Nikujaga (Japanese Beef and Potatoes soup) is a classic Japanese food and loved by everyone in Japan. Sliced beef simmered with potatoes, shirataki noodles, carrots, and onion in dashi soup. You can make this delicious food with simple steps!
Today I am going to share one of the most classic Japanese recipes called Nikujaga.
What is Nikujaga? ( meaning )
Nikujaga means meat (niku) and potatoes (jaga, an abbreviation for Jaga-imo). It contains sliced meat, potatoes, onion, carrots, shirataki noodle and seasonings.
In Japan, everyone’s mother has their own flavor Nikujaga (Japanese: ofukuro-no-aji “おふくろの味”) and each household makes it slightly differently. My mom makes her own Nikujaga and every time when I go back to Japan, I ask her to cook some because it is warm and makes me remember my childhood.
This is also a type of Japanese stewed dish called Nimono(Japanese: Nimono “煮物”).
Nikujaga is a traditional dish and recipe that Japanese mothers pass down from generation to generation.
As I mentioned earlier, Nikujaga means meat (Niku) and potato (Jaga, short for Jaga-imo). If you happen to visit Japan, you can probably find Nikujaga in Izakayas, so please try some 🙂 !
The pronunciation of Nikujaga is “knee-ku-ja-gah”.
Ingredients for Nikujaga
1. Konnyaku noodle ( Yam Noodle )
Have you ever heard of Konnyaku noodles (Japanese: Shirataki) ? This may be unfamiliar to some of you. Shirataki noodles are made from the konjac yam and It is translucent. The word shirataki means “white waterfall” because of their appearance.
This is a must have for making Nikujaga. When you first open the packaging, the water the noodles comes in will smell slightly fishy. However, after rinsing the noodles off this smell will go away completely.
To rinse the noodles, place about 2 liters of water in a pot. When it boils, add the shirataki noodles and cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn the heat off and drain the boiling water.
Where to buy Shirataki noodle?
Here are the some places you can purchase!
- Japanese grocery store
- Japanese online grocery store
In most normal grocery stores, it is very difficult to find Shirataki noodles. So please try one of the options I shared.
2. Thinly sliced meat
In japan, you can find thinly sliced meat in every grocery store. In the states, it is very hard to find. I sometimes find it at my usual grocery store but if you can’t find it here’s some options:
- Japanese online grocery store
- Japanese or Korean grocery store
- Make it by yourself
Personally I prefer making the thinly sliced meat by myself if I can’t find it. Here is the best explanation how to make thinly sliced beef at home!
Pork vs beef
Honestly, you can use either beef or pork meat and they are always so tasty. They’re both great for making the best Nikujaga.
Here are the little differences between pork nikujaga and beef nikujaga.
- Pork nikujaga : light taste
- Beef nikujaga : rich taste
Here’s the seasonings for Nikujaga.
These 4 seasonings are so important for Nikujaga. If you don’t have any of them, you can find on Amazon or at Asian grocery stores!
5 Tips to make the best Nikujaga
Here are some tips for making the best Nikujaga!
- If you can find “Russet Potatoes”, they absorb the seasonings and get softer texture than Yukon gold potatoes. I use Yukon gold potatoes in this recipe to make a classic Nikujaga.
- You want to find the meat that has moderate fat. If there is not enough fat, then the meat gets too dry and if there is too much fat, then the broth becomes too oily.
- Some people use just water instead of using dashi, but I recommend using dashi (-how to make Dashi page). If you want to use just water, you can simply substitute 2/3 – 1 cup of water instead of dashi.
- You want to add the soy sauce last in order to get more tasty Nikujaga. This is really key!
- You want to soak the potatoes in water for at least 10 minutes to get rid of excess starch. This will help your potatoes keep their shape while cooking.
Thank you for reading! Let’s get started on the Nikujaga recipe below.
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Nikujaga ( Japanese Beef and Potatoes )
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Peel the onion and cut into 8-10 wedges. Peel the carrot and cut it lengthwise in half first, then cut it into 1 inch chunks.
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters and smooth the edges.*2 After you cut the potatoes, soak them in water for at least 10 minutes.
- Remove string from snow peas and put them into boiling water for 30 seconds, then strain them and leave to cool. After they cool, cut them into 1 inch pieces.
- Drain the shirataki noodles from the package and cook them in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain the water and cut the noodles into 2 inch lengths.
- Cut thinly sliced beef into pieces about 3 inches wide.*3
- Prepare a large pot and heat vegetable oil on medium heat. Sauté the onions until they are coated in oil, then add the beef and cook until the meat is brown.
- Add the potatoes, carrots, and shirataki noodles to the pot.
- Add dashi and sake. Cook for at least 2 minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate.
- Add sugar and mirin.
- Bring to a boil, then use a fine-mesh skimmer to get rid of any fat and foam.
- Make a lid using aluminum foil with little holes using a fork and place on top.*4 Simmer on medium-low heat for 10 -12 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked. While cooking, ingredients are absorbing the seasoning so do not stir them.
- After 10 -12 minutes, turn the heat to low and add soy sauce. Close the aluminum foil lid again and steam for 5-6 minutes.
- Open the lid and add snow peas and cook about 1 - 2 minutes with the same low heat. Check the vegetables to see if they are cooked well.
- Let's serve!
- Nikujaga is delicious as leftovers so you can absolutely store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2-3 days.
Hi Yuka! I used to have Nikujaga at my favorite Izakaya in Japan. I wanted to make it to remind me of Japan’s life. This recipe was just perfect for that. Will make it again!
Thank you for the heartwarming comment, Victoria! I am glad you enjoy this recipe.