Gifts for Cooks: ‘Japanese Hot Pots’
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Hot pot cooking might not be described as esoteric, but I can’t think of any English-language book devoted to the subject other than ‘Japanese Hot Pots: Comforting One-Pot Meals,’ published just this fall.
I first experienced the cooking of Japanese chef Tadashi Ono when he opened a restaurant called Sono in midtown Manhattan (he’s now the chef at Matsuri). Years later, I met food journalist Harris Salat while attending the Japanese Culinary Forum at the French Culinary Institute. And I was pretty thrilled when I found out that the two were working on a book together about Japanese hot pots -- because, well, I happen to LOVE hot pot. It inherently brings people together, often with everybody leaning over the pot to pluck their favorite ingredients from the broth with their chopsticks. If you’re going to share hot pot, you might as well be chummy about it.
The Japanese communal dishes called nabemono, a combination of meat, seafood, noodles, tofu and/or vegetables, are poached in broth, usually in a pot set over a burner at the center of the table (though many of the recipes in the book call for preparing them on the stove and bringing them to the table).
The book outlines ingredients and cooking equipment, along with sources, and preparation methods; it’s an easy-to-follow guide to how to approach hot pot cooking and aesthetics (‘your hot pot’s got to look good’). ‘Think of hot pots as a mingling of tasty layers’: the broth, the main ingredients, additional flavorings such as soy sauce and miso, and garnishes and condiments. With a bowl of rice and a beer, you’re set.
Recipes include mushroom hot pot with a combination of shiitake, oyster, shimeji and enoki mushrooms; tofu hot pot; crab hot pot; tuna belly hot pot; beef shabu-shabu; and a personal favorite, hearty chanko nabe, known as sumo wrestler’s hot pot, the traditional lunch of training sumo wrestlers.
-- Betty Hallock