Winter is hotpot season in Asia. It’s a way to get the entire family together around a steaming one-pot meal and take the chill off winter. In Japan, nabemono (which literally means “things cooked in a pot”) is the ubiquitous hotpot of choice appearing in homes and restaurants around the country.
But that’s not to say that there’s only one kind of nabe. Like soup, it has about as many variations as there are people who make it. It’s one of the things I love about nabe, because you can put just about anything you want into it. You can easily cook it with “no recipe” because you start with some kind of stock, add some type of protein, then toss in a bunch of vegetables. It’s a great way to clean up the vegetable drawer and as long as you’re not using pork belly, it qualifies as a healthy meal as well.
When it’s snowing outside, nabes are a regular part of the weekly line-up at my house. This week I decided to do something a little different than the usual chicken or pork. I found some monkfish at the grocery store, which makes a great nabe because the meat actually benefits from a long simmer. I also added some sake kasu to this one which is the leftover rice mash after a batch of sake has been filtered. If you’ve never had it before, it adds a wonderful earthy flavor while lending some sweetness and body to the soup.
Nabemono is ideally cooked at the table (I use an electric fondue pot), but if you lack the equipment, you can just make it all in a pot and set the whole thing on a trivet. I’ve listed the vegetables and quantities I used, but if you have a hard time finding the vegetables, you can really add just about anything you like.
Monkfish Miso Nabe
4 cups water
4″ length of dashi kombu (kelp for making dashi stock)
2 tablespoons mirin
1/4 cup sake kasu
1/3 cup miso
1 pound of monkfish cut into large pieces
1 carrot, sliced into long thin strips
1/2 gobo (burdock), sliced into long thin strips
1 Tokyo negi (or a small leek) cut into 1″ lengths
2 ounces shimeji mushrooms, trimmed
1 package shirataki noodles, rinsed and drained
1/2 bunch shungiku, tough stems trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
3 leaves napa cabbage, halved lengthwise, then cut into large pieces
1 bunch of mitsuba, roughly chopped
If you have time, soak the kombu in the water for at least one hour to make the stock for the nabe. If not, you can simmer the water and kombu for about ten minutes. Remove the kombu from the water, then add the mirin, sake kasu, miso and monkfish along with any tougher vegetables like carrot, gobo, and Tokyo negi. Simmer all the ingredients together until the monkfish and vegetables are tender (about 20-30 minutes).
When you’re ready to eat, just add the rest of the vegetables and bring it back to a simmer until they’re cooked. Top with the mitsuba and serve with rice.