Blame it on the yase nobe…

In Recipies on August 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Yase nobe (yasseh NOH-be) is a variety of Japanese soups made with vegetables, fish, chicken, onion, and mushrooms (also pork and prawns, if non-kosher is okay) cooked at the table. It is akin to (identical) to suimono or, if noodles are used (as with Vietnamese pho or Chinese ramen), udon.

You say toe-MAY-toe, I say toe-MAH-toe.

The stuff is seriously good and the prep and cooking is a fun time for a small group of adults. (This can get dangerous AND messy for kids.)

My food history source tells me that this dish was a favorite of the nobles and samurai classes. The upper crust would eat the ingredients as they came out of the broth and the remainder (if any) was tossed into the broth and distributed to the servants and lower caste people.

Once you start cooking this, you’ll see how polite behavior was requisite around the samurai’s eating mat. Sake is a great accompaniment. But don’t get bokeh (mental haze) as it takes some dexterity to cook and eat this.

Today’s yase nobe can be cooked in a wok or in a very large electric fondue pot. It takes a reasonable amount of care not to get tangled in the cord or spill the alcohol burner while you cook. If you do, yell “BONZAI!” and then call the fire department or paramedics.

Like much of Japanese table cuisine, yase nobe gets extensive prep beforehand. The ingredients are cut, the broth is made, and the sauces are concocted and then moved to the table for cooking.

Each guest skewers (on a fondue fork or bamboo skewer) one or more ingredients and plunges it (them) into the simmering broth. After a minute or two, the food is withdrawn and dipped into a variety of sauces and allowed to cool. Tiny bowls of rice can accompany the meal and the foods are gently placed on the rice after dipping. When all of the ingredients have been cooked, the broth is divided among the guests and enjoyed as an après-dinner soup. It makes for a fun evening and one that can be challenging if guests enjoy traditional small cups of warm sake as part of the meal.

I use store-bought chicken or vegetable broth because my homemade broth often has herbs and spices (from the chicken carcass used to make it) that are not Japanese or would clash with Japanese stylings.

Another backbone ingredient is mirin.

Mirin is similar to sake, but with a slightly lower alcohol content. Incidentally, sake is actually a beer and not a wine. Mirin for the broth is hon mirin (“true” mirin) and mirin for the sauces is shio mirin (“salty” mirin). Non-alcoholic mirin, or mirin-gu chomiryo (“mirin-like seasoning”) may be substituted for either. If you lack access to mirin a sweet sauterne wine may be used.

Your list of ingredients should read like what is left at the bottom of your fridge at the end of the marketing week:

Meats: Chicken, beef, or pork.

Fish: Salmon, tuna, cod, whiting, etc.

Vegetables: Zucchini, turnips, carrots, green onion, bok choy, and mushrooms

Tofu, shrimp, crab, sweet potato, etc. can all be used.

Okay, let’s make some yase nobe!

2 qt chicken, vegetable, or fish broth (preferably unsalted)

½ C mirin (hon mirin)

pinch, white pepper

1” long piece of ginger, minced

1 garlic clove (optional), minced

3 C bok choy, chunks

1 turnip, peeled and cut into ¼” slices

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2” matchsticks (thick)

8 green onions, white and pale green parts 4” long

8-12 mushrooms (white button or shitake), bite-size

2 whiting fillets, cut into bite-size pieces

1 8oz salmon fillet, cut into 1” cubes

1 4oz tuna steak, cut into ¾” cubes

1 small zucchini, halved and cut into 1” chunks

1 C (cooked) rice per guest

 Parboil the turnip and carrot sticks for 2-3 minutes. Reserve 2 ½ C of the cooking liquid. Run carrots and turnip under cold water and set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine: Vegetable-cooking liquid, mirin, broth, and ½ of the ginger and the garlic if using. Add pinch of white pepper. Bring to the gentle boil and remove from heat. Transfer the mixture to a wok or fondue and keep at a low simmer.

Prepare the dipping sauces and arrange the other ingredients on a decorative tray. Pass out skewers, forks, or chopsticks. HINT: Keep a pair of small tongs handy on a plate to rescue foods that fall off forks or skewers into the broth.

Sauce 1: 2 TBS mirin plus 2 TBS soy sauce

Sauce 2: 1 TBS wasabi powder plus lemon juice/water (50:50) to make thick paste

Sauce 3: 1 TBS rice vinegar, 1 tsp sugar, rest of the ginger

Put the sauces in small ramekins or dipping bowls.

Pass the tray of foods around the table and allow guests to cook what they like. Or, make up trays for each guest. Give each diner a bowl of rice. Pass the dipping sauces around as you go. While you wait for something to cook, sip a bit of warm sake and enjoy your guests. When the tray of food is cooked serve the broth in the rice bowls. If there is a bit of food left uncooked, toss it all in the pot and let it cook before serving.

TANOSHIMU! (“Have a good time!”)



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