History of Sukiyaki and the Best Sukiyaki in Tokyo

Food Chronicles

All About Sukiyaki and Where to Have it in Tokyo

In its history and today, sukiyaki is a celebratory and communal meal shared with family and friends on special occasions. Sukiyaki is a nabemono, or Japanese hot pot, consisting of thinly sliced beef and vegetables cooked in soy sauce, sugar, and mirin in a shallow cast iron pot.

History of Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki became a part of Japanese cuisine towards the end of the Edo period in the 1860s and popularized during the subsequent Meiji period. There are various stories regarding the history of sukiyaki. The name “sukiyaki” comes from “suki” meaning spade, or even “sukimi” meaning thinly sliced meat, and “yaki” means grilled.

Edo farmers would cook their fish and tofu with their spades, known as suki. During this Edo period in Japan, beef was banned because of Buddhism beliefs and because cattle, which were brought in from Korea and China, were highly regarded for their cultivation of the rice paddies.

There were only 2 exceptions to eating beef during the Edo period. One, when you were sick, such as the ailing soldiers. And two, for special events like the year-end parties which explains why sukiyaki is a popular meal at the end of the year.

In the 1860s, western foreigners introduced new cooking styles as well as cows, milk, and eggs. Yokohama opened the first sukiyaki restaurant in 1862 with Kanto style sukiyaki which simmers the beef and vegetables in a stew of the sauce. In 1872, the Emperor celebrated the new year by eating meat. This popularized meat dishes among the Japanese people.

The 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake migrated most people to Osaka. This is when they were introduced to the Kansai-style of sukiyaki in which the beef is first seared in the pot to caramelize with a little sugar and then the vegetables are cooked afterward in a little sauce. When the people of Kanto returned to the Tokyo area, they also brought the Kansai style of sukiyaki with them.

Today, sukiyaki is still considered a meal for special occasions because of its price and the premium quality of the beef.

 

Best Sukiyaki in Tokyo: Moritaya

Moritaya is one of the original sukiyaki restaurants in the country. It was founded in 1869 in Kyoto and remains on the best places to enjoy sukiyaki in Japan.

In Osaka, Moritaya is located in the Osaka Station up in the Lucua department store restaurant floor. The food is amazing and a great experience in the city. However, compared to Tokyo, the service is rather rushed and often times lacking. Perhaps it is because Osaka is more casual and that the restaurant caters to a clientele that of tourists or locals in-transit at the train station.

If you are in Tokyo, Moritaya is a must, as are reservations. The restaurant only allows a certain number of takes for lunch and dinner to allow sufficient time for the servers to cook the meal at your table. The meals are priced slightly higher than Osaka, but you feel the worth and value of the additional appetizers and the more attentive and refined service.

Plus, in Tokyo, Moritaya is located on the 35th floor in Marunouchi for the most premium views overlooking the Imperial Palace gardens and the city.

Read more about Moritaya and its branches around Japan here

 

Food Photos from Moritaya in Tokyo

The Table Setting

The cast iron pot. Whether it’s Kanto style or Kansai style, sukiyaki is cooked in a shallow cast iron pot. In sukiyaki restaurants, sukiyaki is cooked in the middle of the table by a server who can guide first-timers how to properly enjoy the meal

Appetizers

At Moritaya you first choose the cooking style of beef. If you go to Moritaya, you must choose its specialty – sukiyaki. You then choose between the beef cuts which relates to how much you want to pay for the meal. The specialness of the appetizer corresponds to your selection. At the Tokyo branch, the appetizer is more generous and more beautifully presented
In the Tokyo branch, you pay a little more compared to Osaka, however you feel the worth of the additional courses and the refined service. This Tokusen sukiyaki meal is served with an additional appetizer course featuring beef cooked three ways: roasted, marinated in soy sauce, and seared

The Premium Japanese Wagyu Beef

Japan really has the world’s most gorgeous beef. Look at that incredible marbling. You really do not need to eat a massive steak to truly enjoy this. Just a few bites and it already brings complete satisfaction
Japanese meals provide a complete balance as the vegetables are always paired with the beef of sukiyaki. Plus, all the vegetables are so high in fiber. Along with your meal at Moritaya, the menu also offers an excellent sake and shochu selection
That first sizzle of the beef cast iron pans immediately brings anticipation to the meal and your first bite of that incredible beef. Kansai style first sears the beef and caramelizes it with the sugar crystal. That really brings out an intense, melt-in-your-mouth marbled beef experience

Eating Sukiyaki

In both Kanto and Kansai styles of sukiyaki, a beaten raw egg dip is served alongside the meal. Every bite of beef and vegetable is dipped into the egg like a sauce. In Moritaya Osaka it is your eating bowl. In Moritaya Tokyo, it is your separate dipping bowl
After the first slice is cooked (you are given 2 slices for a total of 150g), the second slice and vegetables are then cooked. You can take your time eating. As you eat, the server will replenish your bowl with more meat and the vegetables. The meal is completed with rice, pickles, and miso soup

Dessert

Like the appetizers, the dessert course is more special as you pay more for the meal. Also, compared to Osaka, this Tokyo branch serves mochi ice cream aside from the seasonal fruit, in this case, it is strawberry and muskmelon

 

Watch the video below featuring my dinner at Moritaya in Tokyo. And subscribe to my YouTube channel for my latest travel vlogs

 

Address & Hours

35F Marunouchi Building
2-4-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
+81-3-5220-0029
Monday to Saturday, 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 9:30pm
Sunday and Holidays, 5pm to 8:30pm
Reservations highly recommended

 


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