Vegan sukiyaki that’s delicious, healthy and economical!
Sukiyaki, known as a famous Japanese song, actually is a very popular hot pot dish in Japan. We associate sukiyaki as something that you can have only for special occasions because its main ingredient is thinly-sliced beef (that means expensive!). It is also rich in taste because of the fat contained in beef as well as a generous portion of sugar in the soup. So, it’s typically not a dish that you would or would want to have everyday.
Today’s vegan version of sukiyaki takes care of those problems without compromising the taste!
Normally, besides the beef, sukiyaki contains onions (regular onions or long onions), some type of mushrooms (such as shiitake or enoki mushrooms), tofu and shirataki (konjac) noodles. And it can contain other vegetables depending on the region or family recipe!
A little-known fact about sukiyaki is that broadly speaking, there are two different ways of cooking it: Kansai (Osaka and Kyoto region) style and Kanto (Tokyo) style. In Kansai style, beef and vegetables are fried with oil (or beef fat) in the pot then soup/sauce is added to taste whereas in Kanto style, soup/sauce is brought to boil then beef and vegetables are cooked in it.
Today, I’m taking essence from both styles by frying the ingredients first then cooking them in soup. The frying process will compensate for the lack of fat from meat and cooking process will make sure that all the ingredients release then soak up wonderful flavors.
As for a beef substitute, I’m using a Japanese food called fu (麩). Fu is made of wheat protein – gluten – and has been used as a source of protein by vegetarian monks (and regular people!) in Japan for generations. There are mainly three types of fu – fresh fu (namafu or 生麩), fried fu (agefu or 揚げ麩) and dried fu (kansofu or 乾燥麩).
So what does fu taste like??? Well, fresh fu is chewy and tastes almost like mochi, and dried fu tastes almost like bread but it doesn’t melt away when cooked in soup…Hmmm…you have to try for yourself!:)
Dried fu comes in different shapes, and today, I’m using kurumafu (車麩) which means wheel fu because it’s shaped like a wheel.
First, soak kurumafu in warm water until it gets soft. Squeeze out the water lightly and cut into quarters. If you are using dried shiitake mushrooms like I did (or you could use fresh ones), soak them also in warm water and cut in desired sizes.
In a deep pan, heat rice bran oil (or other light oils like canola oil) and start with the “hard” parts (near the root) of long onions.
Add drained tofu and kurumafu.
Fry both sides of tofu to make them little crispy.
Add “soft” parts (leaves) of long onions and mushrooms.
Add shirataki noodles (cut in desired length).
Add soup (1/4 cup amazake concentrate, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/2 cup water). Amazake (甘酒) is fermented rice with koji culture (mold used to make soy sauce, miso, etc.). Usually, sukiyaki soup/sauce contains a lot of sugar, but I’m using amazake instead, which is a natural rice sweetener.
Cover with a lid and cook for 10-15 min on low heat.
Smells and tastes sooooo good!!! I think I can have it everyday;)