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A la Carte: Sukiyaki Super Bowl

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By Rachel Hergett EBS COLUMNIST

Last weekend, many of us were crowded around televisions, lounging on couches or in bars to watch the Super Bowl—or Rihanna slay the halftime show—while snacking on nachos and wings.

As a kid, our house held what I believed to be the best of these parties for the big game. It was rowdy, drunken, and often included halftime sledding (or snow canoeing) down our steep driveway—the premier sledding hill in our neighborhood in the foothills of the Bridger Mountains. But my mom and stepfather grew up, and I guess so did I. The parties ended and they started a Super Bowl weekend tradition that involves cross country skiing in Yellowstone with their closest friends and a few nights at Chico or lately a short-term rental. My cousin John or I stay at their house with our grandmother. Out of that, our own tradition has emerged.  

We call it the Sukiyaki Super Bowl and it started as a reason to cook the food of her youth for our now 92-year-old grandma, Keiko. Sukiyaki is a Japanese hot pot. It’s not fancy. It’s a jumble of ingredients in a soupy broth served over rice (but everything in Japanese cooking is served with rice). To me, it feels like a hug.

The author’s 92-year-old grandma readies ingredients. PHOTO BY RACHEL HERGETT

The most difficult part of feeding sukiyaki to a crowd is the prep. Especially because John and I like to go big. We cut up firm tofu, shirataki (yam) noodles, udon noodles, mushrooms like maitake, enoki or shiitake, Chinese (napa) cabbage, bok choi and green onions—bunches and bunches. My mom likes to joke that you know an Asian household because a jar of little blue rubber bands lives somewhere in the kitchen. The rubber bands hold together green onions at the grocery store. There are always some in my kitchen. 

To make sukiyaki, start with a broth. It contains equal parts soy sauce, sake and mirin and about double that of stock—usually a dashi made with kelp or fish. Add a bit of sugar to taste. 

In a hot wok or cast iron pan, fry up some thin slices of a well-marbled piece of beef. Once it’s browned, move it to the side and start adding your prepped ingredients to the pan. It’s a habit to keep the ingredients grouped, so the dish takes on a choose-your-own-adventure style. Some families keep the udon noodles out until the end, using them in the remaining broth. People in our family like noodles too much for that and add them right in. 

Ingredients are grouped together and prepped ahead of time for a choose-your-own-adventure element. PHOTO BY RACHEL HERGETT

The beauty of sukiyaki is in the customization. One of our guests couldn’t eat carrots, so carrots were off the prep list. Bean sprouts and snow peas looked good at the market, so they were added. It can be vegetarian without the beef, or gluten free if you replace soy sauce with tamari.

John and I bill the Sukiyaki Super Bowl to our friends as a meal with the game on in the background, and they often choose a more standard game day spread and we end up eating leftovers for a week. We don’t mind. Whether it is attended by me, John and grandma Keiko or a whole host of friends, Sukiyaki Super Bowl is a tradition we savor.

Rachel Hergett is a foodie and cook from Montana. She is arts editor emeritus at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and has written for publications such as Food Network Magazine and Montana Quarterly. Rachel is also the host of the Magic Monday Show on KGLT-FM and teaches at Montana State University. 

Putting together your bowl is always a fun time when friends are involved. PHOTO BY RACHEL HERGETT

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