Nabemono with udon

Okay, it’s getting old now. It’s the middle of June, and we’re still expecting a high temperature of 60-65°. Are you fucking kidding me? I’ve been checking the National Weather Service to see just how far off we’ve been from normal June weather, and it’s ridiculous. A couple weeks ago we had that freak 95°+ degree weather for two days (record-breaking high), but for the past week we’ve had an average of 7° below normal (that’s ranging from 1-12° ). Yesterday we reached a high of 58°. So what the hell am I supposed to do?

Make soup.

I have my requisite fridge full of strange produce: garlic flower buds, Okinawan purple yams (not really in the fridge, but you get it), tong hao/shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves), baby choy sum, chayote, king oyster mushrooms, burdock, ginger, scallion, and half a clove of elephant garlic. I also had a block of tofu and some good udon.

Nabemono is really just a basic hotpot of dashi, vegetables, tofu, and maybe some seafood, meat (e.g., pork belly) and/or oden (fish cakes). We ate motsunabe in Tokyo that included shiro miso and offal like tripe and other grisly bits. Nabe is food of the sumo, although it is very low calorie if you leave out the pork belly (and if you don’t eat the whole pot, then get right to napping). The one serving of noodles contains more calories than the whole bowl of soup.

You can pick up a clay nabe pot with lid for about $10 at any Asian grocery store that sells dishes. You can use them straight on the burner, even though they make strange crackly noises at first. I’m going to try braising short ribs in mine next time.

5 cups dashi (recipe follows)
1/4 c mirin
1/4 c soy sauce or tamari
1/2 c sake
splash Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
3″ ginger, cut into matchsticks
3″ burdock, peeled and matchsticked
pinch salt

Quickie Dashi
5 c water
1 30g pack of dried bonito flakes
1 5″ square piece of kombu, rinsed

Simmer these together for about 15 minutes over low heat. Strain.

1 Okinawan purple yam
1/2 pound of tofu (I like Chinese firm tofu because it doesn’t disintegrate into the soup)
1 king oyster mushroom or a handful of shiitake (I add two dried shiitakes to flavor the broth)
1/4 chayote
3 or 4 garlic shoots
1/2 clove elephant garlic
handful of choy sum
handful of shungiku
3 or 4 scallions
4 oz. udon, cooked

Cut everything into bite-sized pieces and simmer starting with yam and tofu, moving on to the ingredients that require less time. Add greens and scallions last, then add cooked udon and serve. Top with togarashi to taste.