. The book was a real gem that I had found in a Times Bookshop warehouse sale many moons ago. It's an excellent book for a dummy like me as it has step-by-step techniques in pictures.
This cookbook introduced me to the method of using a drop-lid (otoshi buta) and a Japanese alumminium pan (seen below) in cooking Japanese food.
I was lucky to get the pan and the drop-lid as Splashie Boy got them from Tokyo for me in one of his previous trips. Unfortunately the drop-lid is a tad too big for the pan but I still use it.
The drop-lid is used to float on top of the liquid in a pot when simmering food. This is to ensure that the heat is evenly distributed and keeps the ingredients underneath it in it's original shape. Besides a wooden drop-lid, you can also use a sheet of tough cooking paper or aluminum foil. For instance, if you are simmering fish in a pot, it is advisable you use aluminum foil instead of a wooden drop-lid so the fish is not crushed.
For the beef, I used the yakiniku slices from Jusco which are not as razor thin as Yoshinoya's beef bowl (gyu don). Russett potatoes was used as they give a nice floury texture after they have been simmered.
The Japanese ingredients are sourced from either Jusco, Isetan or Kiara Supermarket. I used to get my sake in a carton from alcohol shops but I recently managed to find cooking sake in Isetan, which is much cheaper. Dashi stock can be bought in powder form or in a packaging that look like teabags. I prefer the powder type and one pouch has smaller packets that you can use for each meal. Refer to the white stickers on the back of the pouch which translate for you what is inside. I usually get the konbu dashi(in a green packet) rather than the ones made from fish or sardines as they smell too fishy for me. The mirin and soy sauce, I use Top Valu,Jusco's house brand. In the recipe below, I find 3 tablespoons of sugar too sweet for my liking so I have adjusted it to 1 1/2 tablespoons instead.
200g sliced beef
400g potatoes, peeled and cut in bite sized pieces
200g onion, cut into 1 cm wide slices
1/2 tbsp oil
2 cups dashi stock
3 tbsp sake
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp mirin
3 tbsp soy sauce
Heat the oil in a pan. Remove from heat to a wet dishcloth and cool it to prevent the beef from sticking to the bottom. Add the beef and coat with oil, seperating with chopsticks. Return pan to moderate heat and brown the beef, stirring.
When the beef changes color, add the onion and potatoes. Saute them stirring with a wooden spatula. Once the onion and potatoes are slightly colored, add just enough dashi stock to cover all ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any scum that forms. Add the sake, sugar, mirin and soy sauce in this order.
Lower the heat slightly and bring the mixture to a boil. Skim off remaining scum and cover with a moistened drop lid. When the liquid is reduced to one third, you can flip the ingredients over to evenly coat the food. Hold the handles of the pan with both hands and shake it. Don't use a spoon to stir it as the potatoes will break up.
Braise over high heat, slanting the pan until the liquid has been absorbed. Transfer to a flat container and spread. (Don't leave it to cool in the pan as it gets soggy) When cooled, you can enjoy delicious niku-jaga.
Yummy licious niku-jaga which we thoroughly enjoyed with a bowl of hot rice.