Colin first sampled this delicious dish while in Japan, and has yet to have a restaurant version as good as you can make at home. This is most impressive when cooked in the center of the table in an electric skillet, though you can do it at the stove if you prefer. Make enough steamed white rice (medium grain) for everyone to have about a cup. This version amply serves four people.
2 pounds sirloin or round
2-3 bottles sukiyaki sauce
1 cup firm tofu, drained
1 can bamboo shoots
1 can water chestnuts
2 cups bean sprouts
1 onion, sliced
2 leeks, the white part sliced diagonally into long ovals about ¼-inch thick
3-4 stalks celery, sliced
1 small package bean-thread vermicelli noodles (optional)
If you can, buy the beef sliced very thin – about ⅛ of an inch. Get the butcher to do it for you, or place the meat in the freezer for twenty minutes to firm it up and do it yourself with a sharp knife, making slices across or diagonal to the grain. The thinner slices will cook faster and pick up more flavors from the sauce. Drain the tofu, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. Cook the noodles (white, translucent vermicelli) and drain them. Arrange all of the ingredients in bowls or plates around the electric skillet, heated to medium (simmering, not a rolling boil), and put about half of them into the skillet along with a bottle of sauce. Everything should be cooked enough to start eating within about ten minutes – each person can dish out their own. Add more ingredients and sauce as you go. This is an entertaining dinner where everyone can be the cook.