By Mari Nameshida / Special to The Japan NewsAs the days grow cold, we all crave classic comfort food like a hearty steak. Here’s my Japanese steak recipe for the holiday season. Beefsteak — suteki or bifuteki in Japanese — originally comes from Europe. Japan lacks a comparable meat-eating heritage as Japanese people rarely ate livestock meat prior to the 1860s. Meat is now widely consumed in Japan, though it is not quite as popular as it is in the United States.
When I was a child, steak was something we ate on special days. I still remember my excitement when my father proclaimed at the meat section of the grocery store: “Alright! Let’s have steak tonight!” When my mother grilled steaks, she usually topped them with garlic, salt and pepper or with grated daikon and ponzu, a sour citrus-based sauce.
Ponzu with steak? Really? Really.
Ponzu has a wonderfully zesty, distinctive flavor that goes well with meat, seafood, vegetables or anything, really. It is a staple of all Japanese pantries and can be purchased at most grocery stores, but is also easy to make at home — though for my recipe, a little patience is necessary. I normally use yuzu or another kind of citrus fruit called daidai to make ponzu, as both have a pleasantly sharp, citrus flavor. When combined with grated raw daikon, the sauce adds a refreshing quality to the steak, and I don’t feel heavy after eating a big serving of meat.
After grilling several steaks, I also came up with a soy sauce-based teriyaki-style dipping sauce. It’s sweet and savory, but not as syrupy as teriyaki marinade. The sauce can be prepared quickly and easily, yet makes for a special dinner. I want to share its recipe with you, as well as the recipe for the grated daikon ponzu sauce.
Both sauces came to mind as I pondered what to roast for the holidays. I may sound like I’m exaggerating, but they both have knockout flavors and are great ways to enhance simple dishes. They pair beautifully with any meat, such as hamburger steaks, pork chops and tuna. The possibilities are limitless. For example, you can dress grilled bell peppers, mushrooms and other grilled vegetables with the daikon sauce for a delicious side dish. You can also try glazing skewered meats, or add the sauces to stir-fries.
Mari’s recipe for Japanese beefsteak
Ingredients (serves 2) and directions:
2 trimmed boneless strip steaks (250 to 300 grams), about 2.5 centimeters thick
Salt and pepper
1. Let steaks stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over steaks. Heat a large cast-iron frying pan over high heat. Add vegetable oil, then place steaks on pan. Cook on each side until browned.
3. Remove steaks from pan, cover them with foil and let stand for 10 minutes.
4. Place steaks on a plate, and serve with either of the following Japanese sauces.
Teriyaki dipping sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sake
1 tbsp sugar
1. Pour mirin and sake into a small pot, then bring to boil. When the scent of alcohol dissipates, add soy sauce and sugar. After simmering for a few minutes on medium heat, turn off the heat and cool.
Grated daikon, citrus ponzu sauce*
4 tbsp yuzu or daidai juice
6 tbsp soy sauce
1 piece kombu
½ cup bonito flakes
5 centimeters daikon
1. Put yuzu or daidai juice, soy sauce, kombu and bonito flakes into a clean jar.
2. Mix ingredients and leave jar in the fridge for at least a few days.
3. After a few days, pour through a strainer to remove excess residue.
4. Use the top part of a daikon radish (the top is sweeter than the base), peel, and then grate it. Drain the excess liquid and mix the radish with ponzu just before serving.
5. After placing the steak on the plate, add the daikon sauce on top and sprinkle with chopped scallion.
*Ponzu can also be bought at Japanese grocery stores. Those who wish to quickly prepare the sauce should substitute home-made ponzu with 4 tablespoons of store-bought ponzu. Home-made ponzu keeps for several months so even if you have some left over, you can use it in other dishes.
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