Despite Kobe beef achieving international fame and the recent craze that a wagyu steak is the ultimate haven of meat eaters, eating beef in Japan has always been a luxury and remains one. I recall my shock at the price of beef in the Japanese supermarket when we moved there from the US.
Here are some interesting facts about Japan’s culinary history regarding eating beef. The movie “The Last Samurai” is where most non-Japanese would learn about the Meiji Restoration and the overthrow of the feudal system under the Tokugawa shogunate with its strong Buddhist and Shinto influences and religious practices. This revolution brought about the systematic introduction of western ideas and thought. The process of modernisation was called “civilisation and enlightenment”. Beef was perceived as to be an essential component of western cuisine. The national attitude towards eating beef changed when the Meiji Emporer included beef in in this diet. Eating beef was eagerly adopted by those who who embraced “civilisation and enlightenment”.
Use these smaller asparagus spears as they are available year round and are more economical than the large spears from Australia. It is perfectly fine to use frozen beef slices. What is is imperative though is that the sliced beef MUST be thawed in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen counter top. Thawing beef slices in the fridge will take about 2 hours. Plan a little early. It is very important to thaw all meats in the fridge if you want them to retain as much of their juiciness and flavour.
Trim off about 2 cm from the tail end of the asparagus spears, then cut them into halves making them almost the same length as the slice of beef. Cut the leek into sections of the same length and cut each section into quarters. Assemble vegetables on top of each piece of beef, starting at the larger end.
Use toothpicks to secure each roll to stop them from unrolling when they are being fried. ALTERNATIVE – dust some cornstarch all over the slice of beef before placing vegetables on top of the slice of beef. Then, roll up the slice of beef as shown. Exercise more care when you fry the rolls if cornstarch is used as you have to keep them from un-rolling.
Heat fry-pan with a slight amount of oil. Add beef rolls but do not overcrowd pan. If your fry-pan is not large enough to accommodate all beef rolls all at once, fry beef rolls in 2 batches. Turn beef rolls over to cook all sides. Remove first batch of beef rolls when it is slightly caramelised and proceed to cook the next batch.
If you have 2 batches of caramelised beef rolls, only add half of your sauce to cook first batch of beef rolls. Use the other half of the sauce to cook the 2nd batch of caramelised beef rolls. Carefully remove toothpicks once the rolls are cooked.
Serving Suggestions. The photo above gives you an idea of how to serve this dish. The miso soup is a variation which includes instant wakame and potatoes. The rice is brown rice with the addition of my home blend of zakkokumai. The 3rd dish is Tofu no Shira-ae. Click here for links to Quick Miso and Brown Rice with Barley and Click here for link to Tofu no Shira-ae. Who can resist a hot cup of flavourful and soft Chawan Mushi. Click here.
Source: “Quick & Easy Japanese Cuisine” by Yukiko Moriyama
SERVES: 4 to 5 persons
- 500 gm thinly sliced sirloin steak
- One bunch of asparagus spears from Thailand
- 1 Japanese leek
- 2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 1/4 cup usukuchi soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp sake
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp finely crushed garlic
1. Prepare asparagus spears and leek as described above.
2. Roll up the meat and secure with either toothpicks or cornstarch.
3. Heat fry-pan with a little oil and cook beef roll to caramelise. Add sauce and cook till sauce evaporates. Carefully remove toothpicks from rolls. Arrange beef rolls decoratively on a serving plate. Serve with rice and a salad or some other vegetables and soup. Yawata Maki make delicious additions in a bento box too.
Some Basic Rules for Menu Planning a Japanese Meal.
Most Japanese meals at home consists of rice and soup with some dishes (usually one is raw, one is simmered, and one is grilled). If you are also having guests, another dish which is deep-fried is added and the crockery is much more ornate and of finer porcelain and lacquer. The meal is always served with green tea and fresh fruit.
Basic rules are as follows.
1. seasonal appropriateness. Certain types of fresh fish and vegetables are only available at certain seasons. Make full use of what is the seasonal food as it is the tastiness and most cost effective time to use that ingredient.
2. consider the occasion for the meal and the number of guests. There are several one pot Japanese dishes like sukiyaki and many types of nabe dishes.
3. Think about the end flavour and texture of your meal. For example, the dish may be served raw, deep fried, steamed, simmered or grilled.
4. Consider the colour of the dish and its presentation
5. Nutrition. Bear in mind the physical health and age of your family and guests.
6. Costs. Try to make use of seasonal produce and those items which are on special offer!
1. Soup – Miso Soup and Brown Rice. Click here.
2. Chawan Mushi (Steamed Egg custard) Click here.
3. Tofu no Shira-ae. Click here.
4. Simmered Pumpkin. Click here.
5. Caramel Custard Click here.
6. Almond Jelly and Longans. Click here.
7. Ginger Poached Pears. Click here.