I thought long and hard about what to cook, and arrived at one of my favorites, sukiyaki, a sort of Japanese beef stew. After work, Hawkins and I loaded into the car with Michelle and picked up his girlfriend Sanci along the way. We headed to one of Oak Grove’s many Korean markets to pick out the ingredients we would need for the evening.
Though the Korean market’s staff did all they could to help us, we did encounter a sort of three-way culture barrier, being Americans, searching for Japanese ingredients in a Korean market. A couple of customers tried to help us as well, though I think we confused them more about what we were looking for. We may have been able to help them learn the average prices of meats, but I am not sure. I wish those guys well. They tried hard to help us, as did the staff.
Asian markets usually stock their shelves with authentic ingredients, meaning the labels are printed in about every language but English. I love to take friends with me to help hunt for what the recipe calls for, and to have a good time looking. After staring at the same aisle for about 20 minutes, the gang spread out and scoured the store, eventually finding what was needed.
When we got back to Cadiz, I went to work on dinner. Hawkins’ sister Elsbeth joined the party, so I decided to make plenty for everyone. Sauté two small onions in a five-quart pot with two tablespoons of oil. When they soften, add two pounds of very thinly sliced beef roast. The Korean market keeps some beef, sliced paper thin, in a freezer. This is perfect for the meal. If you don’t want to go to Oak Grove, try some eye of round from a local store, and beg the butcher to slice it as thinly as possible.
Vegetables in Sukiyaki seem to be an anything-goes proposition. At the store, I got a bag of dried shiitake mushrooms. Even after soaking them in water for a half hour, and then simmering them on the stove, they remained a bit tough. Next time, I will look for fresh, or use white mushrooms. I added maybe three cups of the mushrooms to the pot, with five green onions, sliced into two inch sections. I meant to add some napa cabbage, but forgot to pick it up at the store. Leeks, celery, carrots and bamboo chutes work well, but I was focusing on beef and mushrooms in this particular batch. Many recipes call for a block of tofu, but I thought the pot would be crowded enough, and left it out entirely.
Sautee everything a bit, and add one package of yam noodles. I had never used them before, and expected them to be the usual dried noodles and to be orange. Instead, they were noodles made from white yams in a cooler, packed in water. They gave the meal a great texture and flavor. Drain the water from the eight ounce package and add them all to the pot. Again, stir well.
Sauce for sukiyaki is a simple enough proposition. Mix a cup of soy sauce with a cup of sake (rice wine), two cups of chicken broth and five tablespoons of sugar in a saucepan and simmer it, stirring well. Once warm, add it to the large pot and mix it all together.
We served the sukiyaki in bowls. Everyone had a few helpings and seemed to enjoy it, even Michelle who before we ate, said that she did not like many Asian foods. I got a bit smug when she went back for seconds.
Before I cooked the sukiyaki, I served the gang a plate of gyoza, a type of fried dumpling stuffed with meat and vegetables. Thankfully, I did not make them by hand, but bought a large frozen package and a bottle of dipping sauce at the store. While I cooked, the gang got started with the gyoza. I could have served the meal with rice, but with the yam noodles in the stew, there was really no need for extra starch.
It was an evening to be remembered, sharing stories of funny things that have happened working here at The Cadiz Record, and Michelle looking ahead to Texas. We wish her, her husband Casey, daughter Amanda and son “Buddy” the very best. Even if the sukiyaki did not inspire her to remain at The Record, a good time was still had by all. Good eating.