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Bento Recipes: Pseuki yaki


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Pseuki yakiMy father used to make "Suki Yaki" once in a blue moon. It would be an all-day affair, with trips to an Asian grocer and much boiling of bones and other exotic and possibly occult kitchen activities. At the end of all that there would be a huge pot of what I consider to be the most delicious stuff ever to be set on the table in a huge pot. This is a recreation of that recipe. The recipe is called "suki yaki," but when I looked up sukiyaki recipes online I found that that's not what it is at all! Real sukiyaki is cooked at the table, a piece at the time, by those who are dining, and the dish I remember was cooked before being served. Hence the name "pseuki yaki."

I was not able to get the actual recipe, as the "recipe" card contains only a list of ingredients. So, I have done my best to backwards-engineer it. I've gotten pretty close, according to my memories of the original dish, and as I tighten it up more I'll update this page.

What you'll need:

    1.5 to 2 pounds of beef bones (soup bones)
    1 block of firm tofu, sliced into dice-sized pieces
    2 cups of dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted (soaked) and squeezed dry
    1.5 cups of canned bamboo shoots, cut into bite-sized pieces
    1 pound of well-washed & stemmed fresh spinach leaves
    3 oz of rice sticks (rice vermicelli), broken into segments 3 inches long or less
    1 large scallion or several small ones, cut up fine
    1/2 cups of soy sauce
    4 tbsp of sugar
    1 pound of very very very thin-cut beef (shabushabu meat) if you can get it, very thinly sliced beef if you can't
    2 large pots - at least one should be stewpot-sized - and a strainer

Notes on various ingredients:

  • The meat: shabushabu meat is so thin that you can cook it completely just by swishing it around in hot broth for a few moments. You don't really have to chew it; it practically falls apart by itself. This is ideal for pseuki yaki, but you may not be able to get this unless you can get to a good Asian grocery. Second best is meat sliced very thin across the grain by the butcher or whoever has the meat-slicing job at the grocery store. Third best - and what I have to settle for, sigh - is wafer steak, sliced into strips about an inch and a half long and as thin as I can manage.
  • The rice noodles: The easiest way I have found to break up the rice noodles, and also the most satisfying, is to separate out the amount that you plan to use and put it into a sturdy Ziploc bag. (It must be sturdy. Flimsy off-brand bags won't do!) Suck out all the air you can, seal it, then put it on the ground and just walk all over it in your socks. Crunch it up good!
  • The shiitake: You can use whole dried mushrooms, or you can get big inexpensive bags of cut-up and dried shiitake. The whole ones look prettier but you have to soak them for hours beforehand (at least - I like to soak them overnight) and then cut off the stems. The sliced ones reconstitute more quickly - you can soak them for a half hour - but don't look as pretty.
  • The spinach: I buy a pound of spinach and, while it's still in its bundle, cut off the bottom 2 inches, which gets most of the stems. Then I cut the whole bundle from top to bottom, 2 inches at a time, to chop it into bite-sized pieces at once. Wash the cut-up bits well.

On to the cooking of the food!

First, make the broth. In the large pot, add enough water to cover the beef bones plus about an inch. turn up the heat and bring it just up to a boil, and then turn it down and let it simmer covered for at least six hours. After the first hour, skim out the stuff floating at the top. Check periodically, and when the liquid boils down enough to uncover the bones add a few more cups of water. When the broth is done, skim as much of the fat off the top as you can. I do this with a large spoon, dipping it just into the surface so the fat floating above the broth will go into the spoon. Then pick out the bones and pour the broth through a strainer into the stew pot. (Alternately, you can strain the broth, then put it in the refrigerator for future use, in which case the fat will congeal on the top and be very easy to remove.)

Put the pot with the broth on the stove and turn the heat back up. When that reaches a gentle boil, add in the shiitake, scallions, bamboo, soy sauce, and sugar, and stir. Cover and let it return to a low boil. After about 10 minutes add in the tofu and spinach. By this time the pot should be getting pretty full, and you might have to press the spinach down into the broth a bit. Don't worry, the spinach will cook down, but add in another cup or two of water anyway. Cover and let that return to a boil, about 10 minutes. When it does, add in the rice noodles. Cook for another 5 minutes. Finally, add in the meat and stir well so it won't cook in a clump. Take off the heat after a minute and serve over or alongside rice.

My father used to eat this with raw egg, dipping the stuff in the egg right before eating it. That's not for me, but maybe some others may like that.