Is there a food that can recall your memory about your mom and hometown? For Japanese people, Nikujaga usually arouses their nostalgia for their moms’ cooking and family. It’s a classic Japanese dish that is similar to a beef stew. During this cold winter, our Japan-America Society of Washington DC (JASWDC) held a fun class for attendees to learn and enjoy the hearty and soul-warming Nikujaga, accompanied by rice and pickled vegetables. In fact, some attendees have tried Nikujaga when they visited their friends in Japan. They believed that the taste of Nikujaga could bring their great time in Japan back again. In addition, Nikujaga usually isn’t served in the restaurants. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn how to cook it at home through our class.

Although Nikujaga is a classic home-cooked dish, it has historical relevance as its invention is attributed to Togo Heihachiro who is known as one of Japan’s greatest heroes for his role in the battle of Tsushima Strait. He ordered naval chefs to create a Japanese alternative to British Beef Stew in order to increase the proteins and calories in Japanese sailor’s food. Nowadays, Nikujaga is more than a food for the navy. It’s also a dish that Japanese women typically cook for their husbands or boyfriends. Another fun fact about Nikujaga is that it’s recognized as the favorite food of one of the most popular mascot in Japan called Domo.

Nikujaga is made by stewing beef, potatoes, and onions in sweetened soy sauce. Toppings like konjak, carrots and green beans are also good choices for being added to the Nikujaga. Our JASWDC had prepared all the materials beforehand and gave a presentation about the history and receipt of Nikujaga to the attendees. It helped the attendees to get fully involved in the class and cooking. During cooking, attendees were sharing their experience in Japan and life with their partners. After nearly an hour, every group successfully made their delicious Nikujaga and enjoyed them with our self-made eggplant pickles. Nikujaga is not only a dish for arousing the nostalgia but also the one for connecting people who have similar interests and love sharing.