Nikujaga is a homemade cuisine that is known by everyone in Japan.
“Niku” means meat, and “jaga” is an abbreviation of “jagaimo” which means potato. It usually represents the dish that reminds the taste of mother’s cooking. The dish can be made easily by shimmering, and goes well with rice.
The ingredients includes potato, onion, sliced beef, and shirataki (a stringlike product made from konnyaku starch.) Sometimes carrots and other vegetables are added too. It is normally seasoned with sugar, soy source, milin (fermented rice seasoning fluid,) and sake. The taste gets deeper and better if the dish is laid over night.
In Japan, eating meat was not a popular until Meiji period (1868-1912), and the history of nikujaga is not that old. The origin dates back to Meiji period when very famous Admiral Heihachiro Togo (1848-1934) came back from England for studying abroad. He was impressed by the stew he ate in England, and ordered his subordinate to cook beef stew. However, they did not have either brown sauce or wine, so they used Japanese seasoning instead.
It is said that nikujaga was a usual menu among the navy, and the way it was made was brought back to the homes by soldiers. In Meiji period, soldiers were suffering from beriberi, and the nutrition of nikujaga helped solving the problem. Curry rice also comes from the the menu of the navy, which the ingredients are similar to nikujaga.
However, the term nikujaga became known as the taste of mother’s cooking about only 30 years ago. When fast food began to sweep over Japan, the conventional lifestyle deceases was becoming a problem. Nikujaga drew attention because it contains necessary vitamins that can help prevent the deceases.