Japan – Nikujaga (肉じゃが)


What’s Cooking in Japan?

Nikujaga (肉じゃが)

Nikujaga is a Japanese comfort food, also known as ‘meat potatoes’. Thinly sliced beef that melts on your tongue, in a stew of potatoes, carrots and sweet soy bouillon. You can easily make it at home by following Nicki’s Nikujaga recipe!


Photos of Japan provided by Tokiotours

Nicki lives in Tokyo with her Japanese husband and daughter. She likes life in Tokyo, especially because of the weather, the food, and because there is always something to do in Tokyo.  “Tokyo is a very lively city, it’s super safe, and the people are very polite”, says Nicki. “There are many, many restaurants that also cater for smaller budgets. For 10 euros you can already eat like a king in Tokyo”. Every city also has disadvantages, and Nicki tells us Tokyo is very busy on the streets and in public transport. If you want to go somewhere, you will need to plan in advance. Another disadvantage of Tokyo is for people that suffer from hay fever. “It’s very heavy in Tokyo”, says Nicki.

Photo provided by Tokiotours

Since Nicki moved to Japan, she started her own private tour guide company, called Tokiotours! At first, she did it by herself, but since she has become a mom, she has hired several tour guides throughout Japan who can offer her tailor-made tours in several languages! What Nicki likes about this, is that her tours will take tourists to off the beaten track locations. Tokyo is so big and most tourists would not get to places like ‘Setagaya ku’ with a Cat temple (Maneki Nekko temple) or to the Todoroki Valley which is a nice place to walk away from the crowds.

About Japan and it’s food culture

Japanese eat a warm meal 3 times a day. For breakfast often grilled fish, Miso soup and fermented soy beans. For lunch a Bento, and at night it could be anything, from Japanese pancakes (Okonomiyaki) to Noodle soup or Japanese BBQ. Nicki shares a recipe for Nikujaga with us, which is a typical winter dish. In summer Nikujaga is eaten cold, but more as a side dish. In winter it is a meal served with rice and most of the time with Tsukemono (vegetables) or Hijiki (seaweed).

What is typical in Japan are the many animal cafés. Most people are not allowed to have pets at home, so you have catcafés, reptilecafés and even a café with goats… When you visit one of these cafés you will pay for a cover charge for a drink and to spend time with the animals. Other than that Japan has a well-know tea culture but coffee is also very popular in Japan, and there are many coffee bars.

Photo provided by Tokiotours

Nikujaga recipe:

Cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 teaspoons cooking oil
  • 400 gr of beef (thinly sliced)
  • 2 medium sized onions (cut in thick slices)
  • 8 potatoes (cut in to big pieces)
  • 3 big carrots (cut in to big pieces)
  • (Optional) 1 piece of Konnyaku cut in to pieces (this is a super food)
  • 230 ml of sake
  • 500ml of Dashi (or beef stock)
  • 4 table spoons of brown sugar or Japanese Mirin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 6 table spoons of Japanese soy sauce
  • 280 grams of Shirataki noodles
  • Rice for on the side


How to prepare:

  • Cut the vegetables and the meat if you did not buy it sliced.
  • Heat up the oil in a large pan and cook the slices of beef until well done. Take the meat out, but keep the oil in the pan.
  • Fry the onions in the pan until translucent and then add the potatoes, the Konnyaku (optional) and the carrot and fry for about 3 minutes.
  • Add the Sake and bring it to boil. Cook for 1-2 minutes until you no longer smell the alcohol. Add the beef stock (or Dash), the sugar, the salt and the soy sauce, and put the meat back into the pan. Let it cook on low heat for 30-40 minutes until well cooked.
  • At the last minute you add the noodles.
  • In case you have foam on top while cooking, you should take this off.
  • Serve with rice. You can also make it a day ahead, the flavors will even be better the next day.

At Let’s Explore we have tried Nicki’s Nikujaga recipe and we love these kind of dishes! It made us think of an Asian version of the French Beef Bourguignon, which we often cook at home!

Thank you so much Nicki for sharing this recipe with us. Tokyo is definitely on our bucket list, so hopefully we will be able to do one of your tours one day!

In case you would like to know more about Nicki’s tours in Tokyo, check out her website: https://www.tokiotours.com/