Tag Archives: niku jaga

Kindergarten bento – Niku-jaga croquette (12/Jul/17)

With the leftover niku-jaga in the bento yesterday, I made a bunch of croquettes as a variation by mashing the niku-jaga, applying flour, beaten egg & bread crumbs, and deep-frying them.

Despite my effort and to my dismay, however, my daughter only ate one of them in her bento today, claiming the sauce was missing, and it wasn’t very tasty… What an excruciating criticism from a 4-year-old…

Yes, indeed I did omit to season it with her favorite Japanese Worcester sauce this morning. The magic sauce that works wonders with deep fried food such as croquettes and tonkatsu (Japanese style pork schnitzel). I thought it wasn’t necessary because the niku-jaga was already seasoned.

But my daughter is right, the niku-jaga croquettes do taste much better with the sauce, so I served now the leftover croquettes for dinner, this time with her favorite Japanese Worcester sauce.

Kindergarten bento – Niku-jaga (1/Nov/16)

Menu: Niku-jaga (stewed potato & meat), Broccoli omelet, Boiled green beans, Cherry tomato, Rice with furikake sprinkle

Strawberries & banana for dessert

Niku-jaga is stewed potato and meat, usually cooked with carrot and onion. I once wrote about potato being considered as vegetable in Japan 🇯🇵 (hence it comes with rice in a bento box). Most of my Western friends disagree – click here to find out more!

Food for thought – Potato is vegetable!

Did you know in Japan potato is considered as vegetable? We eat potato just like any other veggies and serve with other carbs, such as rice, noodles or bread. We have dishes like niku-jaga (potato & meat stew),  yakisoba (stir fried noodles with veggies & meat/seafood that can come with potato as one of its ingredients), and potato salad sandwich among many others.

Potato salad sandwich (from http://sandwich1118.com/ポテトサラダ/)

Growing up in Japan, I never considered potato as staple food, since it always comes with another, more ‘prominent’ staple like rice or noodles. We also eat other root vegetables in the same manner as potato, from lotus root, burdock root, carrot and to Japanese daikon radish. The way we Japanese look at potato may be comparable to how Western people treat carrot. They are both root vegetables, and Western people don’t eat carrot as staple food just like we don’t eat potato that way. Always as side dish, salad, or ingredients in soup or stew; the same for us with potato.

In fact, if potato is served in lieu of rice or noodles it could become almost a torture for me after a few days, which always happens in Holland when we go visit my husband’s family. I don’t dare say this to my mother-in-law (better not to offend your in-laws, right…?), but my poor husband always gets nagged by me, because I start craving for rice and noodles really badly, and that becomes the sole thought in my head. Why? Because in my mind potato is vegetable, and I need to eat ‘proper’ staple food to satisfy my appetite.

Growing up in Holland on the other hand, my husband loves potato as his staple food. One evening, maybe one year into our happy marriage, I served niku-jaga for dinner, along with rice and miso soup. I still remember his puzzled facial expression, looking down at his bowl of shiny freshly cooked rice, not knowing what to do with it. He was enjoying the best dish ever from his loving wife, potato & meat stew a.k.a. niku-jaga, that reminds him of his content childhood (despite a bit different flavour I suppose). After a while he finally asked hesitantly, “why do you have rice on the table…? We are eating potato tonight, so don’t need any rice, do we…?” At the beginning I didn’t understand him, but then he told me that niku-jaga for him was like niku-don (pork on rice) for me, eating meat and staple at the same time and no need for another staple to be added to it. His explanation made such good sense, so he kept on enjoying his niku-jaga by itself while I ate my rice with a bit of niku-jaga as a side dish.

And that was when the cultural difference in our eating habit first emerged on a surface, and it has been continuing to this day.


Our compromising tofu hamburg steak dinner the other day

Kindergarten bento – niku jaga (16/May/16)

Menu: “niku jaga” stewed potato & meat, shirasu (baby sardine) mixed with rice, omelet, cherry tomato & green bean salad

Grapes for dessert

Niku (meat) jaga (short for jagaimo, which is potato in Japanese). We eat this as side dish along with rice. Yes, most of the time we consider potatoes as vegetable. 
Niku jaga recipe:


– Potatoes (15 small ones / 3 – 4 large ones), cut into bite size pieces

– 1 medium size carrot, cut into bite size pieces

– 1/2 medium sized onion, thinly sliced

– 150g of meat (I like either chicken thigh or pork slices), again cut into bite size pieces

– 1 tbsp vegetable oil 

– 1 tbsp sake (or white wine)

dashi broth, 100 – 150ml or so

– 2 – 3 tbsp of soy sauce

– 1 tbsp of sugar (I like using beet sugar / 甜菜糖)

– 1 tbsp of mirin (or honey, but 1/2 tbsp)


1. In a medium sized pan, pour in oil and stir-fry onion until golden

2. Add carrots and stir fry further

3. Add meat and stir fry until meat turns brown

4. Add sake, stir fry until sake evaporates (this is to give flavour as well as to get rid of the fleshy smell of the meat)

5. Add potato, stir fry quickly (just so the potatoes get mixed with other ingredients)

6. Add broth to barely cover the vegetables (in Japanese, we say “hita hita“). It’s better if the top of the veggies are poking out of the broth

7. Put the lid on (I usually use aluminum foil cut out the same size as the diameter of the pan and directly and gently place it on top of the ingredients – this is called “otoshi-buta“, fallen lid.

8. Bring it to boil, and once boiled lower the heat to low, simmer it until all the ingredients are soft (try by sticking a tooth pick in one of the carrots or potatoes)

9. Once soft, add soy sauce, sugar add mirin. 

10. Bring it to gentle boil, and turn off the heat. Leave it for 10 min or so, so that the sauce is absorbed into the ingredients