Nick Jagger 肉じゃが (Japanese style braised meat and potato dish)

Huh??? Who’s Nick Jagger? Is it the misspelling of Mick Jaggar?  Or is it his brother, or another related family member of his, as far as officially reported (you never know though.) In Japan, it’s spelled “Niku Jaga”, but it’s actually pronounced as Nick Jaggar.

OK, time to stop joking around. Nick Jaggar, or Niku Jyaga, literarely “Meat (Niku) and Potato (Jaga-imo)” in Japanese, and is one of the Japanese staple dishes. It’s like mom’s home cooking to many people.

So, is it the same thing as American meat and potatoes, which is normally huge steak and baked potato in the skin? No not really… Remember my last post? Yes, you guessed it right! The Japanese version has a lot more potato than meat (since meat, especially beef is so expensive there), and cooked in you guessed it, a soy sauce and mirin mixture. That smell is very distinctive and fills many Japanese kitchens!  This is it!

Nikujaga, the Japanese meat and potato dish

Nikujaga, the Japanese meat and potato dish

There are several different versions: some people put carrots (like my version), or green beans (I thought about it, but decided to use them for my favorite Turkish dish), or shirataki or ito-konnyaku noodles… Some are soupy, some are not. Actually in our household, I make it with ground turkey, since my hubby from Meat and Potato country Wisconsin doesn’t eat red meat!!! What’s wrong with him? (Long story…. He used to, but when he lived in Japan, he found the price of meat (especially beef) so high, he decided to live witout it.) Since then, he doesn’t eat red meat, even when we visit his family in Wisconsin, which is kind of a problem, because there is not much else to eat in winter in Wisconsin…. It’s not Bay Area, where there are many Vegans and vegetarian options. Hey… I can cook this Nick Jaggar thing when we are there during our upcoming family reunion! Made with all familiar ingredients, they may like it too. They will LOVE IT! Then I can have a break from American meat and potato dishes! (and hot dogs!) Anyway, because of that reason, and my unwillingness to give up all these meat dishes at home, I’ve made a compromise to cook most of my meat based dishes with poultry.

One more thing about using thinly sliced meat or scrap meat. This dish taste better when there’s some fat on the meat. So, when you are at the butcher, ask them to cut that sort of meat (shoulder, loin etc.) very thinly or just use ground meat.

Ingredients: Serves 4

  • Thinly sliced beef or pork, cut bite size (or use meat scraps) or ground turkey, 1/2 lbs (200-250g)
  • 1 Medium onion, sliced
  • about 1 1/2 lbs (700g) potatoes, peeled and cut in bite-size pieces (Note: Use Yukon gold or red potatoes if you want to keep the shape of potatoes)
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and cut in bite-size pieces
  • 1 1/2 tbs sugar
  • 2 tbs mirin
  • 3 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbs sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet or a shallow pan on high (make sure you have a matching lid). Cook thinly sliced onions until translucent. Add the meat cut into bite size pieces and cook until the meat starts to change color.
  2. Add sugar, mirin and soy sauce and mix it well with ingredients from #1.
  3. Top with potatoes and carrots , add about 2 c of water (make sure the vegetables are covered up to about 2/3 of their height) Cook on High with the lid on. If you are cooking in a skillet, make sure the water is not too high (it will boil up like crazy.)
  4. Stir the pot every 5 minutes or so, making sure the food doesn’t get burned. If the liquid is almost gone before the vegetables are tender, add some extra water. (We are steaming vegetables here with this liquid, but we don’t want the final dish too soupy, so the harder the veggies are, the more water you will need.)
  5. When the vegetables are cooked through and tender, remove lid, stir from the bottom a few times, and let the rest of liquid evaporate a little more. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Variation:

  • If adding green beans, do so after potatoes and carrots are relatively soft, the last 5 minutes or so of cooking.
  • If adding shirataki noodles: first rinse in salted water, cook in clean water, boil for 5 min, release in cold water, squeeze out water and cut in bite size pieces. Add this in when you add potatoes and carrots.

Bon Appetit!   いただきまーす!

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