I'm not a cook. But I follow directions well, which is why I'm pleased with Japanese Hot Pots: Comforting One-Pot Meals by renowned chef Tadashi Ono and prolific food writer Harris Salat. One of the reasons I bought this book was I thought I could make a hearty Japanese meal with very little fuss. It worked!
I go nuts with the prep time that cooking Japanese dishes requires. I could spend hours chopping, slicing, and preparing stocks and broths. I chose beef sukiyaki as my first dish to create from Japanese Hot Pots because it doesn't call for dashi, and I could buy the meat pre-cut at my local Japanese grocery store. (I already mentioned that I wasn't a cook; did I mention that I'm a lazy non-cook?) Anyway, chopping is involved in the making of this marvelous dish, but I endured it. Once the onions and cabbage were chopped and the mushrooms were cleaned, I was able to move on to the other reason I bought this cookbook: Iwatani!
Iwatani makes portable gas stoves which are amazing to use for hot pot cooking. My husband bought me this Iwatani a few years ago, but I've never had the confidence to use it until now. (I always thought I would blow up the apartment.) I'm happy to report that it's one of the easiest things to use. I enjoyed cooking with my portable hot plate – which actually works better than a couple of the burners on our stove – and my adorable nabe pot. These things aren't required for hot pot cooking – your stovetop and a large cast-iron skillet will do the trick – but it's fun to go full-on Japanese during moments like this.
The lid to our nabe pot
Beef sukiyaki ingredients are spread out in my kitchen.
Most Japanese grocery stores sell pre-cut beef specifically for sukiyaki cooking.
Two kinds of onions are used in this dish: negi (left) and a half of a Spanish onion (center). I have no idea if I actually used a Spanish onion, but it worked. Negi looks like a scallion but is really long. Napa cabbage is in the background.
Two kinds of mushrooms: shiitake . . .
. . . and enoki, which I think are the cutest little mushrooms.
This mass of spaghetti-looking stringy things is itokonnyaku. My package said that it was "yam noodles" or something like that, but it's from a tuber known as konjac. Practically devoid of flavor, itokonnyaku is used to add texture to the hot pot meal.
Also included in beef sukiyaki is broiled tofu. I'd heard of silken, firm, and extra firm tofu, but broiled was a new one to me. The next time I make this dish, I'll be sure to cut the squares into smaller, more manageable pieces. They seem to absorb the most heat.
Now it's time to start cooking! This was actually the easiest part. I know it looks gross right now, but this beef turned out to be delicious. Smelled good, too.
Things are starting to look good as I add more ingredients into the nabe pot.
A couple of cups of sake, some sugar, and some soy sauce add flavor to the fixin's.
Hmm, seems like my nabe pot isn't big enough for all of the ingredients.
As the dish simmers, the bigger chunks of ingredients start to shrink, so I do have room to fit everything in there. It's looking good!
When the beef sukiyaki is ready, we cracked an egg into a couple of small bowls and beat them. This is what we dip the meat and other goodies into before eating. (This is an optional step for people who are squeamish about raw eggs.)
The perfect compliment to any Japanese dish is a nice, cold Japanese beer.
A rainy, chilly October night such as Friday night was perfect for hot pot cooking. It was a great night for soup, Japanese style, and all of the ingredients combined to create a filling dish. And it's fun and easy to cook. I can't wait to try my next hot pot recipe. Thanks, Tadashi and Harris!