Nikujaga (肉じゃが) literally means "meat-potato", which is a pretty good clue for the two main ingredients in this Japanese stew. One of those few Japanese dishes that are easy to prepare anywhere in the world, nikujaga is also cheap, filling and quite hard to screw up.


  • 300g thinly sliced fatty beef
    • Note that "thin" means thin here, think "slice of bacon". In Japan you can buy usuguri-cut meat off the shelf anywhere, but elsewhere you'll need to buy the meat whole, freeze it for a few hours, and then shave off slices with a very sharp knife.
  • 3 medium potatoes
    • or an equivalent amount of small new potatoes with the skin still on
  • 1 onion
  • Optional: snow peas, carrots, other root vegetables
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tbsp sake (or very dry white wine)
  • 2 to 5 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp mirin (or one extra tbsp sake and sugar each)
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  1. Peel potatoes, slice into spoonable chunks and soak in water for 5 minutes. Cut onion in half and slice. Cut beef into 7-cm/3" pieces.
  2. Heat oil in saucepan. Fry beef until light brown. Add potatoes and onion, fry until onion is wilted.
  3. Add water and bring to boil, skimming off any scum.
  4. Add sake, mirin, sugar and 2 tbsp of soy. Turn heat to low, cover and cook until potatoes are done (at least 30 minutes, but more won't hurt).
  5. Pour in the remaining soy sauce and cook for one more minute.

Nikujaga is most often seen as a snack of sorts, eaten with chopsticks from a low bowl with only a bit of broth. While occasionally turned into a full Japanese meal by adding rice, pickles etc, you can also try a Western approach by serving up nikujaga with the broth as big bowls of soup, perhaps with fresh bread on the side. As a full meal the above will only serve two people, so you may wish to double the ingredients.

The meat and potatoes are the meat and potatoes of the dish (har har!), so any other vegetables should be used very sparingly. The usual style is to include one (1) snow pea per bowl.

As usual with stews, keeping it overnight and reheating only improves the taste.

The only acceptable drink with nikujaga is cold beer. Kanpai!

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