Sukiyaki Cooking Class


Sukiyaki – Japanese one pot meal that are common in the winter

I think fall has skipped Japan all together and we’re heading full-steam into winter. Sad, but true. However, there is some silver lining to winter approaching…sukiyaki!

On Saturday, I headed to Tokyo for a sukiyaki cooking class with my foodie friend. Sukiyaki is hands-down my favorite Japanese winter dish. I’ve tried a few different nabe (hot pot cooked at table) but always finish a meal wishing I had gotten sukiyaki instead. I was sure it was easy to make but sometimes it’s easier to have someone show you the first time.

Buddha Bellies Cooking School has long been one of my favorite Tokyo stops. I routinely check out their website to see what’s happening and what classes I can join. It all started over a year ago when I took the first udon-making class for my birthday. It was a wonderful night spent with our gracious host Ayuko, new friends, and my husband. Those living abroad know how lonely birthdays (or holidays) can be so feeling like you’re with “family” makes it easier.


My friend prepping the warishita sauce for sukiyaki

But I digress; this post is about sukiyaki and its deliciousness. Ayuko started the class by explaining the basic history behind the dish.  There are different stories on how sukiyaki came about. But the one consistency is that prior to outside influence, the Japanese did not eat much meat. When westerners started coming to Japan in the late 1800s, they wanted beef and the Japanese being unaccustomed to preparing beef would boil it in pots with soy sauce.

The other cultural tidbit that we learned was that there are two types of sukiyaki, Kanto- and Kansai-style. The first major difference is the sauce. The Kanto-version requires warishita sauce to be prepared ahead of time.  For the Kansai-version, it is added after the beef has begun cooking. There is also a variance in sauce flavor. People in the Kanto prefer a saltier version while the Kansai area prefers a sweeter version.


Beautiful vegetables chopped and ready for sukiyaki

Since we were in Tokyo, we were learning the Kanto-version so first up was making the warishita sauce. The sauce was ridiculously easy to make. We mixed together soy sauce, mirin, sugar, salt, and sake. Brought it all to a boil and allowed it to cook off the alcohol before letting it cool. The sauce actually improves after a few days so make it ahead of time and you minimize prep on the day.

After we had the sauce was complete and cooling, we moved onto the vegetables. We cut and prepped onions, cabbage, carrots, tofu, and mushrooms. We added a hashed “X” on each mushroom which I thought was done for presentation alone but discovered it actually allows more sauce to seep into the mushroom. Yummy!

We also cut the grilled tofu in the traditional way Japanese do which means on your hand. Yes, you heard right! We were both a bit freaked out about cutting our fingers off but in the end, it all worked out well and we had nicely cut tofu.


Learning to make Japanese omelet

With the sukiyaki platter ready to go, we moved onto our appetizer platter. We made a dish called namasu which is pickled cucumber and wakame seaweed, Japanese egg omelet, and a decorative sushi roll.


Our teacher Ayuku demonstrating how to make decorative sushi


Our finished appetizer plate

Then it was time to begin our feast! There is a process to how items are added to the sukiyaki dish. First, we placed a beef fat cube in the pot instead of oil to grease it. Most grocery stores and butcher shops offer beef fat in the meat section. I had always wondered what those white cubes were in the basket and now I know! Then the first round of beef is added with some of the warishita sauce. Only beef is added for the first round is to allow it to further flavor the sauce with its juices.  After we gobbled up the delicious marbled beef, we added more beef, mushrooms, onions, cabbage, grilled tofu, shirataki noodles, and shungiku (garland Chrysanthemum). Let it all cook and then time to eat.


First into the sukiyaki dish is marbled beef

The traditional way to eat sukiyaki is by dipping it in a raw egg. You break the egg in the bowl provided, whip it, and then dip the beef into it prior to eating. It helps to cool the beef and the egg cooks slightly on the surface. There’s an added richness this way but don’t feel you have to do it. The meat and vegetables were equally delicious without.

I’m so excited to add sukiyaki to my cooking binder as its quick, communal, and the perfect dish for these cold days. What’s your favorite winter dish?



Enjoying a crisp sake from Niigata prefecture with our sukiyaki

Happy Japan-niversary!


Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto

We’ve lived in Japan now for three years. Three years? Really?

Time truly does fly! Three years of exploring this beautiful country which has become our home. Here’s a few things we’ve learned during our time here.

1. Customer service is AMAZING! You are cheerfully greeted as you enter any store. Workers are quick to help you find what you want. And they bow after every purchase. But the best customer service innovation is a buzzer found on the tables of many restaurants Perfect solution for having a waiter there when you need them and no mindless chitchat about how your food tastes when you don’t.

2. I will never learn to read this language. Yes, it’s sad but I’ve just resigned myself to that fact. The challenge is it isn’t one written language but four! You have hiragana, katakana, kanji, and romanji (Japanese words written in Roman alphabet). To be honest, the hiragana, katakana, and romanji would be do-able but kanji is straight memorization…and my brain just shuts down!

3. Homes are fragile. This is possibly one of the few dislikes I have about living in Japan. The homes are cold, cold, cold in the winter because they are built to “breath” during those hot and humid summers. The floors are impossible to keep clean and glossy because even though it’s wood, there is not durable wax to protect it. The redeeming factor is most homes have heated toilet seats. Best invention ever! I want one in my American home.

4. Food is diverse. Most Americans seem to think only of sushi and teppanyaki when it comes to Japanese cuisine. And now, ramen is starting to make a splash! But this is barely scratching the surface of Japanese cuisine. It’s varied and diverse from curry and yakitori to nabe and kaiseki. And once you’re finished sampling Japanese food, you can move onto basically any cuisine in the world. French, Italian, Moroccan, Chinese, American BBQ, or whatever your stomach desires!

This list could go on and on because we are always learning and growing. Living in a foreign culture is not only challenging, but forces you to growing as a person on a daily basis. You have to step outside your comfort zones, embrace the adventure, and make the most of the time you have here. We’ve enjoyed our three years of experiences, the friends we’ve made, and personal growth. Here’s to another two years in the “Land of the Rising Sun”!

Enjoy some photos of our first three years!


Day 2 in Japan: Iwakuni’s Kintai-kyo Bridge


Miyajima Island and its famous floating torii


Making momiji-manju on Miyajima island with my work group


Hiking Mt. Fuji with my sister and brother-in-law


Birthday weekend to the art island of Naoshima


Festa de Rama with friends


Cooking class in Kyoto with visiting family


Backpacking Shikoku with Zion


Hasu-chan, Iwakuni’s mascot, at a Lotus Root cooking class


Learning to make a character bento


Trying cross-country skiing on Nagano’s Olympic course


Meeting up with old friends from my BGSU years


Performing tea ceremony