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Tuesday, February 5

An Expert at Rice Balls, Curry and now adding Nabe to the list

Food in Japan has been at times a very pleasant experience and at other times something from my worst nightmares. Why, just last week Kimono Hubby was served fish head from a 100 pound tuna. Cut off from its huge body, its dead stare gazed open-mouthed up at the ceiling while steam escaped from its lifeless lips. From what was told about the dinner, one man was quite eager to dig in to the eye of the departed catch-of-the-day and happily dined on a large portion of it. This would be one of those nightmares. If I had been there and was offered the delicacy of eye bits, I would have accepted because it is the right and polite thing to do. And then I would have plastered a smile on my face and tried to swallow without chewing, wishing all the while that holding my nose was a simultaneous option.

This is one of those dishes that I just wouldn’t ever attempt to serve in my house. However, there are many other Japanese dishes that I wish I could.

I cook pretty much every night with meals out only occurring maybe once a week. Not only does it save a fortune if I plan my menus well in advance, but it also is a much healthier option. From every country I have been, I have attempted to learn how to make some of the local dishes in my own home. Yet, when it comes to Japanese food, I have had this weird adversity to making anything uniquely Japanese. Perhaps it stems from my nervousness on buying the ingredients at the local market. Most of the vegetables and the meats are not too hard to figure out, but what is hard are the hundreds of bottles that line the aisles with their intimidating kanji characters boldly splashed on the labels. After living here a year and a half, I still can only make these rice ball thing-y's (yes, that is indeed the proper name for them... would I lie to you?) and curry. Both things require little knowledge of what the package says beyond, dump it in and stir. So I was thrilled with an American friend who speaks and reads Japanese invited me over to learn how to make Nabe… a favorite Japanese winter dish.

When I arrived at her house, the ingredients were already all laid out – thinly sliced steak, cabbage, two types of mushrooms, Japanese noodles, some type of root, tofu, onion, and kimchi sauce. Of course, I can’t remember the correct name for these things now, but I can remember what they look like to buy them again and that is the key. Since I am no expert on nabe making, I am not providing specific recipes here. Plus, most of the ingredients would be tough, if not impossible, to find back in the states anyway. But should you visit me here, I promise to make you this dish in my new nabe pot… a graduation gift from my friend! (Bonus... this thing also makes sukiyaki of which my friend also kindly shared the recipe.) And should you compliment me on that meal, I will indeed tell you how very hard it was to make. How I sweated and slaved over the stove for you. And I will hope that you weren’t standing there watching me to know that all I really did was cut up a few veggies, put everything in the nabe pot, place the lid on it and cook it for a few minutes. Because then my exclamations of the grueling work involved in making this dish would just seem silly after you had seen the process.


Anonymous said...

That looks delicious - raw and cooked!

ablykins said...

Congrats on your nabe pot cooking lesson! When my hubby is in town, I use our nabe pot at least twice a week making various soups, shabu-shabu, and other tasty treats. I've found a sukiyaki pan works better than our nabe pot when making that. I'm crazy about enoki mushrooms and shirataki- so tasty, but still so healthy! Cheers to more nabe experiences to come since this winter is such a cold one!