Ms. Shimbo notes in her introduction to this recipe that beef was very expensive in Japan, especially before import restrictions were relaxed in 1991. Since then, imports from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand have made beef affordable for an average Japanese family. Even even though thick steaks are available, beef is still frequently sold in its traditional thin sliced form.
I can usually find thinly sliced beef in the freezer at the Korean store, but I wanted to use a flank steak that looked really good. I froze it for an hour or so, then sliced it (rather unskillfully) thinly. My strips were only about 1 1/2″ wide. Perhaps I should not have cut them so thin, because when I tried to pound them they just developed holes. In the end, I overlapped two strips and gently pounded them together in the middle. It was good that I started with more meat than the recipe called for because I couldn’t slice it thinly at the end and I ruined a couple of slices by trying to pound them.
Shizuo Tsuji, has a recipe in “Japanese Cooking—a simple art” for vegetables rolled in beef. Thin and narrow strips of beef are overlapped to make a wide sheet of beef. The vegetable are rolled into it, then the roll is held with a fan of skewers. In his version, the roll is grilled whole, sliced and separate sauce is poured over to serve.
Ms. Shimbo suggests other vegetables that can be used: scallions, carrots, green beans, or asparagus.
Classic Japanese Rolled Beef with Vegetables
Gyuniku no Yasaimaki
- Have kitchen string and parchment paper or plastic wrap ready
- 1/2 red bell pepper
- (I used a small bunch of asparagus)
- 14 ounces beef sirloin
- (I bought about 1 1/4 pounds of beef flank steak, and managed to cut thinly a bit less than 1 pound)
- 1 package of enokitake mushrooms, stem ends removed
- (my package was about 6 ounces, 4″ to 5″ long, and cut in half)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- (This is important—I forgot it so you should do it!!!)
- 12 shishitogarashi peppers, or 1 medium green bell pepper
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 2 Tablespoons sake
- 2 Tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking wine)
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- (I used less)
- 2/3 cup of water
- 2 teaspoons shoyu
- 1/4 teaspoon tamari
☆ Blanch the red bell pepper (or the asparagus). Shock in ice water and drain. Dry with a paper towel. Cut into 3″ strips.
☆ Cut the beef into 6 slices. Place the meat between two pieces of parchment paper, and beat with a mallet to make thin, broad sheets about 1/10″ thick. Salt and pepper both sides of the beef. Place red pepper strips and mushrooms across each portion of meat. Tightly roll the vegetables into the beef. Secure each in 3 places with the string. (see my note above difficulties I had)
☆ Heat a skillet over medium high flame and add 1 Tablespoon oil. A few at a time, brown the beef rolls on all sides. Add more oil as needed. Transfer them to a plate covered with foil to keep warm.
☆ Clean the skillet with hot water (I couldn’t bear to discard the flavorful stuff in the pan). Add the sake, mirin, sugar, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Return all the beef rolls to the skillet, and cook for 2 minutes, turning the rolls several times in the cooking liquid. Add the shoyu, and continue cooking for a minute or two. Don’t overcook the beef; it can be fairly pink when it’s cut!
☆ Transfer the rolls to a platter, cover and set aside.
Prick the shishitigarashi peppers with a toothpick, or cut the green pepper into 1 1/2″ squares. Heat a skillet over medium heat, and add 1 Tablespoon oil. When the oil is hot, add the peppers. Cook, shaking the pan until the skins blister. Season with tamari and set aside on a plate.
Increase the heat to high, and boil the remaining cooking liquid to reduce and thicken, about 5 minutes. Add the tamari and return the rolls to the pan to coat them with the sauce.
☆ Remove the beef rolls from the skillet, remove the cotton strings, and cut them into quarters. Serve the rolls drizzled with the remaining sauce and accompanied by the fried green peppers.
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