I think when a lot of people think of Japanese food they think: sushi, steamed rice, ramen, pot stickers (gyoza), sake!, sushi, sushi…
While these are all popular foods in Japan (although ramen and pot stickers are actually Chinese foods), there’s so much more to Japanese food.
I think people also think of all Japanese food as being super healthy. While traditional Japanese food is very healthy, many of the modern Japanese foods are, well, not so much.
Tonkatsu is essentially a breaded and deep fried pork cutlet. While very good (is anything that’s been breaded and deep fried not good?) and very popular in Japan (you can find tonkatsu restaurants everywhere), it doesn’t exactly fall into the “healthy foods” category if you know what I mean.
People also tend to think of the Japanese as fish eaters, and, well, this is true. They are! But they also eat beef and pork much more than in decades past. I think the growing meat consumption of the Japanese is one of the big reasons that Japanese people are increasingly getting taller. Pork is generally cheaper than beef (pigs take up less space, and space is a commodity here), but people eat both. Generally when you buy meat, it’s cut into very thin slices. This is useful for a lot of Japanese dishes that include meat. Of course, you can also get things like steak and ground meat, but the thinly sliced meat seems to be the most common.
One Japanese dish that’s super popular (especially amongst men so they say) is niku-jaga, which translates into meat and potatoes. Yes, even the Japanese have a meat and potatoes dish! And it’s delicious! I once heard somewhere that if a woman in Japan wants to get a guy, she just needs to be able to cook niku-jaga for him, and then he’ll be hers. I guess the whole “way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” thing is pretty universal. Guys are guys, no matter the country.
While I love love niku-jaga, I also really like a similar dish, niku-dofu. It’s basically the same as niku-jaga, except instead of potatoes, it has tofu in it. Meat and tofu. It goes great with steamed rice, miso soup, and whatever other side dishes you want.
Here’s my niku-dofu recipe, based on the recipe from Recipes of Japanese Cooking
Niku-dofu (serves 2)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 package firm tofu, cut into cubes
- 150 g (about 5 1/2 oz.) thinly sliced beef loin, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 small package of konyaku threads (you can leave this out if you can’t find it)
- 1 c. water
- 3 Tbsp cooking sake
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp mirin (sweet cooking sake)
- 4 Tbsp soy sauce
- Drain and rinse the konyaku threads in cold water. Roughly cut into 1 – 2 inch lengths. Boil for 1 – 2 minutes, then drain and set aside.
- Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the beef and cook for one to two minutes. Add the onion and konyaku and continue cooking.
- When the beef is completely cooked and the onion is translucent, add the tofu, water, sake, sugar, mirin, and soy sauce. Mix well.
- Continue cooking briefly until dish is heated through, about 3 – 4 minutes. Divide into two bowls and serve.