Sukiyaki has established itself as an icon of Japanese cuisine. In the vegetarian version here, tofu provides the "meat" of the dish, and the noodles, rather than shirataki or glass noodles, are the robust udon. Lightly sautéed peppery vegetables and the sweet and salty broth ensure a hearty flavor. Whether the dish is cooked at the table, as is the custom, or in the kitchen, a more practical way for most households, people still serve themselves out of the communal pot at the table, thus preserving the notion of sukiyaki as "the friendship dish."
8 ounces udon noodles,
dried or already cooked (see Notes)
4 ounces daikon, peeled and
sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 block (about 10 ounces) firm tofu,
cut into 1-inch cubes
2 small leeks, trimmed cut on
the diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices
6 ounces mushrooms, preferably shiitakes,
stemmed, wiped and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 scant tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup sake
1 tablespoon mirin
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cups watercress sprigs, thick stems removed
4 small eggs (optional)
If using dried udon noodles, cook and soak them according to the instructions. Drain and set aside.
Parboil the daikon slices in 3 cups of water until tender but not mushy, about 3 minutes. with a slotted spoon, transfer the daikon to a plate, reserving the cooking water in the pot.
Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet or stovetop casserole until beginning to smoke. Add the tofu cubes and cook over medium-high heat, turning once, until beginning to turn golden on 2 sides. Transfer the tofu to the plate with the daikon.
Add the leeks and mushrooms to the skillet and stir over medium-high heat until wilted, about 2 minutes.
Add the sugar to the vegetables and stir until mixed. Add the sake, mirin, and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Add 2 cups of the reserved daikon water and bring back to a boil. Stir in the watercress and add the noodles.
If using the eggs, break one into each of 4 bowls and set one in front of each person. Place the pot on the table and invite people to help themselves, first stirring the egg, then adding broth, noodles, vegetables, and tofu to their individual bowls.
For a lighter dish, you can use the more traditional sukiyaki noodles, shirataki, or substitute saifun (mung bean threads). Shirataki need only to be drained and rinsed. Saifun can be cooked and held for several hours; the strands will separate when added to the broth.
The heat of the broth, noodles, and vegetables cooks the egg.
The Vegetarian Table: Japan
By Victoria Wise
Chronicle Books, July 1998
132 pages, color photographs throughout
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created January 2001
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