Say YES to Sukiyaki

Columns Ono, You Know

May 18, 2015

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: BODIE COLLINS

Synonymous with comfort food, sukiyaki is a dish that’s absolutely worth getting to know. The popular form of simmering nabe may be traditionally enjoyed during winter months, but here I am — in the middle of May, clad in a tank top and all — craving this Japanese stunner as if it were the last dish on Earth.

The truth is, sukiyaki remains irresistible all year long because of its one-of-kind flavor profile. True to Japanese style, the signature sweet and salty ingredients used in the dish’s sugarcoated shoyu broth are exquisitely balanced, only to be enhanced by the strategic additions of beef, tofu, veggies, noodles and a splash of mirin. When all these factors are expertly brought together in the right proportions, a sort of stop-you-in-your-tracks taste radiates from this well-rounded meal. Trust me, you’ll be craving it year-round, too!

Right here at home, I didn’t have to search far and wide to find glorious sukiyaki. But before we go explore these OYK picks, I’ll leave you with a fun fact about the dish: “Sukiyaki” made its way into pop culture as the alternative name for singer Kyu Sakamoto’s 1960s hit, Ue o Muite Aruko- . Legend has it that when American bands, such as A Taste of Honey, later reinvented the song, it was redubbed Sukiyaki because the term was easier for western audiences to pronounce. Much to my dismay, I have to note that the lyrics make no reference to this delicious specialty. Can we get a remix?

Yoshoku

Luckily, on these pages, we’re here to sing praises about the wonderful food version of sukiyaki. For me, when a craving hits but I’m on the go and don’t have time to sit down with a traditional simmering pot of sukiyaki, I love that I still can get the same authentic flavor in a convenient plate-lunch setting. It’s all thanks to Stadium Marketplace’s newly opened take-out spot, Yoshoku.

Yoshoku
4561 Salt Lake Blvd., Honolulu
488-3131

Sekiya’s Restaurant and Delicatessen

Sekiya’s Beef Sukiyaki ($15.95)

Sekiya’s Beef Sukiyaki ($15.95)

The place I first fell in love with sukiyaki is Sekiya’s Restaurant & Delicatessen. If you haven’t done so already, you must venture to the Kaimuki oasis of Japanese fare and local comfort foods, as the restaurant is one of the few on the island that can say it’s been around for nearly 80 years.

What I find incredibly special about this eatery is that it still serves recipes that belonged to the original founders, Taisuke and Katsuko Sekiya, whose fourth-generation family members continue to run the shop today. One of those untouched recipes is Sukiyaki ($15.95), which for decades on end has continued to be popular. Such staying power only goes to show this restaurant must be doing something right!

What truly stands out in this rendition of sukiyaki is its rich, savory broth. It begins with the same soup base as Sekiya’s famous saimin. “We start from scratch using chicken bone, dried shrimp, konbu and all kinds of other ingredients to simmer it down for five hours,” reveals general manager Lynn Ky.

The konbu adds that addicting umami flavor to the broth, and from there, a host of finishing touches are added to achieve sukiyaki bliss. Tofu, won bok, gobo, round and green onions, shiitake mushrooms and itokonyaku yam noodles provide heartiness, while diners may choose from beef (my personal fave), pork or chicken for their protein.

And when you return, you’ll want to try Sekiya’s Sukiyaki Udon ($16.95) for an alternative way to enjoy these sweet and savory flavors.

Sekiya’s Restaurant and Delicatessen
2746 Kaimuki Ave.
732-1656