Mom’s Pot-Cooked “Roast Beef”

Japanese Roast Beef

This recipe is an adaptation of a Western dish made by a woman in a Japanese home kitchen and illustrates how even a simple recipe can become something different from the original. Ms. Shimbo was in elementary school before her family had an oven so her mother made roast beef in a pot. The braised beef that I made in January is similar in the cooking method, but while that was a “stew,” this recipe really is almost like a roast.

A recipe like this makes me wonder how “authentic” my Japanese cooking is. I make an effort to find the exact ingredients for each recipe, but this book was written in English, and some ingredients are not available outside of Japan. Also I’m thinking that there is more to Japanese cuisine than the food. There is a sensitivity to colors, textures, seasonality, and variety in each meal that I don’t think I can learn from a book.

And sometimes, I just don’t have the exactly right ingredients. I knew there was a snow storm coming, so when I was at the store the other day, I bought chicken for the last recipe, and beef for this one. Unfortunately, I had only skimmed the ingredients for this recipe. I knew it was for a “roast beef” and it made sense to me to buy a chuck roast because I thought this recipe would be a “pot roast.” Chuck or brisket are my top choices for that sort of meal. The snow storm came as predicted yesterday, and as I prepared to cook I saw the recipe specifies a small top round roast.

I just could not face the snow! Why, when there is 3″ of snow on the ground, is the car covered with 6″? I followed the recipe, but increased the cooking time; chuck roasts need time to melt the tendons or whatever they are to be tender.

So my interpretation of Japanese roast beef became my pre-concieved notion of what I thought it would be: pot roast. Mr. Tess and I really enjoyed the meal, and I’d make my version again. Even so, I bought some top round today and will give the recipe another go: that cut can be served rare!

To accompany the beef dish, I made rice and also potato pickles. I will post about the “pickles” in another entry.

Mom’s Pot-Cooked “Roast Beef” page 464

serves 4 to 6

To Start:

  • 1 1/2 pounds beef top round

(I had 2 pounds of chuck, but by the time I cut off the fat, there was only 1 1/2 pounds—it looked ok from the top of the package, but there was a fat surprise on the underside!)raw-chuck-roast.jpg

  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic

Salt and pepper the beef and rub it with the garlic. Let the meat rest, 15 minutes.

Browning the Beef:

  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon sugarRosuto-Bifu!

Heat a skillet, and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the beef, and brown both sides lightly. Sprinkle the sugar on the beef, and continue to brown until the sugar caramelizes on both sides. You can smell it before it burns! Remove to a plate.

The Sauce to finish cooking:

  • 1/2 cup sake
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1/3 cup shoyu

In a pot big enough to hold the meat, combine the sake and mirin. Bring the mixture just to a boil and turn the heat to low. Add the beef and cover with a drop lid. Cook the beef for 10 minutes. (For the chuck, I cooked it for about 30 to 45 minutes.) Add the shoyu and cook for 5 to 8 minutes longer. Turn the meat for even color.

A “drop lid” is a wooden lid that fits inside a Japanese pot with a bit of space around the circumference of the pot. It allows food to cook without “steaming” as when there is air between the food and a regular lid. It also prevents too much liquid from evaporating. You can cut a circle of parchment to fit inside your pot so it rests right on the food. Cut an X in the center to let steam escape.


  • Top leaves from watercress
  • 1 Tablespoon wasabi
  • 1 cup grated daikon

Remove the beef from the pot, and let it stand uncovered for 10 minutes. The beef will be quite rare. Strain the cooking liquid and cook the sauce over low heat to thicken slightly. Cut the beef into thin slices (Chuck does not slice very thin!). Serve on a platter garnished with the cress. Serve the sauce,wasabi, and daikon in separate bowl on the table.

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