What is Sukiyaki?

Celeste Heiter
Celeste Heiter
Thinly sliced Kobe beef for sukiyaki.
Thinly sliced Kobe beef for sukiyaki.

Sukiyaki is a Japanese hot pot dish that is usually cooked at the table in a cast iron skillet. It typically contains thinly-sliced beef, cubes of tofu, and a variety of fresh vegetables. Noodles called konnyaku may also be added. The ingredients are simmered in sake, soy sauce, and mirin, a sweet Japanese cooking wine. Lightly beaten raw eggs are served as a dipping condiment for the sukiyaki ingredients.

Shiitake mushrooms are a common ingredient in sukiyaki.
Shiitake mushrooms are a common ingredient in sukiyaki.

Japan’s renowned Kobe beef is regarded as the finest available for making sukiyaki. The best cuts are well-marbled sirloin or filet mignon sliced paper-thin, although lesser grades of beef may be used. Extra-firm tofu holds up well in a hot pot dish and is preferred over regular or silken tofu. Traditional vegetables include spring onions, chrysanthemum leaves and Japanese mushrooms. Konnyaku noodles have a gelatinous texture and are made from a root called devil’s tongue.

Enoki mushrooms are often used in sukiyaki.
Enoki mushrooms are often used in sukiyaki.

In Japan, there are two distinct regional styles of sukiyaki. In the Kanto region surrounding Tokyo and Yokohama, the ingredients are combined in the skillet and simmered together in the broth. In the Kansai region surrounding Osaka and Kyoto, the beef and tofu are first seared with oil or beef tallow in the skillet. The vegetables are added, the broth is poured over them, and the noodles are added last. In the northern provinces of Niigata and Hokkaido, pork may be substituted for beef.

Spring onions are traditionally used in sukiyaki.
Spring onions are traditionally used in sukiyaki.

The dish is believed to have originated during the Meiji Era between 1868 and 1912, when Japan opened its ports to foreign visitors. Some sources maintain, however, that the dish originated in Korea, where it is known as chongol. Either way, sukiyaki became popular in Japan during the Meiji Era, when beef first became available to the general population.

Sukiyaki is typically served during the winter months, when families gather around heated kotatsu tables used for both cooking and keeping warm. The dish is also served during the winter holiday season at late December “forgetting the year” parties called bonenkai. There are also sukiyaki restaurants throughout Japan that serve the dish year round.

A famous Japanese song "Ue o muite arukō" by Kyu Sakamoto was released under the Americanized title “Sukiyaki.” The Japanese title means “I will walk looking up,” and the song tells of a man who has lost his love and wants to keep his tears from flowing. The song lyrics have nothing to do with the dish known as sukiyaki.

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Discussion Comments


This sukiyaki dish sounds wonderful, especially with the fall weather starting, and the morning and nights starting to get chilly.

This sounds like a great dish for most people, as it sounds like you can put whatever vegetables in it that you want. I think soy sauce compliments many oriental dishes well.


I will have try sukiyaki in a hot pot! The only suggestion I would have to make without even having made this dish is to make sure to have mushrooms.

My family loves to cook dishes in our cast iron pot (the seasoning of this pot just seems to make the difference). With that said, my family has a favorite recipe that is cooked like this sukiyaki dish and the mushrooms really gather in the sauce and are super tasty!


@letshearit - I would just go with a sukiyaki recipe that you think will taste great. I don't really mind changing the vegetables up a bit. I think one of the great things about Japanese cuisine is the ability to be able to swap ingredients out and still have something that tastes delicious.

One thing I would recommend though, is that when it comes time to simmer your beef, choose a good sake. I find that the sake you use can really influence the taste of the meal. Some may say it isn't important, but try it for yourself and see.


There is a great Japanese restaurant near my house that serves sukiyaki and it makes a really great meal on a cold day. I actually love that they use a cheaper cut of beef at the restaurant I go to because Kobe beef is far to expensive for an casual meal.

Does anyone know how I might going about making really good sukiyaki at home? I have seen a lot of recipes online, but they all have little variances to them which makes me wonder which one I should try first. The biggest difference is usually in the vegetables used. Which I am sure is mostly done due to availability issues.


Wow, what a cool idea! This sounds like a great method to cook!

I'm a very picky eater and I rarely get to eat what I want at home because everybody else wants something else. My mom can't cook separate meals, so I end up picking my food or just making a sandwich for myself. If we cooked sukiyaki method, everyone would get to have what they want! I could pick the ingredients I want to have and cook it myself and everyone else would get to as well!

I don't know if my mom will be willing to try it but I'm going to tell her about sukiyaki. Maybe we can buy a sukiyaki set, if there is such a thing.


In my family when we have sukiyaki, we first boil and eat vegetables, and then meat. When all of the vegetables and meat is finished, we use the remaining water by putting rice in it to make soup. We finish our meal with the soup.

This is a really healthy way to eat because there is little or no oil and the vitamins and minerals in the vegetables are not wasted. The final water that is left is like a broth and contains all of the beneficial parts of the foods.

This is also an affordable way to eat. When I was in college, my roommates and I used to eat sukiyaki often.


I watched a TV program about life in Japan and sukiyaki was one of the things they described. The program said that sukiyaki is a great way for families to eat because they spend quality time together while the food is cooking. It's apparently also become popular in restaurants as well.

They showed a sukiyaki restaurant where the only food served was sukiyaki. There was a skillet on every table and the guests ordered the meats and vegetables they wanted to eat from the menu and cooked everything themselves.


@Azuza - I've had sukiyaki made on a table top with the traditional veggies. It was very good also. I actually had it at one of those Japanese steakhouse type restaurants. It was a local place, and they made it right at the table just like the rest of the food.

It was extra fun, because they made it out of the same type of sake we were drinking. I felt like in that instance the sake complemented the meal perfectly!


I was confused about how sukiyaki was cooked at the table until the article mentioned the kotatsu cooking table! What a cool idea. I feel like it cuts out a step of meal preparation-you don't have to walk the food to the table after you cook it. It's already there!

I have had sukiyaki before, but it was cooked on a regular gas range stove. It was very good! It's definitely one of those things you can kind of cook with the ingredients you have on hand, too. For vegetables we ended up using mushrooms, zucchini and red pepper. Not traditional, but very tasty.

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    • Thinly sliced Kobe beef for sukiyaki.
      By: kentoh
      Thinly sliced Kobe beef for sukiyaki.
    • Shiitake mushrooms are a common ingredient in sukiyaki.
      By: Chris leachman
      Shiitake mushrooms are a common ingredient in sukiyaki.
    • Enoki mushrooms are often used in sukiyaki.
      By: Lovelli
      Enoki mushrooms are often used in sukiyaki.
    • Spring onions are traditionally used in sukiyaki.
      By: andersphoto
      Spring onions are traditionally used in sukiyaki.