During the winter months, I love staying warm with one of my favorite Japanese dishes -- nabe. It’s a simple but hearty soup, filled with meat, vegetables and noodles and can be endlessly customized to suit your tastes.
At its heart, nabe, (a nickname for nabemono or hot pot) is often made with a seaweed-based broth and you can add as many different igredients as you can fit in the clay pot. Here are some of my favorite things to add:
* Vegetables: Cabbage, bean sprouts, shiitake mushroom, spinach
* Meat: My favorite right now is shabu shabu, pork sliced paper-thin and just barely cooked in the hot broth. You can include tofu, chicken, beef – whatever tickles your fancy.
* Noodles: I love udon, but any noodle will do.
* Sauce: You can make an easy, delicious dipping sauce out of tahini (sesame paste), mirin, grated garlic and shoyu.
Nabe is a wonderful antidote to these hectic and chilly times. Even better is that it's a wonderful way for the whole family to partake in the meal. There is a saying in Japan that nabe brings people together, and that is surely the greatest joy of the season.
Here is one of my very favorite recipes:
12 oz wagyu beef, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup sake
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
8 oz firm tofu diced into one-inch cubes
2 cups napa cabbage, cut into one-inch pieces
1 Tokyo or other scallion, cut into pieces one-inch or longer
12 fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 cup dashi
1 bunch enoki mushrooms
Fresh chrysanthemum leaves or watercress
Package of shiritaki (yam noodles) drained and rinsed. Bean or other noodles can be used.
To prepare: Preheat an enameled cast-iron pan and melt some Wagyu fat or other cooking oil, then add the beef slices and sear lightly. Then blend in the mirin, sake, soy sauce and sugar. Add the tofu, cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, and scallion and half of the dashi. When the soup comes to a boil, dashi boils add the enoki mushrooms and chrysanthemum leaves. When the leaves wilt, it is ready to serve.