The name nikujaga comes from its main ingredients: meat (niku) and potatoes (jagaimo). Like many other beloved Japanese dishes, nikujaga has foreign origins. However, it also tops the list of popular homemade Japanese meals.
The history of nikujaga dates back to the Meiji era. It all started with Heihachiro Togo, a commanding officer in the Japanese Navy. Togo went abroad to England, where he fell in love with the taste of beef stew. Upon his return to Japan, Togo asked the head chef of the Japanese Navy to try and recreate the dish. In those days it was hard to find the ingredients central to beef stew, such as wine and butter. So the chef improvised, seasoning the soup with soy sauce and sugar. His experimentation resulted in the very first version of the simmered meat and vegetable dish we now call nikujaga.
Around that time, a deficiency syndrome called beriberi was wreaking havoc in the Japanese Navy. Luckily, nikujaga seemed to be effective against beriberi. It therefore became a popular Navy meal, and eventually spread to the rest of the country.
Now, people all across Japan cherish nikujaga as the meal that mom makes best. Comfort cooking at its finest!
- 150 g beef thinly sliced
- 2 potatoes medium
- ½ carrot large
- 6 snow peas
- ½ onion large
- 100 g shirataki
- 200 ml dashi
- 50 ml sake
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 「PREP」Peel the potatoes and cut each of them into 4 pieces. Place in a pot of cold water and soak for about 10 minutes to prevent the colour from changing, then drain. Rinse the shirataki under cold water, then put in a pot of water and bring to a boil to remove the smell. Drain and set aside. Rinse the snow peas under cold water and break off the stems, pulling off the string that runs along the side. Bring a pot water to the boil and blanch the snow peas for one minute. Drain and set aside in a bowl of ice water to maintain their bright green colour. Peel the carrot and quarter lengthwise, then cut into 2cm thick slices. Halve the half-onion and cut into 1.5cm wedges.
- Heat a pan over high and add vegetable oil. Then add potatoes, onion, carrot and shirataki and stir-fry until the surface of the potatoes begins to appear translucent. Add the sake and dashi broth and bring to a boil.
- Carefully remove any scum, add the beef and reduce to medium heat. When the potatoes are nearly cooked, add the sugar and simmer for another 5 minutes, then add the soy sauce and cover with a drop lid.
- Cook until the liquid has reduced to about a third of its original amount. Turn off the heat, ladle into bowls and top with snow peas.
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