Nabe is essentially a giant pot placed in the middle of the table, filled with some kind of soup. Vegetables and meat are added and it cooks on a gas burner. Nabe refers to the earthenware pot that's usually used and mono just means things. So, nabemono just means ‘things in a pot’ and you can cook whatever things you want. Cooking and eating nabe is more or less a group activity. As the veggies cook, everyone takes what they want and eats it with rice. The soup bubbles, everyone talks, the windows fog over, noses run—it’s a winter tradition.
For me, nothing says winter like Kimchi nabe, which strictly speaking isn't originally Japanese. Japan borrowed the flavours and fermented cabbage from the Korean dish “kimchi jigae” but then made it into something more Japanese. It’s now quite popular in Japanese home cooking. Most people buy the bag of soup at the store, but it’s simple to make at home. It’s totally up to you what you want to eat in your soup. In Japan, we usually have one or two kinds of mushrooms, carrots, tofu, thin sliced pork, onions and cabbage, but spinach, squash, or noodles would all be good as well.
If you don’t have a tabletop gas burner, you can cook everything in a pot in the kitchen and then bring the pot to the table for everyone to eat out of or dish it into smaller soup bowls.
- Kimchi is a spicy, fermented Korean cabbage that became popular in Japan around the same time that Korean soap operas hit Japanese television. For a while, shops in Tokyo were selling socks featuring the faces of famous Korean drama actors and everyone and their drama-watching mothers wanted to eat kimchi. Which is fine— kimchi is delicious.
- Kimchi is also becoming more readily available in North America due to the health benefits of fermented foods; I find kimchi is usually available at Asian grocery stores and in some larger grocery store chains.
- Miso is an incredibly salty, hearty paste made out of fermented soy beans. A little goes a long way! Try to find white or awase (mixed all-purpose) miso for this recipe.
- Gochujang: This is a korean style fermented chili paste, its quite spicy but it has a great tang that works well with the kimchi and the miso. Try using a bit less than is suggested in the recipe and then adjust to how spicy you like it.
- 1 lb. Kimchi
- handful beansprouts
- ½ onion
- 1 pack medium firm tofu
- ¼ Napa or Chinese style Cabbage
- 1 Japanese long onion or leek
- 1/3 Carrot
- 1 bunch enoki mushrooms
- 1 lb. thin sliced pork belly
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 4 cups dashi – Japanese style fish stock, or water
- 1 tablespoon sake – Japanese Rice wine (you can use white wine if you don't have it)
- 1 tablespoon gochujang- Korean Chili Paste
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon miso
- Cut your kimchi into 1 inch or ½ inch pieces. Make sure you have extra for eating with your stew!
- Prep the vegetables:
- Cut the onion in half, pole-to-pole and then cut into thin slices
- Wash the beansprouts
- Cut the tofu into ½ inch blocks
- Cut the cabbage into 1 inch pieces
- Cut the long onion into 1 ½ inch lengths
- Cut the ends of the enoki mushrooms and separate slightly
- Slice the carrot into ¼ inch slices (if you want, you can a small cookie cutter to stamp the carrots into pretty shapes)
- Cut the pork into 1 ½ inch lengths.
- Heat a large pot (or if you have it, a Japanese style nabe pot) over medium heat, add the sesame oil and pork, fry until no longer pink.
- Add the kimchi and the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the gochujang, dashi and sake and cook for another 5 minutes then add the soy sauce and miso, mix well to ensure that the miso dissolves completely. Your soup is done! Taste and adjust the gochujang and salt— the vegetables add quite a bit of water, so it’s better to have the soup slightly more salty than you might think it should be as it will get diluted.
- Add the vegetables, giving each item its own wedge in the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Serve with hot rice and extra kimchi.
Adapted from Just One Cookbook - Kimchi Nabe