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Challenge #4

Beef! This time the Local Challenge comes from Richard at the Dartmouth Butcher’s. In the photo he’s holding a huge forequarter of beef. All of Richard’s beef is sourced locally – if you been for a walk on the beach at Thurlestone you might have even seen some of the cows, as they have been known to take a stroll over the sands when the mood takes them!

In Japan most of the beef used is sliced so thin you can see through it to the other side – like the meat used for sukiyaki or shabushabu. The butcher’s display cases here are lined with thinly sliced meat. So it was a bit of a shock to go to the butcher in England and not be able to find very thinly sliced beef. Last time I went, I asked Richard for some thin slices, and he duly sliced me some steak-width pieces… I think I I did try saying “…a bit thinner?”  in a very small voice, but…

Niku Jyaga – Japanese beef stew – is an absolute standard in Japanese homes. Usually it is made with thinly sliced beef, but this time I made it with big chunks. And it was great! This could become the norm in our home.

Here’s how it’s made.

Japanese Beef Stew – Niku Jyaga

niku jyaga

In Japan, niku jyaga is the classic dish that all guys want their girl to be able to make. If a girl fancies a guy she’ll boast about how good her niku jyaga is, even if she’s never made it in her life! Hmmm, I wonder what people in the UK will think about that…!?

Niku jyaga is a good chance for you to try out shirataki, which are konyaku noodles. Konyaku is  – wait for it – solidified jelly made from the rhizome of devil’s tongue!! How about that!

Konyaku, and shirataki, are very low calorie, and full of fibre, too. You can usually find them in health food shops in the UK, but if you can’t get hold of them don’t worry, just leave them out.


  • 300g beef (for stewing- from forequarter or shoulder)
  • 300g shirataki noodles
  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • vegetable oil
  • 500cc Japanese soup stock, or beef stock
  • 100 cc sake, or white wine
  • 100cc mirin
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • green peas boiled with salt

1. Cut the meat and carrots into bite-sized chunks, thinly slice the onion and peel the potatoes and but into quarters.

2. If you have shirataki, rinse it in water quickly then put in a heat proof dish. Add water so the shirataki are just covered. Heat in the microwave for 5 minutes, then rinse the water off with a sieve. Then spread the noodles on a cutting board and cut to half length.

(Or you can wash the shirataki well with a bit of salt in the water, rinse and then put them in a pan of boiling water for 3 minutes if you prefer.)

3. Heat some vegetable oil in a heavy pan, brown the onions lightly and then add the potatoes and carrots and lightly fry them. (frying them lightly in some oil helps stop them breaking up later, and helps them soak up the flavours, too.)

4. Add the stock (or dashi), sake, sugar, and 50cc of mirin and bring to the boil on a strong heat. Then reduce to medium heat and add the meat. Boil until the vegetables begin to get soft, skimming any scum off the top as you go, and then add the soy sauce and continue to stew.

5. When the liquid has reduced by about a fifth, add the rest of the mirin (50cc) and gently stir. Be careful not to stir too strongly, or the vegetables will break up and become mushy. Adding the mirin at the end gives everything a lovely lustre (the shine is called ‘teri’ in Japanese, as in teriyaki – literally “shiny fry”.

6. When the liquid has almost boiled off, turn off the heat and add salt to taste. You can add boiled peas or green beans at this point, if you like.

(During part 4 above, if you take your pan off the heat for a while and let it cool, then heat it up again and continue, the flavours will soak right into the meat and veg and make it even tastier!)

niku jyaga

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