A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 31, 2008
Sukiyaki

Japanese “sukiyaki” (also spelled “suki-yaki” in the early 1900s) is cited in English from at least 1911. Sukiyaki quickly became Japan’s most famous international dish and was served in Manhattan’s Japanese restaurants from the 1920s and 1930s.

“Sukiyaki” is pronounced “skee-ya-kee” and means “slice” (suki) + “broil” (yaki). As served in New York City in the 1930s, “sukipayki” meant small burners brought to each table, where thin slices of beef were cooked and preapred with vegetables, all served over rice. The original Japanese dish did not contain beef and the Japanese diet did not contain much meat. The world’s most famous Japanese dish is largely the result of the western influences if Japan, especially in the port city of Nagasaki—and of these western restaurateurs.


Wikipedia: Sukiyaki
Sukiyaki (Japanese: 鋤焼 or more commonly すき焼き; スキヤキ) is a Japanese dish in the nabemono (Japanese steamboat) style.

It consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef), or a vegetarian version made only with firm tofu, slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients, in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. Before being eaten, the ingredients are usually dipped in a small bowl of raw, beaten eggs.

Generally sukiyaki is a single dish for the colder days of the year and it is commonly found at bōnenkai, Japanese year-end parties. A common theme in Japanese comedy is that one can make passable sukiyaki even on a very tight budget.

Ingredients
Thinly sliced beef is usually used for sukiyaki; although in the past, in certain parts of the country (notably Hokkaidō and Niigata), pork was also popular.

Popular ingredients cooked with the beef are:

. Tofu (usually seared firm tofu)
. Negi (a type of scallion)
. Leafy vegetables, such as Chinese cabbage and shungiku (Garland chrysanthemum leaves)
. Mushrooms such as shiitake and enokitake
. Jelly-noodles made out of konnyaku corm such as ito konnyaku or shirataki noodles. It is advisable to place these away from the beef because the calcium contained in the noodles can toughen meat.
. Boiled wheat udon or soba (buckwheat) noodles are sometimes added, usually at the end to soak up the broth.

Preparation
Like other nabemono dishes, each Japanese region has a preferred way of cooking sukiyaki. The key difference is between the Kansai region in western Japan and the Kantō region in eastern Japan. In the Kantō (Tokyo) region, the ingredients are stewed in a prepared mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sake and mirin, whereas in Kansai (Osaka, Kyoto region), the meat is first grilled in the pan greased with tallow. After other ingredients are put over these, the liquid is poured into the pan. The shungiku are added when all the ingredients are simmering. A raw egg is broken into a serving bowl, one egg for each person. Some prefer to add a bit of soy sauce and the egg is lightly beaten. The meat and vegetables are dipped into this sauce before eaten.

History
Some anecdotes are known for the early history of sukiyaki. One is about a medieval nobleman. He stopped at a peasant’s hut after a hunt and ordered him to cook the game. The peasant realized that his cooking utensils were improper for the noble, so he cleaned up his plow blade (suki in Japanese) and broiled (yaki) the meat on it. Another story is about the Portuguese in the sixteenth century in Japan, where beef was not common food. They eagerly ate animals everywhere, even on suki.

In the 1890s when Japan was opened to foreigners, new cooking styles also introduced. Cows, milk, meat, and egg became widely used, and sukiyaki was the most popular way to serve them. The first sukiyaki restaurant, Isekuma, opened in Yokohama in 1862.

Beef is the primary ingredient in today’s sukiyaki. There were two main ways of cooking sukiyaki: a Kantō (Tokyo area) and a Kansai (Osaka area) style. In the Kantō way, the special cooking sauce’s ingredients are already mixed. In the Kansai way, the sauce is mixed at the time of eating. But after the great Kanto earthquake of 1923, the people of Kantō, temporarily moved to the Osaka area. While the people of Kantō were in Osaka, they got accustomed to the Kansai style of sukiyaki, and when they returned to Kantō, they introduced the Kansai sukiyaki style, where it has since become popular.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
sukiyaki
Pronunciation: \skē-ˈyä-kē; ˌsu̇-kē-ˈ, ˌsü-\
Function: noun
Etymology: Japanese, from suki- slice + yaki broil
Date: 1919
: a dish consisting of thin slices of meat, tofu, and vegetables cooked in soy sauce and sugar

(Oxford Engish Dictionary)
sukiyaki
[Jap.]
A Japanese dish, consisting of very thin slices of beef fried with vegetables in sugar and soy sauce, and often served with rice.
1920 Japan Advertiser 22 Aug. 5/1 Another name by which this dish [sc. nabe] is usually known outside of Tokyo, is suki-yaki. This is derived from suki, which means a spade, and yaki, to cook.
1932 H. A. PHILLIPS Meet Japanese xvii. 185 Beef sukiyaki tasted good after a long day’s jaunt.
1935 B. WOON San Francisco & Golden Empire v. 62 The best suki-yaki restaurant is not in the Japanese quarter but in a Japanese hotel near the corner of California Street and Grant Avenue. Here tasteful suki-yaki dishes are cooked in chafing-dishes, Japanese style.
1943 H. MEARS Year of Wild Boar iii. 51 The Japanese who patronized this place..did so only to sample American culture, as in New York the American might dine in a Japanese sukiyaki restaurant.
1952 R. CUTFORTH Korean Reporter xvi. 147 There are other famous meals—Sukiyakia— fry of chicken or beef with vegetables and soya.
1964 I. FLEMING You only live Twice xxii. 253 A highly spiced dish of sukiyaki, the national dish of beef stew.
1970 P. & J. MARTIN Jap. Cooking 72 Put a sukiyaki pan or a large, heavy frying pan over a portable cooking stove.
1977 Time 19 Dec. 43/1 (caption) Drama Coach Lee Strasberg cooks sukiyaki in Manhattan.

Google Books
February 1906, The Boston Cooking-School Magazine, “After Breakfast Chat” by Janet M. Hill, pg. 246, col. 2:
The menu included: udon (noodle soup), chicken udon, chawan moosh (steamed custard, fine vegetables), tamago yaki (ham omelette), suki yaki (chop suey) , chicken suki yaki (chicken chop suey), ira udon (chop suey, fried noodles), chicken iri udon, mesha (rice), chab (tea), shoga (candy ginger).

14 May 1911, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, “Banzai, Little Nipon! How Much You Have Changed Since We Saw You First!”, pg. 12:
The dinner began with misosshiru, and included sashimu, garnished with che. The main item was delicious sukiyaki.

4 October 1918, Fort Wayne (IN) News and Sentinel, pg. 12, col. 1:
The luncheon was a novel affair with all appointments in Japanese effect, even to the serving of the national dish “sukiyaki” with the customary chop-sticks, all details of the appointment made possible by the shower of gifts presented the hostess’ son, now famous Birdboy Art Smith, on his recent trip to the Orient.

6 July 1919, New York (NY) Times, “Nippon in New York: Tired Jap Business Men; Cooking for Yourself” by Takeo Oha, pg. 34:
“Sukiyaki,” a compound word still unauthorized in any standard English dictionary, is the Japanese “quick lunch.” eaten while being cooked on a small charcoal table stove. Beef, onions, cabbage, beancurd, and other vegetable additions, not forgetting Japanese soy, sugar, and a little sake, are ready to be prepared in a shallow pan a la japonaise on the fire.

Google Books
Japan:
Real and Imaginary

By Sydney Greenbie
New York, NY: Harper & Brothers
1920
Pg. 64:
Sukiyaki, it is called, which means “enjoyable fry.”

Google Books
Far Eastern Jaunts
By Gilbert Collins
New York, NY: Henry Hold & Company
1924
Pg. 107:
Within the memory of man, sukiyaki was unknown in Japan, and at first it encountered the fiercest…

Google Books
Wanderings in Nippon:
A Few Personal Reminiscences

By Howell H. Reeves
Published by The author
1927
Pg. 57:
The rickshaw and “ sukiyaki “ (Japanese stew) were invented by missionaries.

Google Books
Terry’s Guide to the Japanese Empire,
Including Korea and Formosa, with Chapters on Manchuria, the Trans-Siberian Railway, and the Chief Ocean Routes to Japan: A Handbook for Travellers with 8 Specially Drawn Maps and 23 Plans

By Thomas Philip Terry
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company
1928
Pg. 112:
Sukiyaki (pronounced skee-yah’-key) customarily is prepared by the host, who, with his guests, squar round a small electric brazier brought to a private room floored with soft matting and bright with flowers.

Google Books
Unfathomed Japan:
A Travel Tale in the Highways and Byways of Japan and Formosa

By Harold Waldstein Foght and Alice Mabel Robbins Foght
New York, NY: The Macmillan Company
1928
Pg. 41:
It will be recalled that the sukiyaki was invented by an American missionary who got ...

9 November 1928, Newark (OH) Advocate, “Suki-Yaki Is Popular Dish,” pg. 14, col. 4:
At the Japanese dining room off Columbus Circle, New York, the interior of a once stuffy and fashionable residence has been transformed by screens and vases and oriental wallpaper into a fairly authentic fragment of Japan. The head waiter is an Oxford man, but his address is Kyoto and all his crew is Japanese.

The most popular dish, with both Japanese and American patrons, is suki-yaki. The ingredients for it are brought to the table in a big lacquer bowl, and are prepared by the guest himself in a frying pan, over a gas plate placed before him. The principal factor in suki-yaki is lean beef sliced thin. Into the pan with it go sliced onions and mushrooms, bamboo sprouts, a soy bean curd which is somewhat like cottage cheese, and a generous handful of green onion tops. The dish is seasoned with shoyu sauce and salt and sugar, and is eaten on rice.

Google Books
New York is Everybody’s Town
By Helen Josephy and Mary Margaret McBride
New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
1931
Pg. 95:
Japanese food — suki-yaki — is cooked in iron skillets on a hot plate at his elbow.

Google Books
The Real New York:
A Guide for the Adventurous Shopper, the Exploratory Eater and the Know-it-all Sightseer who Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

By Helen Worden (Erskine)
Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill
1932
Pg. 274:
Stick to something like suki-yaki. This is very fresh, tender, chopped steak sizzled in diced onions and cooked with bamboo shoots.

Google Books
Japan, the Official Guide
By Nihon-Kōtsū-Kōsha (Tōkyō, Nihon Kōtsū Kōsha, Japan Tetsudōshō, Japan Unʾyushō. Kankōkyoku
Published by Japan Travel Bureau
1933
Pg. xvii:
Among these may be mentioned suki-yaki, which consists of slices of beef broiled with vegetables, etc. in a pan over a brazier. Flavoured with japanese soy and mirin (spirit distilled from rice and sweetened), this dish will be found very palatable.

Google Books
Dining in New York:
An Intimate Guide

By Rian James
New York, NY: The John Day Company
1934
Reprinted by READ BOOKS, 2007
Pg. 63:
(Miyako, 340 West 58th Street—ed.)
And the Miyako deals exclusively in Japanese fare. There ae no American dishes for the timid adventurer. Here, you will eat your beef Suki-yaki, your Satsuma-Jiru, your Umani, cooked with Shoyu — and you’ll like it. Soft-stepping, fleet-footed waiters appear out of the nowhere, bearing bamboo shoots, mushrooms, bean curd, sea-weeds, and strips of red, raw beef. From out of the nowhere, also, there appears a “kitchenette size” gas stove and it is connected right at your table. Affectionately, ceremoniously, your waiters place the vegetables in a deep frying pan on the stove, and while you eat your steaming Kenchin (vegetable soup) out of an ebony bowl, thin as an egg shell, your Suki-yaki purrs and sputters and gives off an aroma to quicken the appetite of a dyspeptic.

In a trice, the pieces of raw beef are added, and in no longer than it takes to tell it, your Suki-yaki is ready; the gas is turned low under the sputtering pan; you are handed a small, deep bowl and a pair of chopsticks (forks on request for the timid), a hug, red-lined ebony bowl of rice, and your adventure waits but to be consumated.
Pg. 64 (DARUMA, In the Manner of the East):
Daruma, being nearer to the theater district, is more inclined to attract a clientele of timid adventurers who have heard all about beef Suki-yaki, but who have never tasted any.

Google Books
Where to Dine in London
By Bon Viveur
Published by Geoffrey Bles
1937
...dish to order is the famous Sukiyaki. This is beef, chicken or duck cut in thin slices and served raw with vegetables and rice

Google Books
Dining, Wining and Dancing in New York
By Scudder Middleton
New York, NY: Dodge Publishing Company
1938
Pg. 76:
...two very good japanese restaurants, the ,i>Miyako at 340 West 58th Street, and Toyo Kwan at 41 East 18th. Here you’ll find sukiyaki at its best. It’s prepared and cooked in a large chafing dish in front of you on your table. Very thin strips of beef, ...

Google Books
Where to Dine in Thirty-nine:
A Guide to New York Restaurants, to which There is Added a Cook Book of Recipes by Famous Chefs

Compiled by Diana Ashley
New York, NY: Crown Publishers
1939
Pg. 79 (Mikyako Sukiyaki):
The sukiyaki is made right on your table with much ceremony.

Google Books
New York City Guide: A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Boroughs of the Metropolis--Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Richmond ...
By Federal Writers’ Project (N.Y.), Federal Writers’ Project (New York, N.Y.)
New York, NY: Random House
1939
Pg. 26:
JAPANESE. Suki-yaki (pan-cooked meat and vegetables), sake (rice wine). DARUMA, 1145 6th
Ave.;...

Google Books
Almanac for New Yorkers
By Federal Writers’ Project (N.Y.), Federal Writers’ Project New York (City)
Published by Modern Age Books, 1939
Pg. 29:
...suki yaki (Japanese); moo goo gai pen (Chinese);...

Google Books
Dining in New York with Rector:
A Personal Guide to Good Eating

By George Rector
New York, NY: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1939
Pg. 230:
And, insofar as I can qualify as an expert, I would report that the suki-yaki is genuine, other Japanese dishes are excellent, and, if nothing Japanese is ...

Google Books
The Book of Tofu:
Protein Source of the Future-- Now!

By William Shurtleff, Akiko Aoyagi
Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press
1998
Pg. 224:
SUKIYAKI
A Japanese cookbook written over 350 years ago contains the following recipe for Sukiyaki: “Obtain wither wild goose, wild duck, or antelope, and soak the meat in tamari shoyu. Heat a well-used Chinese plow (kara-suki) over an open fire. Place the meat on the plow, garnish with thin rounds of yuzu, and broil on both sides until the color changes. Serve and be happy.”

The word sukiyaki—pronounced skee-ya-kee—means “boiled on the blade of a plow.” Although modern preparation generally features beef as the basic ingredient, sukiyaki was traditionally prepared with wild game, fowl, fish, o shellfish.
(...)
Developed in the international port town of Nagasaki, shippoku was said to have its historical culinary roots in Holland, Portugal, China, and Korea. As a result of the merger, the original sukiyaki ingredients eventually came to be cooked in heavy iron or Korean-style stone pots, and the dish was served as a one-pot meal prepared at the table. Consequently “sukiyaki” became a misnomer, for the new dish was neither broiled nor prepared on a griddle-like plow. But neither was the new sukiyaki a true ,i>nabe dish, since its ingredients were not simmered in a seasoned broth. Rather, this unique Japanese creation straddled three categories: it was a broiled dish insofar as the meat was first cooked in a sizzling-hot pan; it was a nabe dish since it was a one-pot dish prepared at the dining talbe; and it was a nimono, or simmered dish, insofar as the meat and vegetables were simmered together in a rich mixture of shoyu, sake, and dashi.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Wednesday, December 31, 2008 • Permalink