The most comforting chicken soup we all need now
This time of year, when everyone is either sick or getting sick, I like to make tori nabe, which is essentially the hot pot version of chicken soup. Nabe is the name for stews cooked in the Japanese ceramic pots called donabe, which are all the rage in home-ware circles these days, but you can make them in any pot you’d make soup in.
By combining chicken drumsticks with cold water and then bringing them to a boil together, you draw out the richness from the bones for broth and get tender meat for the soup. But the chicken is in a supporting role here — the squash is the star.
Kabocha squash, the striped green pumpkins tumbling around farmers market stands, strike just the right balance between sweet and starchy. Because the squash’s skin is edible (and tasty), I leave it on to help the thin slices stay intact in the bubbling broth, as their earthy orange flesh soaks up savory chickeny flavor.
After bok choy softens for a minute in the soup, the meal is done. A few final seasonings make this dish taste more complex: Ponzu delivers a salty and bright citrus tang, daikon a bracing peppery sharpness that mellows in the hot broth, and ginger and togarashi add a little heat. Allow your guests, family or patients to season their portions to taste at the table.
Kabocha Squash and Chicken Hot Pot (Tori Nabe)
45 minutes. Serves 4.
You can substitute cooked rice for the udon noodles.
- 1 pound chicken drumsticks (about 4)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅓ cup dark or regular soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ small kabocha squash (8 ounces)
- 8 regular bok choy
- 1 piece (3 inches) daikon radish
- 1 piece (2 inches) fresh ginger
- 12 ounces udon noodles
- Shichimi togarashi, for serving
- Put the chicken in a large donabe, Dutch oven or saucepan and cover with 8 cups cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the salt, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer gently for 20 minutes, skimming any foam that rises to the surface.
- Meanwhile, make the ponzu sauce: Combine the soy sauce and vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice, then cool to room temperature and reserve.
- Prepare the vegetables: Seed the squash and cut into 2-inch-wide wedges. Cut each wedge into ⅓-inch-thick slices. Trim the bok choy and cut larger leaves in half. Peel the daikon and ginger and grate on a Microplane zester or Japanese ginger grater into separate bowls.
- Transfer the chicken to a plate; keep the broth simmering. Add the squash to the broth and simmer until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. While the squash cooks, prepare the udon according to the package’s directions. Discard the chicken skin and bones. Pull the meat into large pieces and divide among 4 serving bowls along with the udon.
- Stir the bok choy into the simmering soup and cook until just wilted and bright green, about 1 minute. Divide the vegetables and broth among the bowls with the chicken and sprinkle with togarashi. Serve with the daikon, ginger and ponzu sauce, seasoning each bowl or spoonful to taste.
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