Asian Recipes/ Dinner/ Japanese/ Recipes/ Soup

One Pot Nikujaga – Japanese Beef and Potato Stew

16/09/2021

The comforting weeknight dinner – One Pot Nikujaga! This easy Japanese Beef and Potato Stew takes only 20 minutes to cook, perfect with a side serve of piping hot sushi rice.

Close up of bowl of Japanese beef and potato stew.

Why We Love This

Nikujaga is like the Japanese equivalent of chicken noodle soup. It makes you feel loved and warm, with the broth nice and light, so it doesn’t sit heavy in your tum. Cooked in the one pot, there’s also no need for a heap of dishes!

By using a drop lid to cook the ingredients, the potato and carrot go extra soft while still keeping their structure. It’s fascinating to see and taste. We think the potato is so soft when you bite into it, it’s like mash!

Pot of Japanese beef and potato stew on blue cloth.

What is Nikujaga? 

Nikujaga is a light Japanese beef and potato stew. Originally created by chefs from the Imperial Japanese Navy, it’s now a common weeknight dish found in households and restaurants throughout Japan.

The staple ingredients are usually thin strips of beef alongside onion, carrot, shirataki noodles and the star of the dish – potatoes. Cooked using a drop lid known at otoshibuta, everything is cooked to perfection, maintaining shape and structure while absorbing the flavours of the stock and seasoning.

Where We Learned This

It was down a flight of stairs, another floor or two in an elevator and through a inconspicuous white door that we entered into an underground pub in Osaka, Japan.

Owned by our friend Rena and her husband, we were shuffled into the tiny kitchen behind the bar with ingredients laid out and a handwritten recipe for their version of Nikujaga and miso soup.

What followed was AC/DC playing on a projector in the background, their friends joining us for a sushi party, and wonderful conversation in a variety of broken English and Japanese.

What You’ll Need

  • Meat Thinly sliced beef shabu shabu style works best. You can also use Aussie sizzle steak. Sub with thin pork slices, chopped chicken, beef mince or firm tofu.
  • Potatoes – Medium sized potatoes, quartered work well. Chop into 6 for larger potatoes. White or yukon gold potatoes are nice and creamy in this dish.
  • Shirataki Noodles Also known as konnyaku / konjac / super low cal noodles. Sub with sweet potato noodles, vermicelli, ramen noodles or omit altogether.
  • Onion – Regular brown or white onions add a nice sweetness to the dish.
  • Green Beans Regular fresh or frozen green beans are delicious. Sub with snow peas, asparagus or corn.
  • Dashi Stock Whether fresh or powdered, this gives nikujaga the classic umami flavour you want your veggies to absorb.
  • Soy Sauce – Regular soy sauce is best, sub with tamari.
  • Cooking Sake Sake can be expensive in some areas, so sub with Chinese rice wine if required. You can also omit, and replace the same amount with more mirin.
  • Sugar – Essential to giving the authentic nikujaga flavour. Sub with honey, molasses or golden syrup for a richer sweetness.
  • Mirin This sweet rice wine helps to bring both depth and sweetness to the broth.
Ingredients laid out to make Nikujaga.

How to make Japanese Beef and Potato Stew:

  1. Remove shirataki noodles from the packet and cut roughly in half. Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water for a few minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Pour the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the thinly sliced beef strips and fry for a minute or two until brown. Pour in the soy saucesakesugar and mirin and allow the meat to soak up the flavours for a further 1-2 minutes.
  3. Next, add the potatoescarrot and onion. Mix together then pour in the drained shirataki noodles. Frying for another minute or two.
  1. Pour in the dashi stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer on low medium heat.
  2. Scoop off any foam on top with a spoon and give everything a gentle stir, then cover with a lid or otoshibuta (Japanese drop lid – you can also use aluminium foil or paper towel). Simmer for a further 10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through and soft. Note: You can check potatoes with a fork or chopstick.
  3. Remove the lid or otoshibuta and pop your green beans on top, allowing them to cook for a minute before switching off the heat.
  4. Serve immediately, or allow to cool then pop in the fridge until you’re ready to reheat on a low simmer. This will allow the flavours to develop over time.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Sweetness – While we love the traditional sweetness of nikujaga, feel free to halve or omit the sugar for a more savoury result.
  • Maximise Flavour – For the best taste, we recommend cooking nikujaga the day before or in the morning, so the flavours have a chance to really soak into all the meat and vegetables.
  • Storage – Nikujaga stores well in the fridge for 2-3 days. To reheat, simply simmer on the stove on a low medium heat, or pop in the microwave for a minute or two until warmed to your preferred temperature.

FAQs

What are konnyaku / shirataki noodles?

Shirataki noodles, sometimes referred to as konnyaku, are noodles made from the konjac root. They are super low in calories, and popular in Asian dishes. The noodles do have a slight smell, which disappears once cooked.

What is nikujaga usually served with?

Nikujaga is a light stew, and works well served with a few accompaniments. Plain sushi rice and miso soup are very popular choices. You could also make it a three course meal, serving gyoza to start and finishing with daifuku mochi.

Variations

  • Make it Vegan – Sub the dashi for kombu dashi, and the beef for mushrooms (shiitake, oyster and /or enoki) or firm tofu for a vegan nikujaga.
  • Kanto Style Nikujaga – Swap the beef slices for thinly sliced pork instead, a popular choice in the Kanto region of Japan.
  • Omit Shirataki – The shirataki noodles are not the star of the dish, so if you can’t find them – just leave them out, or add in a little extra veggies.
Two bowls of Japanese nikujaga.

Make it a feast with these classic Japanese dishes:

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Nikujaga in a Japanese bowl with shirataki noodles.

One Pot Nikujaga – Japanese Beef and Potato Stew

The comforting weeknight dinner – One Pot Nikujaga! This easy Japanese Beef and Potato Stew takes only 20 minutes to cook, perfect with a side serve of piping hot sushi rice.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 4 bowls
Calories: 243kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $10

Ingredients

  • 150 g thinly sliced beef cut into strips, use shabu shabu meat or sizzle steak works well in Australia
  • 3 potatoes medium size, diced, 350g / 12.34oz
  • 1 carrot small
  • 100 g shirataki noodles (usually half a packet / 3.52oz) konnyaku / konjac low cal noodles, sub sweet potato noodles
  • 1 onion quartered, white or brown onions
  • 1 handful green beans roughly chopped, sub snow peas or asparagus
  • 2 ½ cups dashi stock (2.5 tsp dashi powder + 625ml / 1.3 pints water)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce + 1 tbsp, 65ml / 2.19fl oz
  • ¼ cup sake sub Chinese rice wine, 30ml / 1.35fl oz
  • 3 tbsp sugar 45g / 1.58oz
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Instructions

  • Remove shirataki noodles from the packet and cut roughly in half. Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water for a few minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Pour the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the thinly sliced beef strips and fry for a minute or two until brown. Pour in the soy sauce, sake, sugar and mirin and allow the meat to soak up the flavours for a further 1-2 minutes.
  • Next, add the potatoes, carrot and onion. Mix together then pour in the drained shirataki noodles. Frying for another minute or two.
  • Pour in the dashi stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer on low medium heat.
  • Scoop off any foam on top with a spoon and give everything a gentle stir, then cover with a lid or otoshibuta (Japanese drop lid – you can also use aluminium foil or paper towel). Simmer for a further 10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through and soft. Note: You can check potatoes with a fork or chopstick.
  • Remove the lid or otoshibuta and pop your green beans on top, allowing them to cook for a minute before switching off the heat.
  • Serve immediately, or allow to cool then pop in the fridge until you’re ready to reheat on a low simmer. This will allow the flavours to develop over time.

Video

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
One Pot Nikujaga – Japanese Beef and Potato Stew
Amount per Serving
Calories
243
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
10
g
15
%
Saturated Fat
 
5
g
31
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
3
g
Cholesterol
 
23
mg
8
%
Sodium
 
1490
mg
65
%
Potassium
 
434
mg
12
%
Carbohydrates
 
21
g
7
%
Fiber
 
2
g
8
%
Sugar
 
14
g
16
%
Protein
 
14
g
28
%
Vitamin A
 
2734
IU
55
%
Vitamin C
 
6
mg
7
%
Calcium
 
82
mg
8
%
Iron
 
2
mg
11
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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One Pot Nikujaga - Japanese Beef and Potato Stew

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