Japanese hot pots: yosenabe
It has long been a source of frustration to me that sushi is so much better known than any other aspect of Japanese cuisine. Even in a big city like Toronto, the ratio of sushi restaurants to other types of Japanese restaurants is about a zillion to one. Japan’s culinary traditions are so much broader and deeper than that, especially when it comes to home cooking.
Case in point: nabemono. Usually translated as “hot pot”, nabemono is a fundamental item in the Japanese home cooking repertoire. So fundamental, in fact, that it’s extremely poorly represented in my Japanese cooking library, beyond sukiyaki and shabu shabu, presumably on the idea that it’s too basic to be of much interest.
That gap was the impetus behind my recent purchase of Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat’s book Japanese Hot Pots: Comforting One-Pot Meals. This book lays out in gratifying detail everything you need to know about nabemono, from the basic vegetables to the featured meat and seafood, dipping sauces and condiments, and finishing rice or noodles. It also explains how to eat nabemono, whether cooking it on a tabletop burner or bringing it to the stove after cooking it on the stove. The authors have even set up a website to promote the book, complete with demonstration videos.
Tofu features prominently in many hot pots, not just vegetarian ones, so I was excited to be able to use my own homemade tofu in one. It didn’t look as nice as it could have, but after simmering in dashi enriched with soy sauce and mirin, it tasted incredible.
The particular nabe I made is called yosenabe; from what I can tell, its distinguishing feature is that it contains both chicken and seafood. It was a reminder that great Japanese cooking all but requires great seafood. Sadly, Guelph has no source for quality fresh seafood, but Waterloo does, and I picked up some incredible scallops, Gulf shrimp and fish there. Combined with a variety of vegetables in the dashi broth, it was a delicious, hearty way to bid farewell to winter.
What kind of hot pots have you tried?