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This recipe for beef picanha yakiniku is inspired by Nikkei cuisine, a style of cooking which applies Japanese techniques and styles to South American ingredients and dishes, especially in countries such as Peru and Brazil. It was created by Japanese people who migrated to South America in the 19th and 20th centuries. For more of this cuisine, check out Luiz Hara's Nikkei aguachile and daigaku imo.

Recipe writer Luiz Hara says: Yakiniku refers to Japanese grilled meats, particularly wagyu beef where paper-thin slices are grilled over a portable charcoal barbecue at the table. I never had the privilege of eating wagyu in Brazil when growing up but in our home we had plenty of picanha – Brazil’s most loved cut of beef.

Usually served at rodizio churrascarias (barbecue houses), the whole piece is grilled on a metal skewer with rock salt, then sliced thinly at the table. My family would further season the meat by basting it with a dressing of soy sauce, lime, olive oil and garlic.

This is a classic Brazilian-Nikkei dish, and the first one I thought of when asked to write my cookbook in 2015. Something magical happens when the picanha’s fat melts and blends with the umaminess of soy sauce, garlic and lime.



  • 1.2kg beef picanha
  • rock salt, for the beef


  • 120ml soy sauce
  • 60ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 60ml (about 2 limes) lime juice
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed


  • sunflower oil, for deep-frying
  • 300g onions, peeled and sliced lengthways
  • 30g cornflour
  • 1 long red chilli, de-seeded and finely diced
  • 10g micro coriander
  • 10g micro red amaranth or edible flowers
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • sea salt flakes, to taste


  • STEP 1

    Heat the grill to 220C or medium-high. Heat enough sunflower oil in a medium pan to deep-fry the onions to 160C or until a cube of bread browns in 45 seconds. Put a batch of the onions in a bowl, add 1 tbsp of cornflour and mix well to coat thoroughly. Shake off any excess flour, then carefully lower the onions into the hot oil and fry for a few minutes until lightly golden. Remove and put them on a tray lined with kitchen paper or a metal grill. Repeat until all onion slices have been fried. Set the onions aside until needed but keep the oil hot over a low heat as you will be re-frying the onions shortly.

  • STEP 2

    Make the dressing by vigorously mixing together the soy, olive oil, lime juice and garlic.

  • STEP 3

    Cut the whole picanha into six 5cm square pieces (about 200-250g each), keeping the thick layer of fat on the upper side of the meat. Put the picanha pieces on a rack in a roasting tin so that the fat will drip down. Season them generously with the rock salt and grill in the oven for 10 minutes, flesh-side up.

  • STEP 4

    Remove the rack from the oven, turn the picanha pieces over and put the tray back on a lower rack under the grill for a further 6-10 minutes, fat-side up, depending on thickness.

  • STEP 5

    Meanwhile, re-fry the onions at 180C for just 30 seconds-1 minute to gain a deeper golden colour and turn very crispy. Remove them from the oil and drain on the same tray lined with fresh kitchen paper. Season with fine sea salt.

  • STEP 6

    Check how well done the meat is by squeezing it – I like the meat pink (medium-rare), so the picanha should feel bouncy but firm, cooked for about 15-20 minutes in total. Alternatively, you can take one piece out of the grill and slice it through its thickest part to check for doneness. Brush off any excess rock sea salt from the meat. Cover and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

  • STEP 7

    Using the sharpest knife you have, slice the meat very thinly. Put the slices in a row on a long rectangular serving dish, drizzle over some of the dressing and top with the diced red chilli, coriander, red amaranth, sesame seeds and sea salt flakes. Serve immediately with the onions scattered on top.

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