I don’t know if it was written in the stars, but last Saturday turned out to have Japanese ‘feel’ although I didn’t ate any Japanese food. I saved that for my first experiments with hot pot today. Playing with some leftovers, I invented a recipe for Japanese escarole and tofu hot pot with udon noodles.
I simply couldn’t resist to visit Muji when I was near, managed only to buy a new calendar. Later that day I attended my very first White Elephant-event and I got myself a Japanese cookbook. Also Mr. Eats – after some back and forth steeling of three nice bottles of olive oil – ended up with a Japanese gift: a sushi-making kit. Enough inspiration for exploring a totally new kitchen, don’t you agree?
Winning the cookbook was even more special to me, as my colleague added a Christmas card to it, explaining that his mum gave him the book to teach him about the food of her home country. A good choice; “My Japanese table” by Debra Samuels provides some background information and easy to make recipes. When asked, he couldn’t choose what recipe I should make first. “Make ‘m all! The book taught me everything I know about Japanese food!.
So I made myself a hot tea and settled on the couch. Cat at my feet, loosing myself in a completely new kitchen. Soaked up the information about main ingredients, humming along with the main ingredients that shape Japanese cuisine; Sa, Shi, Su, Se, So.* Read how Japanese cuisine evolved over time and borrowed ingredients and dishes from China and Vietnam for instance. And decided to give it a go. Adding a typical Dutch veggie to a Japanese hot pot.
cooking doesn’t need to be complicated if you want to eat great food
Escarole is a green leafy, slightly bitter tasting vegetable, that we mostly add raw and very finely sliced to mashed potatoes (do you see the pattern?). It’s as simple as that, you see, cooking doesn’t need to be complicated if you want to eat great food. That not only proves my Dutch “rauwe andijvie-stamppot”, but also the hot pot that I found myself making with the rest of the bunch escarole.
Here’s my take on hot pots: Japanese escarole and tofu hot pot with udon noodles.
.* Sato = sugar, Shio = salt, Su = vinegar, Seiyo = soy sauce, Miso = fermented bean paste
JAPANESE ESCAROLE AND TOFU HOT POT WITH UDON NOODLES
The ingredient list might suggest this is a difficult one, but it isn’t. While cooking, I got it all down to this simple advise: chop everything first, then make the dashi and add all the ingredients in order of cooking time; from longest to shortest. Make sure the dashi is back to a boil before adding new ingredients. It will take you 20 minutes, max.
[The cooking that is. Don’t take into account the hours it took me to bike to the Japanese supermarket and stood there doubting before the shelves which tofu, miso and dashi to choose from their large selection.]
– easy to make vegetarian/vegan, see tip below!
You need (for 2):
2 carrots [170 gr | a cup with a heap – after slicing that is!]
5 big shiitakes [150 gr | 2 cups]
125 gr | 1 cup cooked, shelled edamame beans
90 gr | 3.1 oz udon noodles
150 gr | half a bunch escarole
750 ml | 3 cups water
4 gr | 1 sachet dashi powder
1 T Japanese soy sauce
1 T mirin
1/2 t salt
1 T white miso (dissolve in 100 ml | 1/2 cup dashi)
1-2 scallions (spring onions)
250 gr soft tofu
1 T Japanese soy sauce
1/2 T toragashi (Japanese red hot chili flakes)
1-2 T sesame seeds
100 gr thinly sliced roast-beef
Clean all vegetables. Cut carrots diagonally in thin slices, shiitakes into 8 bite-size pieces. The escarole, including stem, in 1 cm | 1/2 inch slices.
Make the dashi. Bring water to a boil. Add dashi powder. Try if you can find a brand that actually starts its ingredients list with bonito and kelp before sugar, salt and msg. If succeeded, the smell will be as fishy, but I promise, that diminishes after filling your hot pot! Add soy sauce, mirin and salt and let dissolve. Debra Samuels also suggested 1 T sugar, which I omitted as the carrots might bring enough sweetness. They did.
Prep the miso. Scoop 100 ml | half a cup dashi, add the miso, set apart and stir to dissolve the miso paste.
Add fillings. First the carrots and shiitakes (3 min). Then edamame beans (2 min). Udon noodles (2 min). Escarole last (1 min). Make sure dashi is back boiling before you add new ingredients. Make sure whole process lasts max 10 minutes, not to overcook the veggies.
In the meantime; find some time to cut the scallions into small pieces, the tofu in bite-size chunks, setting the table and pouring yourself a nice glass of Italian pinot grigio. Put tofu, toragashi, sesame seeds and roasted beef in small bowls on the table.
Finish the hot pot. Add the extra soy sauce and miso, stir. Pour into 2 big bowls, garnish with the chopped scallions. At the table, each can add tofu, roast-beef, toragashi and sesame seeds according to taste.
Tip: You can veganize this hot pot recipe by using a strong vegetable stock and omitting the beef.