One thing that I learned about Hawaii when I moved from the Big Island to Oahu for college is that despite living in the same state and having the same obsession with SPAM, there’s still quite a lot of foods that you can go your entire life without eating, even though its in your ethnic food group.
Butter yaki is a perfect example.
Before I met my husband, met his parents, and ate his mother’s cooking, I’d never even heard of Butter Yaki. Meanwhile, my husband had never heard of boonies dishes like egg rice or teriyaki corned beef and onions. The horror!
Anyway, Butter Yaki is very versatile in that you can basically fry any vegetable you want, but our family tends to stick to a certain set of meat and veggies. The recipe that my mother-in-law, Grandma J, uses is from a different book, but I found one in one of my recipe books: 50th Anniversary Best of Our Favorite Recipes 1946-1996.
This book looks pretty homespun due to the binding being the kind you used to make books in elementary school, but it’s FULL of hundreds of recipes. I’ve only made a handful, but if was ever told I could only keep one cookbook, this would probably be the one that I choose. I’ve got the full recipe typed up at the bottom of this post.
The first thing you need to do is prep your veggies. If you’re serving a lot of people, do some stretching because all that chopping and cooking starts getting to your arms and back.
I start with the won bok, otherwise known as Chinese cabbage, because it’s so big and you just fling the chopped pieces into your bowl anyway.
Remove most of the outer leaves with green and wash them before cutting up. You could just wash the outside of it, but there have been times when I’ve bought a little worm house instead of a head of won bok and since I was traumatized once as a kid when I found a dead caterpillar melted into my cheese from a Jack in the Box cheeseburger, I tend to err on the side of caution. Thankfully, I hated tomatoes back then and they forgot to leave it out.
One head gives you a ton of cabbage, so I put some of it away for stir fry because I was only making this for 2 adults and 2 Vegetables are Icky kids.
That is on my giant cutting board, so you can see just how much cabbage it is. It reduces a lot during cooking, but it’s still way too much for 2 people. Keep on cutting!
I forgot to buy mushrooms. Go for fresh ones, even though the recipe says buy canned ones. That doesn’t sound that great. I also didn’t buy the mung bean sprouts because they’re kind of a pain in the ass to cook and eat. Keep it all in a container, ready to throw in.
I put mine into my Halloween candy bowl. Once you have the veggies done, you’re almost ready. You’ll also need some meat.
I suck at cutting meat, so I buy pre-sliced teriyaki or sukiyaki beef. I read that some people cook teriyaki chicken for butter yaki, but I’ve never tried that myself. Sounds yummy, though! Take all the shells off the shrimp and make sure to take their poop strings out.
Next, you’ll need butter, a whole stick. Traditionally, you cook the meat and veggies at the table in an electric skillet and serve people as their food is done, but I do not have an electric skillet. It works just as good cooking on the stove, except you should probably put a big plate out to arrange the cooked food on. You should also have a big honking pair of chopsticks.
If you don’t have chopsticks, a pair of tongs is fine.
Actually, I take that back. Best to use both chopsticks and tongs. Removing the won bok or bean sprouts from the skillet with chopsticks really sucks. Have a small bowl of water nearby, too. This helps make steam to cook the veggies and also cools down the skillet when it’s a little too hot.
Around this time is a good time to start the sauce. There are lots of fancy-pants options for serving, but the sauce in its basic form consists of:
- 1 cup light soy sauce
- 1/4 cup mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
- 1/4 cup sugar
Mix these three ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer on low, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Now you cook the food! I like to cook the shrimp, then the meat, then the onions.
The onions going after the meat works well because it gives you nicely browned onions. Like below:
Keep adding butter as it seeps into the veggies. The eggplant in particular really soaks it up, so add a splash of water when you’re cooking those slices.
Keep checking the underside of the zucchini. When it’s golden brown, turn them over and cook the other side.
As the eggplant slices begin to darken, it’s probably a good time to turn it over. Poke the chopsticks in to see if it’s soft.
You’ll end up with a TON of food. To serve, each person should have a bowl of rice and a larger bowl filled with some of the sauce. If you want, you can grate daikon and serve it on the side for people to put into their sauce. To eat, you simply take your food and soak it in the sauce, then eat it with the rice.
IT’S GOOD STUFF!
- 1 lb thinly sliced beef
- 1 lb shrimp, cleaned and deveined
- 2-3 lb vegetables (won bok, eggplant, zuchinni, bean sprouts, mushrooms)
- 1 block butter
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp Ajinomoto (MSG, optional)
- 1/2 cup grated daikon (optional)
- 2 limes, cut in half (optional)
- Skillet or electric skillet
- Large chopsticks
- Pair of tongs
- Prepare vegetables by chopping and slicing.
- Clean and devein shrimp.
- Simmer soy sauce, mirin, and sugar in a small saucepan.
- Cook meat and vegetables in butter in the skillet on medium high heat, adding water and butter as needed.
- Grate daikon and serve on the side to be added to the sauce. You can optionally squeeze lime juice into your sauce before eating.