You will see all sorts of simmered beef and onion dish in Japan, but for me, it comes from my grandmother’s apartment.
Her first restaurant, a yakitori shop called Yakitori Taro, was located a few blocks away from a busy street in downtown Kumamoto, Japan. As a single mother, she started the restaurant to provide a stable job for her youngest son who had contracted polio as a child. My uncle Manabu struggles with his speech and mobility in his hands and legs. However, despite these challenges, he went to school and earned a chef’s licence.
He and my beloved aunt, Ryoko, both worked at Taro as a yakitori chefs until they retired from the restaurant business. During that period, they were onced forced to move the restaurant to a new location due to neighborhood redevelopment.
My grandmother lived upstairs in the first Yakitori Taro building. The apartment was long and narrow but sunny and had three bedrooms. My uncle lived in one of those bedrooms until he got married. I grew up in fishing village on the southern tip of Kyushu, so I only had a chance to visit her 2-3 times per year as we lived quite far away. I usually found her upstairs folding “oshibori” hot towels for guests and keeping the books for the business. She had a small kitchen next to a stairwell which connected the restaurant to the apartment and there was usually a pot there with one of her favorite stews.
Of all her great cooking, one of my favorite’s was the simmered beef with onion with grilled tofu and napa cabbage. So often, when my cousin and I were hungry after shopping or hanging out, all we had to do was to heat up the stew and serve it with bowls of rice and some vegetables. Just like we all have our grandma’s beef stew in our memories, this is the one that I fondly remember.
Note: My grandmother’s beef and onion recipe was also used on Beef Soba and Udon at Tanpopo Noodle Shop. Simply top hot soba or udon noodle with soup with this simmered beef and onion. Garnish with chopped green onion and shichimi pepper.
Simmered Beef and Onion
- 1 pound beef, such as chuck, thinly sliced thinly sliced by butcher or get pre-sliced beef from local Asian grocery store
- 2 medium yellow onion, peel, remove root end and slice lengthwise
- 2 tablespoon vegetable cooking oil
- 1/3 cup sake rice wine
- 1/3 cup mirin sweet rice wine
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- Cut the sliced beef into 1 inch strips.
- Cook sliced onions with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a saucepan on medium heat until onion is coated well with oil. Turn the heat low, cover and let it sweat until translucent about 15 minutes, stir occasionally.
- Put another saucepan, large enough to hold all the meat and onion, on stove top on a high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and when the saucepan is very hot add beef. Cook the beef until lightly brown. Turn heat to medium-low and add sake and cook for 5 minutes. Add mirin and cook for another 5 minutes or so.
- Add the cooked onion to the beef pan and add soy sauce. Turn the heat to low, loosely cover the pot and cook until beef is tender, 30-45 minutes.
- Serve simmered beef and onion on top of white rice Donburi style or on top of hot soba or udon noodles with broth.
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