Today, we explore of one of Japan's most beloved and iconic dishes - Sukiyaki. At the heart of this masterpiece lies a simple, lip-smacking, soul-stirring sukiyaki sauce recipe. This 4-ingredient Japanese sauce perfectly balances savory and sweet flavors and elevates this simple hot pot to a culinary masterpiece.
If you follow my food and travel adventures on Instagram, you'll remember my journey through Japan earlier this year. The cities, the countryside, the food, the parks, the people...it was the cultural experience of a lifetime.
Two of my favorite flavor experiences during our adventure were the Japanese hot pot, and traditional buckwheat soba noodles.
Japanese hot pots often involve thin slices of tender beef, an assortment of fresh vegetables, and sometimes tofu simmering in a rich, umami-packed broth of sukiyaki and dashi. It's a taste sensation and a fun experience - often using a portable stove and cast iron pot in the middle of the dining table.
For this simplified pescatarian version of the popular Japanese hot pot dish, I added nutty buckwheat noodles to the broth, creating the perfect, chewy balance to our sweet and savory broth.
This Cod & Soba Sukiyaki Recipe is easy to prepare, healthy and nutritious, and a knockout flavor sensation. Add this great dish to your menu rotation!
Ingredients for Japanese Sukiyaki Sauce Recipe:
Sukiyaki Ingredients for Sauce:
mirin">Mirin: a sweet rice wine, mirin contributes a subtle tang to sukiyaki sauce. This essential Japanese condiment counterbalances the savory soy sauce. It also acts as a natural tenderizer for the fish and other ingredients, allowing them to absorb the flavors of the sauce while maintaining their tenderness. If you can't find mirin, you can make sukiyaki using equal parts light soy sauce and sake. To make up for the lost sweetness in mirin, add 3 tablespoons sugar, then taste the finished sauce and add more, if needed.
soy sauce">Light Soy Sauce: soy sauce is a fundamental ingredient in sukiyaki sauce, providing the backbone of rich umami flavor. Made from fermented soybeans, wheat, water and salt, this savory pantry staple adds depth and complexity to the sauce. Be sure to use light soy sauce, not the dark, sweet variety.
Sake: a traditional Japanese rice wine, sake serves as both a flavor enhancer and a cooking liquid in sukiyaki sauce. It adds complexity to the sauce, contributing a mild alcoholic note and accentuating the umami flavors of the other ingredients. If you can't find sake or prefer not to cook with alcohol, you can omit it or add a little bit of dry sherry or white wine for a similar effect. Alternately, you can make sukiyaki sauce using equal parts light soy sauce and mirin. Be sure if you're making sukiyaki without sake to omit the added sugar in the recipe. Mirin is sweeter than sake, so no additional sugar is needed.
Sugar: sukiyaki sauce needs a little sugar to enhance its sweetness, creating a well-rounded flavor profile. I have found raw sugar to add a clean sweetness to the flavor, but brown sugar or regular granulated white sugar work, too.
For Cod & Soba Bowl:
Sukiyaki Sauce: the gorgeous 4-ingredient wonder sauce from the ingredients above!
Dashi: This broth is a fundamental ingredient in Japanese cuisine, renowned for its umami-rich flavor and versatility. It is a traditional cooking stock or broth that is the foundation for numerous dishes, ranging from soups and stews to sauces and dressings. Homemade dashi is made by simmering a few simple ingredients, like dried kombu (seaweed) and bonito flakes (dried fish), in water. You can find instant dashi granules at your local Japanese market, and it makes the perfect quick and easy dashi broth for all your Japanese cooking. (Instant dashi is what I use!)
White fish fillets: fresh cod is both economical and easily accessible in Portugal, so I use it often in Asian cooking. Red snapper, rock fish or flounder are good options, but almost any flaky white fish will work. If using frozen fish fillets, thaw in the refrigerator overnight or in a bowl of cold water (still in packaging) for about 30 minutes. Dry well before adding to the braising liquid.
Green veggies: I use fresh spinach in this easy dish, along with a pile of green onions for garnish on top. But the recipe is endlessly customizable to your tastes, or whatever's hiding in your crisper drawer. Napa cabbage, chrysanthemum leaves, baby bok choy or kai lan are all good options. While they're not green, a package of enoki mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms add a ton of flavor to the dish. Just plan to add enough braising time to cook the veggies through.
Noodles: Soba noodles are my favorite with sukiyaki sauce, but you have options here, as well. Traditionally, shirataki noodles, or yam noodles, are used in a sukiyaki hot pot dish. Udon noodles would be another good choice in your sukiyaki recipe. All of these selections are widely available in most large grocery stores, or in your local Asian grocery store.
Optional ingredients: in Japan, the traditional way to serve a sukiyaki dish is with a raw egg yolk. Thin slices of beef from the hot pot are dipped into the yolk, adding richness and flavor to the dish. I prefer a soft-boiled egg yolk as dipping sauce. It's completely optional, but a truly tasty addition. Finally, red chilis and / or chili crisp may not be the traditional topping for a sukiyaki dish, but they add a lovely heat to our flavorful dish. Use only if you want a little spice in your life!
Full ingredient measurements included in printable recipe card below.
Step by step instructions for Japanese fish hotpot dish:
To make the sukiyaki sauce, combine all ingredients in a large skillet. Bring the mixture of soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar up to a simmer over medium heat. Stir and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until sugar has fully dissolved.
To make sukiyaki with cod, add 3 cups of dashi broth to the skillet of sukiyaki sauce. (If making dashi from instant broth granules, combine 2 teaspoons dashi granules with 3 cups water for the perfect broth flavor.) Bring the dashi and sukiyaki mixture up to a simmer.
Add fresh cod fillets and cover the skillet. Allow the broth to simmer gently, poaching the fish.
Cook for 6-8 minutes, then add the fresh spinach, wilting the leaves in the final minute of cooking.
To serve, add soba noodles in bottom of bowl. Top the buckwheat noodles with wilted spinach, then a cod fillet. Pour broth over cod, then garnish with scallions and chilis. Serve with a soft-boiled egg, if you like.
FAQ's for Sukiyaki Sauce with Cod & Soba:
Yes, you can prepare sukiyaki sauce in advance. After making the sauce, let it cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container or bottle and refrigerate. It should stay fresh for a few weeks in the refrigerator.
If you can't find mirin, you can make sukiyaki using equal parts light soy sauce and sake. To make up for the lost sweetness in mirin, add 3 tablespoons sugar, then taste the finished sauce and add more, if needed.
If you can't find sake or prefer not to cook with alcohol, you can omit it or add a little bit of dry sherry or white wine for a similar effect. Alternately, you can make sukiyaki sauce using equal parts light soy sauce and mirin. Be sure if making sukiyaki without sake, omit the sugar. Mirin is sweeter than sake, so no additional sugar is needed. However, keep in mind that the flavor will differ slightly from the traditional sukiyaki sauce.
Soy sauce, which is a key ingredient in sukiyaki sauce, is usually made from soybeans and wheat. If you need a gluten-free version, look for gluten-free soy sauce or tamari, which is a wheat-free soy sauce alternative.
Absolutely! The sweetness of the sauce can be adjusted to your taste. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, add a bit more sugar or mirin. On the other hand, if you prefer a less sweet sauce, reduce the amount of sugar or mirin in the recipe.
To store, transfer sukiyaki sauce to an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. To store leftover cod and soba, keep in refrigerator for up to 3 days.Print