Question by Aya Rus Rowan: What on-hand ingredients would make a flavorful nabe (hot pot) and what order should I add them in?
My question is what type of nabe can I make with the ingredients I have on hand. I know nabe is highly customizable, you put in or leave out whatever you wish. But I would like to check with someone with experience as to what goes well together and what does not–what makes for too bitter a combination for example. I have put some of my personal taste preferences further down.
I have to work with what I have on hand as there are no asian markets here, I ordered most of the Japanese ingredients online. I have searched for recipes already, but most I have seen require dipping sauces which I have no access to. I could make a makeshift ponzu sauce with lemon, but I would prefer no dipping sauce required.
My personal tastes:
I love broth–the broth itself should hearty and flavorful (I’d prefer the flavor of broth over flavoring with dipping sauces)
I prefer salty over sweet
I dislike really bitter things
Things I have on hand:
White miso paste
Dried konbu/Bonito flakes (for dashi)
Dried sliced shiitake mushrooms
From everything I’ve read, I’m thinking on cabbage, leek, carrot, chicken, shirataki noodle, shiitake mushroom. The best broth for my tastes would probably be the heartier miso-based kind.
In this case, would I make the broth the same way I would make miso soup? Or are there additions that would go well for nabe?
And the last question is what order would you add ingredients in? What takes the longest to cook and what should I add last? Is there any particular way to layer them? I’ve never cooked with cabbage or leek before, so I’m really clueless as to how long either will take in a nabe setting.
Thanks in advance, I realize this is a ridiculously long post so thank you for reading until the end.
Answer by Sandra
After the wrestlers emerge from their living quarters, freshly bathed, I ask permission to join them in the kitchen. There, the counters are covered with ingredients for a lunch of nabe, steak, stir-fried vegetables, and pickles. The menu is determined daily by Okami-san and a wrestler named Kotofubuki-the chanko-ban (the person in charge of preparing the meals}-and is based on the season and what’s in the larder. I sidle up to Kotofubuki, who has begun preparing today’s nabe, pork-miso.
There are no rules for what goes into a nabe. Sukiyaki , the best-known hot pot, is made with beef and a sweetened soy sauce base, while lshikari nabe, a regional classic from Hokkaido, consists of salmon and vegetables in a miso-kelp broth. As Kotofubuki quickly cuts some tofu, I muster the courage to ask him where he learned to cook. “I watched the previous chanko-ban,” he responds shyly. “But there are no recipes; you just taste as you go along.”
Soon Kotofubuki emerges from the kitchen with a huge pot of water, which he places on a portable gas stove at the head of the cable. When the water comes to a boil, he stirs in some instant dashi flakes, then turns down the heat and adds sliced pork belly and splashes of sake and mirin. When the pork is tender, he warms ladles of salty red miso and sweet white miso in the broth before swirling in the paste with a pair of long chopsticks. “Mixing the misos is the key to this dish,” he says while tasting the broth. “The red miso emphasizes the sweetness of the white one.” After several adjustments, Kotofubuki is satisfied and throws in the vegetables and tofu. Minutes later, the entire meal is ready.
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