A Meal Worth Sharing

October 19, 2010

Sukiyaki

Even though almost every Japanese restaurant I’ve been to has sukiyaki, I’ve never tried it. It always seemed odd to me that two people had to order the meal, and given that I had no idea what it was, I always decided to pass, getting sushi or soba. While we were in Kyoto, one of our options for dinner at the ryokan was sukiyaki. Given that we always ate the same thing at the ryokan, I decided we should try it. Man have I been missing out all this time!

The Japanese seem fond of cooking their meals at the table. In this instance, a gas burner was lit, with a cast iron pot atop. Our hostess brought out two huge plates, one piled high with beef, another with a variety of vegetables. Two eggs were sitting at our place settings, still in their shells. After the pot was heated up, bits of this and that were added to it, and a broth poured over it all – just enough to get everything wet.

While we waited with anticipation, our hostess indicated we should crack the eggs into our bowls, and blend them with the chopsticks (lots of hand gestures were used in this trip). Upon the beef beginning to brown, she indicated we should pull it out, and dunk it into the raw, beaten eggs (one of my delights in life) and eat up! After watching us pass this test, she left me and my husband alone, sufficiently satisfied that we would be able to feed ourselves and not mess it up too badly.

And feast we did! We plopped plenty more vegetables and beef into the broth to cook, and had fun plucking the cooked bits from the bowl, dipping away in our egg. There was onion, greens, scallion, and noodles. Mushrooms and tofu rounded out the offerings, along with the beef that was so tender, so perfect when cooked for the briefest amount of time. Now I know why this meal is only offered to two. It’s not just the amount of food, but the fun you have anticipating the next cooked morsel, together.

When we got back from the trip, I immediately ordered an electric hotpot, as well as a cookbook full of Japanese hotpots. Sukiyaki will definitely be the first meal I recreate, but I’m sure to be jumping in to many other dishes within short order, just in time for rainy, cold winter weather.

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