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Negimaki, Japanese beef and spring onion rolls are sushi-type meat rolls – the prettiest meat dish you can find. My version is made with lean veal escalopes flattened thinly, wrapped around spring onions and marinated in teriyaki sauce.
Negimaki sounds uncannily like a type of sushi and very rightly so. It’s sushi for people who don’t like raw fish and are still hungry after several seaweed-wrapped rice rolls. Together with chicken ramen, negimaki is the salvation of the folk visiting sushi joints only because the partner is mad about katsuo.
It is traditionally made from beef, sliced thinly and flattened thinner. I watched a very long video of a Japanese chef unrolling miles of thinly sliced beef and arranging it side by side to form a negimaki canvas (it was unbelievably boring. Have those people not heard of time lapse?), to then roll up the beef around spring onions (very slowly, several times).
Since it’s the prettiest meat dish I’ve ever seen (meat is horribly unphotogenic), I was very taken with the idea. The cut of beef to use stumped me though: too good and it’s wasted by flattening and overcooking; too tough and it will be tough. To compound the difficulty, cuts of beef differ from country to country so what they use in Japan (wagyu, I bet) might not translate into Aberdeen Angus. I went for veal as a compromise thinking along the lines of escalopes: tender when flattened.
I’ll be honest: it’s a lot of faff. Forty-five minutes from start to finish but it’s a hell of a finicky forty-five minutes. Making a wrap out of animal muscle is not the easiest of tasks, plus you need to blanch the spring onions, otherwise they’ll be stringy. Then the frying – it’s the type that leaves a neat clean circle where the frying pan was, with the rest of the kitchen splatted with fat. But when you’ve done it all, rested the meat rolls a little and go on to cutting them into little sushi-like packages – ahhhhh and wow. It’s pretty food!
And it’s a great wow-factor party snack especially that it can be prepared ahead and served at room temperature. If you want to make it for a special dinner à deux, serve it with plain or glutinous rice, or more sushi rolls.
negimaki vealServings: 2 as main, 4 as starterTime: 45 minutes
- 250-300g lean veal topside
- 6 large spring onions, trimmed
- oil, for frying
- For the teriyaki sauce:
- 50g brown sugar
- a little freshly ground black pepper (tip of a teaspoon)
- a pinch of ground cinnamon
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger root
- 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp. sake (or dry sherry)
- 60ml dark soy sauce
- To serve:
- carrot, cucumber, red pepper, honeydew melon cut into batons
- shredded lettuce
- plain rice (if serving as main course)
1. Chill the veal in the freezer for half an hour to firm it up.
2. Boil water in a large pan or wok and blanch the spring onions to soften. Rinse them with cold water and arrange on paper towels to dry.
3. Slice the meat as thinly as you can and arrange the slices over a sheet of parchment or cling film, to cover a rectangle about 35 x 30cm. Cover the meat with another sheet of cling film and bash with a mallet until very thin and any gaps between the meat have disappeared. Turn the whole thing over and flatten the other side. Trim the edges with a knife to form a shapely rectangle and cut the meat sheet in half lengthwise.
4. Arrange half the onions along the longer edge of each half and roll up tightly, with the help of the cling film sheet. Cut each roll in half for the ease of handling and secure the seam with wooden skewers. Chill on a tray.
5. To make the teriyaki sauce, place all the ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer and cook for a minute until the sugar dissolves. Leave to cool completely and strain to a shallow dish.
6. Roll the meat in the marinade and leave to soak for at least 10 minutes. Heat a large frying pan or cast iron griddle until smoking hot. Add oil to cover the surface, lift the negimaki out of the marinade and add to the pan – take care as the marinade will spit and sizzle furiously. Cook until browned on all sides, about 5-6 minutes. Remove to a clean warm dish and rest for 5 minutes. Pour the remaining marinade to a small pan and cook down to thicken.
7. When rested, cut the negimaki rolls into three or four pieces each, about the size of sushi rolls. Arrange on a dish cut side up and serve with the teriyaki sauce, sweet chilli sauce and the salad garnishes.