Sunday dinners are often times of experimentation for me. My helper D is off on Sundays and the kids often want a home-cooked meal on Sunday night. And then there are some days one doesn’t want to spend too much time over a hot stove – which is why I often break out the steamboat appliance for a do-it-yourself dinner. The family does love steamboat and lots of tofu and shabu-shabu beef is good enough to keep everybody really happy.
This time I decided to shake it up a bit – since going on a low carb diet I haven’t had sukiyaki for about 5 years. Sukiyaki is a kind of Japanese hot pot where the ingredients are e simmered at the table. The key difference between sukiyaki and shabu-shabu is the stock. Japanese shabu-shabu tends to emphasize the dipping sauces for the meat or other ingredients, and the stock tends to be very simple and somewhat bland compared to sukiyaki which has a richer and sweeter broth. And one does not need any dipping sauces to flavour the ingredients cooked in Sukiyaki. I’ve always steered clear of eating Sukiyaki in Japanese restaurants as the soup stock is heavily sweetened. But the wonderful thing about cooking at home is that one can use sugar substitutes and that is exactly what made this a doable home meal.
When I first went on a low carb diet several years ago, I remember the doubts my family had. In fact prior to my diabetes diagnosis I had once tried the Atkins diet which worked really well for me but I remember my dad questioned the diet versus the conventional medical nutritional advice. So I was dissuaded from it at that time and it was a surreal experience having to revisit something very similar when I developed diabetes. Of course, I now know better that a lot of our nutritional standards of care were based on poor science and vested interests. Nutrition science needs a whole grand reversal of policies because we know now that saturated fats are not necessarily the villain and that cheap carbs and transfats are likely to be the cause of the global epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Anyway it is hard to reverse thinking from the 70s and it took time for my household to go low carb.
I remember it started off as a diet that I had to be on for controlling my blood sugars. Hubs was game and came on board with me whenever he could. And my own experience with low carb eating and better diabetes control convinced me but it took time for the family to embrace it. It started hilariously with kid#1 who, being in his late teens was probably more interested in how he looked – his exposure to exercise and gym culture also brought him in contact with others on the ketogenic or low carb high fat (LCHF) diet. So he started eating LCHF. Then without me realizing it, some months ago I noticed that my parents who stay with me had stopped eating rice and buying bread. Mom’s frequent tummy bloating settled and Dad lost some weight and decreased his own HbA1C. Then kid#2 finished secondary school and with a whole 3 months holiday, she was willing to try eating low carb to get her health on track – she dropped 6 kg over about 3-4 months and is now back in school, bringing her own packed low carb lunches and completely loving the fact that she looks and feels great. Funnily enough, my helper D (whom we used to feed all the carby stuff that people gave us and that we didn’t want to waste) also went low carb. One day we were at the wet market and I found her frequently trying to pull up her shorts because they were too loose for her already! It was the moment I realized all 7 of us in the household had pretty much embraced the whole LC way of eating.
So there are still funny moments when we have cell group or mentoring groups over and we smack our heads because we forgot to cook rice for our guests. A sign of how well accepted this way of eating is becoming (among my friends at least) is that last night I had some ladies over for a planning meeting and none of them wanted rice. They were perfectly happy to eat the way we usually eat at home, with Chinese meat, tofu and vegetable dishes.
Anyway embracing this lifestyle has become the norm for us at home. We no longer keep regular sugar in the house (I had a meeting recently that I brought home the leftover Starbucks sugar packets because we would have had nothing to give guests if they wanted sugar with their coffee). We enjoy recreating foods into low carb but identical (or almost identical) versions of what’s out there.
This sukiyaki I confess was not the beautiful refined version you would see in Japanese restaurants. I had a load of ingredients that I dumped in the steamboat for sheer convenience but without much aesthetic sense. But the flavours were true to what I remember of sukiyaki and this is something I am likely to do repeatedly for my family if they want a quick shared dinner.
Low Carb Sukiyaki
- 300 g thinly sliced beef
- 1 leek, cut diagonally into 1 cm slices
- 1 block soft tofu, sliced into 1.5 cm slices
- 10 leaves of Napa cabbage, cut into 3 – 4 cm pieces
- 1 packet of enoki mushrooms
- 2 packets of shirataki noodles
- 5 dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water, then sliced in half
- 1 packet of crown daisies (“tang oh”)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar substitute (I used Lakanto monk fruit sweetener)
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
- Eggs (optional)
- 1 cup sake
- 1 cup mirin
- 1 cup light soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sugar substitute
- 1 piece of kombu kelp
- 20-30g bonito flakes
- 2 cups water
- Boil the dashi stock (kombu, bonito flakes and water) for about 15 minutes. Drain and set the stock aside.
- Mix the sukiyaki sauce ingredients (sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar substitute) and set aside.
- You can use a sukiyaki pot for cooking but I used a steamboat cooker instead. Turn on the steamboat and heat up the 2 tbsp of oil.
- Gently lay out the sliced beef and cook slice by slice, then piling the cooked slices on one side of the steamboat. When done, add the monkfruit or other sugar substitute and sauté further for another minute.
- Push the beef slices to one side, then arrange the cabbage, tofu, mushrooms, enoki mushrooms and leeks in the pot.
- Add the Dashi and sukiyaki stock and simmer all the ingredients for a couple of minutes. The sukiyaki can be served out of the steamboat and enjoyed as a group.