Comfort cooking: Tetsuro’s Nikujaga (meat and potato stew)
Whether you are cooped up with family, with flatmates or you are by yourself during this period of social distancing, cooking is a source of comfort. We asked UC Syd students from different countries — and food cultures — to offer up their take on ‘comfort food’. Let’s get cooking!
For Westerners, Japanese cuisine is mostly associated with sushi. In Japan, however, sushi is considered a ‘formal’ meal, mostly eaten in restaurants, Erasmus student Tetsuro informs me. Japanense home cooking is much simpler, comforting fare. Tetsuro adores this meat-and-potato stew which his grandmother prepares expertly — and though he has made nikujaga according to her recipe time and again, he has yet to achieve the ‘magical depth of flavour’ that distinguishes his grandmother’s cooking. Perhaps now is the time to crack the code: When UC Syd shut its classrooms in March, Tetsuro flew home to Japan, where he continues his studies online.
This recipe calls for the Japanese rice wine ‘sake’, which is available from the supermarket Meny in Haderslev, but this stuff doesn’t come cheap, so use white wine as a less pricey alternative.
For a vegan-friendly option, substitute the meat for additional vegetables such as pumpkin or cabbage, and you have an equally authentic dish of ‘nimono’ (simmered vegetables).
200 g beef or pork
sugar snap peas or green peas
2 tbsp oil
5 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sake or white wine
2 tbsp sugar
1. Slice the meat thinly. Cut the carrot into rolling wedges (see video tutorial for technique). Cut onion into wedges. Peel the potatoes and cut them into bite-sized chunks, then soak in cold water.
2. If you are using sugar snaps, remove string and boil for 30 seconds.
3. Heat the oil in a large pot and start cooking the meat. Add sugar, soy sauce and sake/white wine and stir. Cook the meat until browned, then add potatoes, carrot and onion.
4. Add water until the vegetables are just covered. Put the lid on the pot and simmer on a low heat for 20–30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Check the potatoes with a skewer or fork; if the skewer goes in without resistance, the potatoes are done. Add sugar snaps/peas and simmer for a further couple of minutes, then serve.
By Lisbeth Burich