Nikujaga (or simmered beef and potatoes) is no-frills, homestyle Japanese cooking – something a Japanese mum would make on a busy weeknight the way I might make macaroni cheese. The Japanese call this sort of cooking ofukuro no aji, which means “mother’s taste”.
There’s a nostalgia associated with these dishes – while others may cook them, nobody’s tastes quite like your mum’s version. That’s because hers tasted of home and childhood… and love.
There are several dishes from my childhood that evoke that response in me, but none more so than hamburger gravy and boiled potatoes. I’d gone many years without a a thought for hamburger gravy, until three years ago, when my dad visited us in London and prepared it for dinner. One bite and I was overwhelmed by a wave of emotion so strong I could scarcely swallow. And it wasn’t even a particular favourite of mine…
(serves 4 as part of a meal)
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1cm slices
- 200g beef, thinly sliced
- 375ml water
- 4 Tb soy sauce
- 3 Tb sugar
- 3 Tb sake
- salt and pepper
- 8 snow peas, blanched
- Put the potatoes and onion in a pot, then add water and heat. Place the beef on top.
- Stir in the sugar, soy sauce, sake and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for twenty minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through.
- Remove from the heat and garnish with the snow peas. Serve with steamed Japanese rice.