Negimaki – Beef & Scallion Rolls

One of the reasons I love Japanese food as much as I do is its inherent simplicity. Most of my favorite dishes call for just a handful of ingredients, and achieve their delicious success through the perfect balance of salty, savory, sweet and tangy. Negimaki, the much-loved staple of most Japanese restaurant appetizer menus, certainly falls into this category.

We recently decided to try making these tasty beef and scallion rolls at home using a bit of surplus beef roast from our Sunday dinner. I didn’t look at a recipe, but just trusted my instincts and my previous experience with restaurant negimaki to put these together. Overall, they were pretty darn good, but I know some things I would do differently next time.

First of all, I’d use a more tender cut of meat, and try harder to get each slice to an even thickness – J and I both took a turn with the knife, but neither of us were able to get good, clean slices. It would probably also help to be cutting the slices off of a full roast, rather than the small piece we reserved. I’d marinate both the beef and the scallions in some soy sauce and sesame oil, and possibly just a bit of sugar, before rolling. And I would cut the scallions to fit the width of each piece of beef, rather than cutting them into uniformly-sized lengths and then piecing everything together on the roll.

For now though, here is my recipe. Feel free to try it as written, since they were quite tasty, or make your own adjustments. Just remember – keep it simple!

Negimaki – Beef & Scallion Rolls
4-6 slices of beef, somewhere in the neighborhood of 4×6″, cut or pounded to 1/16″ thickness (you could always simply ask your butcher to cut some beef scallopine style, if you don’t want to mess with this yourself)
1 bunch of scallions
black pepper
sesame seeds
toasted sesame oil
soy sauce

Condiments – sweet asian-style chili sauce, wasabi, soy sauce, , sriracha, teriyaki sauce

Trim the ends of the scallions, then quarter lengthwise to get something that resembles long blades of grass. Now cut them into approximately 2″ lengths. Divide equally into as many portions as you have slices of beef.

Lay a slice of beef out on a clean plate or board with one of the shorter sides closest to you and season lightly with salt, freshly-cracked black pepper, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Place one of your portions of scallions on top of the beef, about 1″ in from the narrow edge closest to you and arranged across the full width of the meat, with all of the scallions lying parallel to each other. Now fold the exposed edge of the meat over the scallions and roll up as tightly as you can without pushing out all the scallions. Use some butcher’s twine to hold the roll together, wrapping it around the center and both ends. Set aside and repeat the technique to make the rest of your rolls.

Season the outsides of the rolls with a bit more salt and pepper and a drizzle of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil.

Heat a griddle or large frying pan on the stove until very hot. Add a small amount of vegetable oil, then the rolls. Sear very well on all sides – it shouldn’t take more than a minute or two on each side – then remove to a plate or board to rest briefly. Drizzle on a bit more soy sauce and sesame oil if you like.

Use a sharp knife to slice each roll into three pieces, then cut away the butcher’s twine. Serve standing on-end with your choice of condiments – teriyaki is pretty traditional, but I found I liked them best with some sweet and spicy asian-style chili sauce, while J preferred wasabi and sriracha (as pictured).

We made these into a meal with an incredibly simple stir fry of baby bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, onions and red bell peppers, seasoned with just some soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, garlic and black pepper. This was shockingly good, and far more than the sum of its parts, much like the negimaki themselves.

Its a difficult thing to remember at times, but sometimes simple really is best.

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