You could say that Simmered Beef and Tofu is a simpler version of Sukiyaki. Except it is not a hotpot. It is served as a dish in a bowl. The flavour is very similar to Sukiyaki, with its sweet soy flavour. It is a hearty dish full of protein.
Simmered Beef and Tofu is called ‘niku dōfu’ (肉豆腐) in Japanese, which means meat (niku, 肉) and tofu (豆腐). The sound of tofu becomes dōfu for easier pronunciation. The reason why it has the word meat instead of beef is that you can use pork as well as beef.
This is one of the popular Japanese tofu recipes.
Difference between Niku Dōfu and Sukiyaki
The flavour of Niku Dōfu and Sukiyaki is made by using almost identical ingredients – cooking sake, mirin, soy sauce and sugar. But here are the differences between them:
- Niku Dōfu is served in a bowl but Sukiyaki is a hotpot – you cook and eat it on the table.
- You can use beef or pork to make Niku Dōfu but Sukiyaki uses only beef.
- The number of ingredients in Niku Dōfu is less than in Sukiyaki.
- The proportion of tofu to meat in Niku Dōfu is much larger than Sukiyaki.
Sukiyaki is considered to be a special meal in Japan because large slices of quality beef are used. But Niku Dōfu is a common home cooking dish, using pieces of sliced meat that can even be from offcuts.
In my post Sukiyaki, I listed the typical ingredients, which includes at least 6 items. Niku Dōfu on the other hand, is usually made up of sliced meat, tofu and sliced onion or green onion.
What is in my Simmered Beef and Tofu
- Thinly sliced beef cut into bite size pieces
- Tofu cut into a large bite-size pieces
- Onion cut into wedges
- Shiitake mushrooms
I used onion to go with the beef and tofu, but you can use green onions instead. If you don’t have shiitake mushrooms, you can omit them. Alternatively, you can add other Asian mushrooms such as enoki mushrooms or shimeji mushrooms.
Simmering sauce ingredients are:
- Soy sauce
- Cooking sake
Unlike Sukiyaki sauce, I don’t use dashi stock for Niku Dōfu because you get a stock from the beef and the amount of beef in this recipe is sufficient for that.
How to Make Simmered Beef and Tofu
To obtain good stock from sliced beef, you cook the beef slices in the beginning, but they need to be removed from the pot while other ingredients are cooked. This is because the thinly sliced beef does not need to be cooked for very long.
- Wrap the tofu in kitchen paper to remove excess moisture.
- Add all the Simmering Sauce ingredients to a frying pan or a shallow saucepan and mix well.
- Scatter the onion in the pan and bring it to a boil.
- Add the beef and cook until all beef slices are cooked through.
- Transfer the beef to a plate/bowl.
- Add tofu and shiitake mushrooms to the pan, place a drop lid on top. When it starts boiling, reduce the heat to low and cook for about 7 minutes with a lid on.
- Put the beef back into the pan and cook for a couple of minutes.
You can add the uncooked beef slices at the end to avoid overcooking, but this method does not let you cook other vegetables with the stock from the beef. There are extra steps to take the beef pieces out and put them back in, but I think that my method adds a better flavour to the tofu and other vegetables.
As mentioned earlier, you can make Niku Dōfu with thinly sliced pork as well. The method is the same.
Niku Dōfu Variations
The minimum ingredients of Niku Dōfu are thinly sliced beef or pork, tofu, and onion or green onion. But you can add different ingredients for a change.
- Add shiitake mushrooms (per my version) or a combination of different Asian mushrooms.
- Add beans, bok choy or carrots.
- Cut blanched green leaves such as mizuna, chrysanthemum leaves and spinach, and place a bunch of them on top when serving Niku Dōfu (left photo below).
- Add an egg (Onsen Tamago or poached egg) on top when serving so that you can eat Niku Dōfu just like Sukiyaki.
- Put Niku Dōfu on rice in a bowl and turn it into Niku Dōfu-don, like Gyū-don (right photo below).
Simmered Beef and Tofu (Niku Dōfu) is a very simple dish, but it is packed with flavours. You can serve it not only as a main dish but also as a side dish by reducing the quantity per serving.
I hope you try this dish.
You could say that Simmered Beef and Tofu (Niku Dōfu) is a simpler version of Sukiyaki, but it is not a hotpot. It is served in a bowl as a dish. The flavour is very similar to Sukiyaki, with its sweet soy flavour. It is a hearty food full of protein.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 1 pack momen tofu (300g / 0.7lb, note 1)
- 150g / 5.3oz beef very thinly sliced and cut into bite size pieces (note 2)
- 100g / 3.5oz onion cut into wedges (note 3)
- 4 shiitake mushrooms halved
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp sake
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 100ml / 3.4fl oz water (note 4)
Place the tofu on a cutting board lined with kitchen paper.
Halve the tofu lengthwise but do not move the halved pieces. Then, cut the tofu perpendicular to the first cut into 4 equal portions so that there are 8 tofu blocks in total. Do not remove the blocks.
Wrap the entire tofu block with more kitchen paper and leave for 10 minutes. This will remove excess water from the tofu.
Put the Simmering Sauce ingredients in a frying pan or a shallow saucepan, mix and dissolve sugar.
Add the onion wedges to the pan and bring to a boil.
Shift the onion pieces to one side and add the beef slices. Turn the beef over for about 2 minutes until the colour of all the beef slices changes to brown (note 5).
Transfer the beef to a plate/bowl and loosely cover with foil.
Add the remaining ingredients to the pan, place a drop lid on top.
Reduce the heat to gently simmer and cook for 7 minutes with a lid on.
If the sauce is reducing too fast, add 1-2 tablespoons of water.
Remove the lid and the drop lid, put the beef back into the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes to heat up the beef, then turn the heat off. There should be about 5-6 tablespoons of sauce left in the pan.
Transfer the ingredients to individual serving bowls or a large serving bowl to share, clustering each ingredient together.
Pour the simmering sauce over and serve while hot.
1. You need to use firm tofu/momen tofu. Silken tofu/kinugoshi tofu is too soft for today’s dish.
You can also use yaki-dōfu (grilled tofu) if you can buy it. Yaki-dōfu is firmer than momen tofu due to its grilled surfaces. My post Negima Nabe explains how to make yaki-dōfu at home if you are interested.
2. I bought thinly sliced frozen beef suited to sukiyaki. A sukiyaki slice is quite large, so I cut it into bite-size pieces. The beef slices do not have to be high-quality.
You can make very thinly sliced beef from a block of tender meat. You can find how I make thin slices from a block of meat in my post Beef Rolls with Asparagus.
3. There are no rules as to how to cut onions. You can slice the onion into 1.5cm / ⅝" wide pieces instead.
4. The amount of water required can vary depending on the strength of the heat and the surface area of your pot. You can adjust it while cooking the vegetables.
5. If you see a lot of scum rising up, remove it but try not to take too much sauce with it.
6 Nutrition per serving.
serving: 414g calories: 421kcal fat: 21g (32%) saturated fat: 6.6g (33%) trans fat: 0.0g polyunsaturated fat: 4.5g monounsaturated fat: 7.6g cholesterol: 50mg (17%) sodium: 936mg (39%) potassium: 689mg (20%) carbohydrates: 24g (8%) dietary fibre: 3.4g (14%) sugar: 17g protein: 32g vitamin a: 0% vitamin c: 6.2% calcium: 35% iron: 28%