One of the biggest reasons that we cook is for enjoyment. Not only enjoyment of eating the end result, but enjoyment of the process, the smells, the interaction with each other, and the anticipation. One of the best ways to enjoy food is as a social event, and we had a chance to remind ourselves of that last night, making Kimuchi Nabe with our friend Rosalind. We just got this beautiful clay donabe this week, for making Japanese Hot Pot (or nabe), Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki.
In honor of the event, we also got a little gas burner, and decided to have Rosalind over, as we knew she was a big fan of hot pot. We’ve made this basic recipe a number of times in our large Le Creuset cast iron pot, but this was our first time trying it in the donabe. We prepared all the food in the kitchen, grouped it all on plates, and then headed out to the table with it.
We used fried tofu, oyster, enoki and shiitake mushrooms, green onion, our homemade kimchi, and thin sliced pork. The broth was 4 cups of dashi stock, 1 cup sake, 2 tablespoons shiro miso paste, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil.
The hot pot turned out deliciously cooked in the donabe, probably the best one we’ve made yet. But the real best part about doing it this way was the process. Prepare to just relax and enjoy.
First, just put the broth in the pot, and let it get nice and hot, so it is just barely simmering, not really bubbling. Sit and chat, drink some beer, and notice the broth becoming fragrant.
Toss in the green onion and the kimchi, let it sit for a few minutes, and then taste it to make sure there is the right amount of spice.
We ended up adding probably 1/2 lb or so of our own kimchi. Results will vary depending on how spicy the kimchi you have is, and how spicy you like things.
Let that simmer for a little bit, drink some more beer, and note how the smell changes. By the time you are done with this dish, your whole house will smell like delicious food. Next, stick some of the thinly sliced pork into the hot broth – if it is thin enough, it will cook almost immediately. Pile tofu and mushrooms on top, and then put the lid on and let it steam for a while.
Once the mushrooms are soft, everyone dishes up into their bowl – mostly the solid items, leaving most of the broth in the pot.
Add the rest of the pork, mushrooms and tofu on top of the pot, put the lid on, and again let it simmer while you’re eating what you just removed from the pot.
You will notice the smells continue to change, and we noticed that the second batch of things we pulled out of the pot tasted notably different than the first – the flavors continue to develop, to deepen, and to even get better than they were the first time.
Finally, finish the broth with some delicious noodles, or dried, baked mochi squares, which puff up and get crunchy in the oven. All that delicious, rich broth gives so much flavor to the noodles or mochi, and it’s the perfect way to finish off the meal.
So, give it a try. Make your meals a chance to spend time with people you enjoy. Cook with them, chat with them, and enjoy the entire process. Share the whole experience of preparing, cooking, and eating something really delicious. I can hardly imagine that you will regret it.