Nabe or Nabe-mono means "food cooked in a pot". It is a soupy Japanese dish eaten especially during the cold weather. Even though my apple tree thinks spring is already here and is giving off blooms, I think we are about to enter winter. So it's perfect nabe season, and it couldn't not have been more timely to do the two Japanese hot pot Nabe workshops last weekend. To those who participated, I hope you enjoyed the workshop, and will incorporate nabe into your repetoire of dishes. A few people could not make it for baby matters and other emergencies. One couple couldn't find my house. They were driving up and down the alley way looking for the house but gave up and went to work instead (on a Sunday!) I am so sorry that happened. I will do a make up class after Thanksgiving.
November 14 Workshop
Thanks to Tortoise for their support, especially Keiko Shinomoto for sending me e-mails from Tokyo to make sure I had everything I needed for the workshop. To Naoko Moore for helping and sharing her knowledge in hot pot cooking; Marissa Roth for taking the beautiful pictures; and Jason Moore for volunteering in the kitchen. What a team!
TALKING ABOUT NABE
Nabe begins with a good dashi. Dried Kombu
seaweed hydrating in water.
I began the Nabe workshop by telling the story of my grandmother's clay pot -donabe (see above picture). At about age fifty three (roughly my age), my grandmother became a widow and lived mostly alone in Kamakura. Many of her one-person meals were cooked in this small donabe. The underside of her donabe is pitch black from the years of use. I found her old donabe when I went to visit her house after she had passed away at the age of 102. The donabe was cracked in places, and ready to be put into the trash bin. I rescued the donabe, brought it back to the U.S., cooked some porridge in it to seal the cracks. It was at this hot pot work shop that I used my grandmother's restored donabe for the first time to demonstrate the tofu nabe - Yudofu. It was one of her favorite dishes. She would make yudofu her entire meal but if I was visiting her, the nabe was served as an appetizer, and she would get sashimi from the fishmonger. I felt Grandmother's spirit near me during the workshop.
Yudofu - I love the simplicity of this tofu nabe. Kyoto is its birthplace. Tofu is the main ingredient of this nabe and dried kombu seaweed is used to make the broth, dashi. Other ingredients such as daikon, napa cabbage can join the pot, but the one I demonstrated was just tofu. I like to make Yudofu with artisinal tofu, which can be found in a few places in Los Angeles. My favorite one is Meiji Tofu, which you can find at Granada Market on Sawtelle in West Los Angeles. Get their Silken tofu. The basic broth is made with Kombu seaweed, which is full of umami - savoriness and thus, makes a good nabe starter. We usually don't eat the kombu in the Yudofu but you can slice it up later and munch on it. It's good fiber. Have it with a little miso. Enjoy the heated tofu with the condiments.
Set a piece of dried Konbu into the pot of water. Let stand for
30 minutes to extract the Kombu's umami, savory flavor.
Gently put the tofu on top of the kombu.
Serve the heated tofu with grated ginger, sliced scallions, dried bonito flakes and soysauce.
RECIPE FOR YUDOFU
Serves 4 as an appetizer
1 piece of Kombu seaweed, about 6 inches long
6 -8 cups water
2 packages of silken tofu, preferrably artisinal like Meiji Tofu
6 oz daikon radish, peeled and sliced into matchsticks, about 2.5 inches long (optional)
Daikon makes a nice match with Tofu.
1 negi or 3 scallions, sliced thinly
Dried bonito flakes (fine shavings)
From top: hydrated kombu seaweed, dried bonito flakes (fine shavings)Grated ginger, soysauce and dried kombu seaweed. They brighten and give flavor to the bland tofu.
HOW TO MAKE YUDOFU:
Slice the negi or scallions thinly and soak them in water for about 10 minutes. Drain water and wring lightly. Serve in a bowl.
Put the dried kombu seaweed and the soaking water in the pot, and let the Kombu hydrate for 30 minutes.
Cut the tofu into 8 squares. Serve the tofu on a plate.
Peel the daikon radish and cut it into 2.5 inch long matchsticks. Serve the daikon matchsticks on a plate.
Bring the tofu and daikon matchsticks to the table.
Bring the pot to the table and set it on the portable burner. Turn on the heat and boil over medium heat. Bring heat down to low, uncover the pot, and gently put the tofu and daikon matchsticks into the pot. Leave it in until the tofu is warmed through, between 4-5 minutes. Do not over cook the tofu.
Scoop out the heated tofu and daikon radish matchsticks, and serve in individuall bowls with the condiments of your choice: dried bonito flakes, sliced scallions, shichimi pepper, negi and soysauce.
Table top cooking: Use only half the amount of tofu and daikon radishes or the amount that will be eaten in one round. Reserve the other half for the second round. Every person should have a spoon to scoop out the tofu.