Save Room For SukiyakiOno, You Know
January 21, 2018
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
Hawaii may not have a winter that brings snow and below-freezing temperatures, but we do have our own changes in the season that come with a chill, lots of rain and wind, shorter days and, just like on the mainland, the desire to warm up with steamy meals.
To find that perfect dish for a cool winter’s night, I’ve turned to the longstanding tradition of sukiyaki, a comfort-food staple customarily enjoyed in Japan during the frostiest months of the year.
Typically, the hot-pot specialty brings together a signature blend of sweet and savory flavors through its sugarcoated shoyu broth, which is often dressed up with a splash of mirin. The broth then cooks to perfection with a mouthwatering array of beef, tofu, vegetables and noodles.
As you’ll see here, however, there’s more than one way to savor the sweet-salty duality of sizzling sukiyaki:
SHAKE UP YOUR SHABU SHABU
Umami-ya Shabu Shabu on Nimitz is blending a range of Asian cuisines into one innovative dining experience, all presented in an elegant setting. As director of marketing Angela Choi explains, the restaurant’s fare is described as “70 percent Japanese, 20 percent Korean and 10 percent local.”
So when it comes to the sukiyaki on the menu, this, too, is a reflection of old, new and upscale flavors combined. For starters, the rich, sauce-like broth that comes with the dish “is Korean-inspired with sesame oil, but Japanese in taste, so it’s on the sweeter side,” shares Choi.
The luxurious broth simmers at the table with a mix of tofu, fishcake and lots of veggies — including won bok, green and round onions, kabocha, corn and mushrooms. Korean rice cake adds an extra touch of fusion, while glass noodles and udon ensure the soup is ever so satisfying.
The Sukiyaki at Umami-ya comes with a raw egg, which is usually stirred up and used as a yolky dipping sauce during the meal. If you’ve never had it before, trust me, don’t knock it till you try it — they don’t call it tradition for nothing!
One of the most important aspects of sukiyaki is the protein, as it simmers in the broth throughout the meal, enriching the entire flavor profile. At Umami-ya, patrons have a diverse selection to choose from — Kurobuta Pork Belly ($23.50) and Seafood Medley ($39), just to name a few — but perhaps the most fitting meat to play up the traditional flavors of sukiyaki is U.S. Choice Ribeye ($24.50).
Last, but not least, dipping sauces further enhance the hot-pot experience: ponzu is perfect for veggies, while sesame-infused goma is great for the meat.
MORE THAN JUST SUSHI
As I mentioned earlier, sukiyaki doesn’t always come in hot-pot presentations. There are many restaurants where you can get the flavors of sukiyaki without waiting for them to cook in front of you — but only one where those flavors are matched with the quickness and convenience of kaiten-style dining.
Genki Sushi is known as the premier kaiten, or conveyor-belt, sushi establishment, wherein ready-to-devour plates of nigiri, maki, rolls and more drift past your seat, and all you have to do is grab the bites you’re craving. Since debuting in the Islands in the early ’90s, the Japan-based dining chain has added numerous other Japanese dishes to its conveyor belts, from chicken katsu and gyoza to somen salad, and even locally inspired dishes like kalbi and poke bowls.
As of last October, Genki introduced some sukiyaki sensations to the mix, starting with Sukiyaki Bowl, featuring fluffy steamed rice topped with thin ribbons of sukiyaki beef and garnished with green onion and red ginger. You also can heat right up with a winter-approved Sukiyaki Udon, prepared with classic dashi filled to the rim with comforting udon noodles, green onion, wakame and, of course, sukiyaki beef.
Genki has many branches around Oahu to choose from, but if you happen to be dining at the Ala Moana, Waikele, Kaneohe, Kapahulu or Pearlridge locations, you’ll love the added benefit of the Bullet Express delivery systems, which get orders to the table in lightening-like speed.
Here’s a fun fact about sukiyaki: It 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. Unfortunately, the lyrics make no reference to this delicious specialty. Can we get a remix?