Instant Pot Japanese Beef Stew

It’s the school holidays and everyone seems to have left Singapore! My Facebook feed seems to be littered with holiday pictures (and strangely, even pictures of airplanes and airplane tickets). I’m pretty much stuck in Singapore however as kid#1 is in the army and doesn’t have much leave, and kid#2 has a crazy schedule and didn’t really want to leave the country. I could have hopped away with dear hubs but it didn’t make sense to travel at a peak period with everybody else, so here I am, stuck at home.

So the latest cook-off had a distinctly international flavour, possibly because I was unconsciously wanting to eat as though I was on holiday! I usually have lots of frozen beef in the freezer because the entire family adores beef. After making Indonesian oxtail soup, and American lasagna, I decided to make Japanese beef stew. Part of me must want to be inJapan right now. I confess I really adore Japanese food and how they take a French or American dish and change it to suit their palates and it becomes even better than the original version! I still think that Japanese hamburger tastes better than American hamburger and of course their breaded pork cutlet (tonkatsu) is to die for!

I’ve also realized that Japanese must have a rather quiet, tongue-in-cheek humor. I confess I am a sucker for a line of Japanese characters called Sumikko Gurashi. These are from the San-X company (better known for their Rilakuma and Tarepanda ranges). Sumikkos are the “corner people” and are said to be somewhat like shy Japanese who like to hide in corners but have innate high aspirations…probably my all time favourite character is Tonkatsu, who is supposed to be the leftover fatty part of the tonkatsu cutlet…his little pink nose is apparently the only part that has real meat. Tonkatsu is known to be “1% meat and 99% ambition”. Completely hilarious.

Tonkatsu is often seen with his good friend, Ebi, who is recognizably the end of a tempura prawn tail that people don’t really eat. (Picture from

So I really love the quirky, upbeat vibe of these left-behind characters. And in some way I think Japanese food that has integrated international flavours is a little like that…it’s like they are saying “we’re too shy to come out to say we’ve got a much better version of your dish, but we kind of like it and we just do a neat and pretty version of it!”

Anyway I decided to make Japanese beef stew. It is still, at the heart of it, a hearty and rich beef stew, but the shoyu (soy sauce)-mirin-sake combination is what makes it distinctly Japanese. The mirin and the butternut squash give the stew a slightly sweeter flavour. This stew is slightly less low carbohydrate in content than what I usually make, but I felt that the flavours were well worth the extra carbs!

Instant Pot Japanese Beef Stew

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print


  • 1 kg beef cheeks, cut into large chunks
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, chopped
  • 100g butternut squash, cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated.
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup sake
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tbsp olive oil


  1. Marinate the beef pieces with the soy sauce, white pepper, paprika and grated ginger for 1/2 hour.
  2. Put the olive oil in the Instant pot and turn on the sauté mode.
  3. Sauté the celery, carrots and onions for about 2-3 minutes, then add the beef pieces and stir through.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes, mirin, sake and salt and bay leaf. Make sure that the beef pieces are all immersed.
  5. Close the pot and put the valve into sealed position. Put on manual high pressure for 40 minutes.
  6. Allow natural pressure release. Skim off the layer of oil and discard.
  7. Remove the beef pieces and put into a casserole.
  8. Put the pot back on sauté mode. Put the squash pieces in and cook for about 10 minutes to cook the squash and also reduce the gravy.
  9. Sprinkle the xanthan gum over the gravy and stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes and thicken up the gravy.
  10. Pour the gravy over the beef pieces in the casserole and serve hot.


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