My friend, the lovely Mikayo, cooked for the boys and me at her home last night. She made sukiyaki (which I thought was pronounced "soo-kee-yah-kee" but is actually "skee-yaki" if you want to speak proper Japanese).
First she sliced the negi, those big green onions (leeks?) and laid them down like a "carpet" in the cast-iron pot, on top of a drizzle of sesame oil.
The pot sat on a freestanding gas burner that she put right on the counter in front of me. I must get myself one of these.
After the onion, the sliced beef. (I buy this meat all the time at the grocery store, but usually just throw it into a frying pan with a splash of teriyaki sauce, put it on a roll and call it a steak sandwich. Which is a big hit in our home, but this is way better.)
On top of the meat, Mikayo poured a mixture of sake, soy and sugar (which you can boil down separately beforehand or buy in most supermarkets here already bottled, like this one, named for Imahan, a famous sukiyaki restaurant in Ningyocho -- like buying Rao's tomato sauce at Gristede's).
After the beef had cooked for a few minutes, she added some enoki (those pale skinny mushrooms) and cabbage and some slices of fried tofu, then a few clumps of potato noodles.
Everything nestled together nicely in the pot and simmered in the sweet tangy sauce.
Occasionally she'd toss in a little bonito broth (or dashi, a fish broth) to keep everything moist. She added the mizuna, a mildly bitter green, last, maybe because it wilts so fast.
As I tucked in to my first bowl, Mikayo told me that sukiyaki is enjoyed in three stages:
Round one: you serve yourself some meat and veg and enjoy it as is.
Round two: you break a raw egg over everything and mix is all up. The egg cooks as it combines with the hot food. Serve.
Round three: add white rice to the pot of whatever is left (mostly sauce) and simmer, "like a risotto."
We never did get past round one because we were all stuffed, and I didn't think the boys would go for the egg bit anyway.