On cold winter nights in Tokyo I loved nothing more than sliding my legs under the warm kotatsu table and enjoying a big pot of nabe. Nabemono (or simply nabe) is a Japanese dish that is also known as "one pot" food. It can consist of a variety of ingredients: fish, meat, chicken, tofu, vegetables, noodles, or a combination of all. Probably the most well-known types of nabe here in the U.S. are sukiyaki and shabu shabu.
For a teacher on a meager salary in blindingly expensive Japan this was a fairly economical meal to prepare, yet it seemed so expensive and exotic. I'd go into the basement of the Sogo department store (where all the foods were) and pick a bit of vegetable here, a little tofu there, some thinly sliced beef, noodles, and whatever else looked good. All got thrown into the pot with either a dashi or soy sauce-based broth. Perfect with hot sake or an icey cold Kirin beer.
With a houseful of family here for the holidays we decided to put together a nabe meal, something everyone could enjoy cooking together at the table. In the center we placed our little portable stove with our nabe pot, and put out platters of paper thin pork, brisket, and beef short rib; mizuna (Japanese mustard greens), fish cake, eggplant, and sliced shiitake mushrooms; vegetable tofu and little tied bundles of konnyaku noodles (a yam-based noodle); tender scallops and shrimp.
I know everyone is happy when their hashi (chopsticks) are click-clicking away and their sake cups are frequently in need of refilling.
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