Tuesday, December 27, 2011


"Things in a pot". Doesn't sound very special...A very basic translation by a non-Japanese speaker. "Nabe" = pot. "Mono"= thing/stuff; in this usage, "edible things". Done properly, very delicious, edible things end up simmering together in a big ceramic or metal pot. Japanese hot pots take many forms. Canadians are perhaps most familiar with Shabu Shabu, Sukiyaki and Yosenabe.

"Yosenabe" (pictured above) is one of our favourites. Christmas dinner at Sanbiki did not involve turkey, turnip puff or yorkshire pudding as it would have at my Mom's. Instead, we started with a pot of water and a piece of seaweed. "Kombu" is a kind of kelp that is loaded with "umami"(the "fifth taste") due to the presence of glutamic acids. It don't look like much now, but we are just getting started...

We leave the kelp to soften and flavour the stock. Seafood and fish are prepared for cooking. We used B.C. Black Cod (Sablefish), Spot Prawns ("ama ebi" or sweet shrimp) and scallops. The Black Cod is a mild fish with a high fat content. Cooked properly the flesh is light and flaky. Near the skin, bones and cheeks, its even better. Packed with omega-3 fats these bits take a bit of work to eat but melt in your mouth. Definately worth the effort of picking and spitting a few bones. As the skin cooks down it becomes delicious too. Nothing is wasted. We sliced it and blanched it briefly to get it ready to play it's part in our nabe party...

BC Spot Prawns are another local, sustainably sourced seafood. Allowing them to cook in the shell, head on, keeps the shrimp from drying out and adds flavour to the stock. The heads take time to cook but are a crunchy, end of meal treat I look forward too!

What's a hot pot without the veggies and tofu? No hot pot at all! We used daikon (giant white radish), Napa Cabbage (hakusai in Japanese or sui choy in Chinese) and green onion to start. Tofu and "shiritaki" (a chewy noodle) will add more texture than taste to the dish. A balance between textures as well as tastes is important in Japanese cuisine. Not that the tofu and noodles will be tasteless. They wil absorb the flavours of the stock as they cook; this is why they are added to the nabe early on.

Cold beer makes the waiting a little easier... a glass of Sauvignon Blanc tastes even better as the steam and smells drift up out of the simmering pots! You heard right. "Pots", as in plural. While seafood, veggies and tofu boogie away in the big nabe, a private poultry pot party is happening right next door ...

"Tori dango". Sounds exotic huh? Much more exciting than "chicken ball" (which is pretty much what it is). More of a dumpling as the meat is finely minced and mixed with egg, ginger, starch and onion. If it looks or sounds familiar, it probably is. Dumplings can be found on pretty much every part of the planet. Find yourself in France with a serving of "quenelles" and you'll see something similar, albeit differently seasoned and sauced.

"Ponzu" is the primary seasoning/sauce that accompanies our hot pot. The solid ingredients in the nabe are dipped into ponzu and slurped up. Ponzu is made with a nikiri soy sauce. Nikiri soy sauce is prepared with sake and mirin (sweet cooking wine). They are cooked together and reduced to remove the alcohol and concentrate the flavours. The juice from "yuza", a Japanese citrus fruit is added after the nikiri has been cooled and aged for at least a week. Ponzu is served alongside yosenabe and other hotpots.

Itadakimasu="Lets eat!" The yosenabe is ready and we are waiting. Diners pick their favourite morsels from the communal pot. Everyone has their own small bowl of ponzu sauce and nabe bits are dipped into the ponzu before being slurped up by hungry diners. This is key to seasoning the solid nabe ingredients. The individual components of the hot pot have been prepared simply and briefly cooked. A quick bath in the ponzu is a perfect compliment. Like spicy? Shake some shichimi (Japanese seven spice chili powder) into your private ponzu bowl.Leftovers are commonplace. The broth is mixed with yesterdays leftover rice, an egg, and some green onion. An umeboshi (salty, pickled plum) on top adds some sweet and salty to the final stage of our nabemono....

All traces of our Christmas nabemono have vanished...the pots are cleaned and ready for...NEW YEARS NABE!

Happy Holidays everyone! Whatever you eat and whomever you share it with...May you all enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Dine in a perfect ambiance itself a refreshing idea in addition to it if it is prepared by passionate and creative chef then the result will be nothing but delicious and yummyyyyyyy. so thank you. Restaurant Byron Bay