Traditionally, sukiyaki is a hot pot dish. Each diner is given a bowl of raw egg; beef, tofu and vegetables are slow cooked in simmering sauce in a hot pot at the center of the table; then each diner picks from the hot pot and dips his food in beaten raw egg before eating.
The last time I had good sukiyaki was at Furusato (now closed). When ordering sukiyaki there, the diner was given an option on how he wanted his sukiyaki served: the traditional way or soup style? Soup style meant the ingredients were cooked on a side table, apportioned into individual bowls, topped with raw egg and the diner stirred everything together. The egg cooked in the very hot mixture of beef, vegetables and sauce, and no one had to worry about salmonella.
Missing Furusato very much, I have tried to recreate its sukiyaki at home.
The ingredients, from top to bottom and left to right: leeks, carrots, radish, tofu, onion, garlic, cabbage, glass noodles (soak in water 20 minutes before cooking) and sukiyaki-cut beef.
For the sauce: Mix together half a cup each of soy sauce, sake and mirin, and about 2 tbsps. of sugar for three to four servings.
Traditionally, beef fat is heated in the hot pot until it turns into oil to coat the bottom of the pot. A tablespoonful of cooking oil does the trick for me. And, in lieu of a hot pot, a wok works well.
So, hot oil into the wok. Add the onion and garlic, cook for a few seconds then add the carrot, radish and leeks. Cook for a minute then add the tofu. Pour in about a third of the sauce and cook until the sauce has been soaked up.
Divide the vegetables and tofu among individual bowls.
Back to the wok. Pour in another third of the sauce. When it simmers, add the noodles and cook for half a minute. Add the cabbage and cook just until wilted. Again, divide the noodles and cabbage, and whatever sauce there is, among the individual bowls.
Finally, the beef. You have two options here. You can brown the beef first or you can add the beef to the simmering sauce. I prefer the second option because overcooking the beef scares me as it turns the meat into something quite tough and leathery. So, I pour the remaining third of the sauce into the wok, add the beef and cook just until the meat is no longer pink.
The beef and remaining sauce go into the individual bowls, an egg is cracked into each bowl and the sukiyaki is ready to eat.