Simply Hot Pots, a cookbook review

Someone I know recently said to me, “Really, you need a recipe book for hot pot?? Lol just throw stuff in!”

Well, yes, I could do that.  At home hot pot (aka nabe)  with friends and family have always been chicken broth or dashi up until now.  But you know what? That gets a little boring sometimes. Just because it’s hot pot, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for creativity!

It is that creativity that caught my eye with Amy Kimoto-Kahn’s newest cookbook, Simple Hot Pots.  Maybe it’s because she’s a fourth-generation Japanese-American, but Kimoto-Kahn doesn’t box herself in with traditional recipes.  She doesn’t ignored them, but there’s a lovely collection of non-traditional recipes that I think deserve attention.

The book is divided into these sections:

  • Broth bases, sauce, and more
  • Pork hot pots
  • Chicken hot pots
  • Beef hot pots
  • Seafood hot pots
  • Spicy hot pots
  • Vegetable hot pots
  • Specialty hot pots
  • Side Dishes
  • Desserts

As I said above, there are traditional flavors in the book like basic dashi and basic shabu-shabu broth.  But I think the stars of the show are going to be the sesame miso broth, creamy corn broth (see more on this below), Japanese curry broth, tomato broth, Thai coconut curry broth, and Vietnamese broth.  Other honorable mentions that aren’t traditional in Japanese cookery but I have seen in hot pot places are the Mongolian broth, Korean Kimchi broth, and Macanese broth.

I also appreciate the flavor pairings that Kimoto-Kahn puts forward to go with the broths.  That tomato broth? Use it for the mussels with spicy tomato nabe recipe. Kimichi broth? Match that with Korean short ribs, because that’s a tried and true pairing.  At any rate, they both sound delicious.

I legitimately love everything I’m reading in this cookbook!

To “test drive” the book, I knew I wanted to try one of the unusual recipes.  I ultimately decided on the Green Vegetable Nabe, which uses the creamy corn broth, the sesame miso sauce, asparagus, kale, bok choy, and broccoli crowns.  

The corn broth contains onion, corn kernels, nutmeg, chicken stock, milk, cream, and miso.  The result? It reminds me of mac and cheese… but without the mac or the cheese. lol! My favorite mac and cheese recipe to make is a Martha Stewart one and it includes making a roux and flavoring it with nutmeg.  It’s the same building blocks of flavor. So this broth recipe gets us part way there but without all the heaviness of a real mac and cheese recipe. It’s sweet from the dairy and the corn, but not overly so.

And pairing it with a vegetable nabe?  It was really delicious. I didn’t want to stop eating the broccoli except that I had to or else I’d have no veggies in the fridge for the rest of the week.  A worry I had while making the nabe was that maybe the broth would scorch the bottom of the pot from the natural dairy sugars. As far as I can tell, that didn’t happen.  (Though to be fair, it might be because I was making hot pot for one.  I’m not sure how the broth would hold up after longer simmering times.)

The sesame miso sauce was good too but I have to admit that I messed it up.  (Which is kind of amazing because it’s a simple sauce.)  I was having a bad kitchen day where I was constantly dropping things and just generally being a klutz.  On top of that I was trying to rush (because I was getting hungry), one will do things like miss the instructions that said to blitz the sesame seeds into a powder or suddenly forget one was making a half batch of sauce!  Even with all my stupidity, I manage to make it work. (But I’m think I’m going to blend up the leftover sauce so that it can at least look more like it’s supposed to.)

I can’t recommend this cookbook enough even though I’ve only tested two recipes.  (Well, one recipe and one inspired recipe.) I’m trying to decide what other things I want to use the creamy corn broth with.  (Sweet potatoes, mushrooms, ham, chicken? Not necessarily altogether.) I think I might be making the tomato broth next while it’s still winter in these parts.  

Kimoto-Kahn has done a wonderful job of making hot pot more interesting, offering a variety of styles and flavors.  And, I am all the happier for it.

 

Reference Links:

http://www.easypeasyjapanesey.com/

Amy’s website – I also recommend this.  A few of the book recipes are cross-posted on her blog.

https://www.quartoknows.com/books/9781631065675/Simply-Hot-Pots.html

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from Race Point Publishing/Quarto for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

Soup Swap 2019

Soup Swap 2019 has come and gone.  I’m currently unable to find online evidence but I think I attended my first swap in 2008.  Holy cow!

I haven’t managed to go every year but I’ve been to a lot of them.  And I think there was a year or two where there was no swapping to be had because the host was working on a master’s degree.  

This is the earliest mention on this blog that I could find:

https://awesomesauceeats.wordpress.com/2009/01/28/chinese-black-sesame-soup-dessert-soup/

 

But I know the first thing I ever made for Soup Swan was French onion soup.  I remember crying through 5 pounds of onions and vowed “never again!”

For those not in the know, Soup Swap is a gathering to boost our spirits in the heart of the winter season. All of the attendees bring six quart-sized containers filled with a frozen homemade soup/stew of their choice. If you’re really ambitions, you can bring twelve quarts and secure yourself two picks per round.  All of the soups are lumped together in a spot in the room. Attendees pick out a random number, and proceed, in their numbered order, to explain what they brought in. The dear host likes to call this the “Telling of the Soup.” You can also win bragging rights for best telling.  Once the telling completed, the guests then take turns, in same numbered order, picking out a new soup container to bring home. To be fair, the dear host likes to run backwards during the last two rounds. So, you bring over six quarts of your soup, and you bring home six quarts of someone else’s soup.  It gets a bit competitive and a lot of strategic after the first round because there’s usually 12-14 flavors available, only 6 quarts per flavor, and some flavors are extremely popular.

And true story, I’ve been enough times to soup swap that I printed out my own inventory sheet this year.

I am proud to announce that this was the very first year where I got ALL THE FLAVORS I WANTED!  This was probably definitely only made possible by my severe dislike for cilantro. (A couple of the very popular flavors had cilantro in the ingredient list.)

This year, I made a pumpkin curry soup with black beans.

And here were my “winnings.”

 

I’ve had the Green Monster and the Porq-ue soups so far.  Tonight, I’ll be having the Eatin’ Big Time. I can’t wait.  🙂

If you want to make the pumpkin curry soup that I did, it’s a Libby’s Pumpkin recipe.  The only difference was that I added canned black beans, rinsed and drained, at the end of cooking.  If you want to make six quarts of it, just multiple the recipe by 3.  I will say that I think your results will heavily depend on the quality of your spices.  I am personally fond of Penzey’s house curry blend.

https://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/28476/pumpkin-curry-soup/?recipeSortBy=Relevancy&keywords=pumpkin+soup

https://www.penzeys.com/online-catalog/penzeys-curry/c-24/p-3037/pd-s

Kenji’s Vegan Ramen, a Kitchen Conclusion (and a spice blend for you)

I’m a huge fan of Serious Eats.  Besides referring to it for general cooking questions I might have, I really adore their series “The Vegan Experience” (and I’m not vegan… heck, I’m not even vegetarian).

One of the vegan recipes that I bookmarked but was intimidated by the number of ingredients and steps was Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Ultimate Rich and Creamy Vegan Ramen With Roasted Vegetables and Miso Broth.  What does one do when they are not sure they can pull off a recipe on their own?  In my case, it was finding a friend who said “So when you want to cook together? I want to do something new and crazy.  Just something fun, y’know?”

New?  Check.  Crazy?  Check.

Let’s do this thing!

Our observations:

The ingredient list isn’t all that bad.  It would have been nice if there had been a condensed shopping list.  It’s essentially this:

eggplant
onion
garlic
ginger
oil*
fresh shiitake
fresh maitake
kombu*
dried porcini
dried shiitake*
napa cabbage
leek
scallions
sweet potato
shichimi togarashi*
mirin*
soy sauce*
miso*
tahini*
noodles

Everything with an asterisk were things already in my pantry.  Well, except for the shichimi togarashi but we’ll get to that later.  And for the ramen noodles, Jared and I decided to be extra experimental and try the pasta with baking soda trick.  Several times, we asked each other if we had forgotten something because our shopping cart seemed like it didn’t have nearly enough ingredients waiting to be paid for.

One hurdle done.

But the doing?… ah, this was the real challenge.

And half the challenge was matching the ingredient list with the ramen component we were working on.  We both really wanted to reformat the whole recipe for easier reading in the kitchen.

On my own, I had read the recipe through a couple of times but I wish I had studied the photos in the blog post more.  We didn’t notice that the sweet potatoes and the maitake were not mixed on the baking sheet.  It made for a slight inconvenience to pick out sweet potato chunks for the blender.

For the soy-tare, I would leave the ginger and scallions in large identifiable pieces because you have to separate it from the quartered shiitake caps when done.

We also recommend upping the eggplant from 1 small to 2 small.  We had very little eggplant compared to the number of servings when all was said and done.  Also, you don’t get a lot of cooked liquid from 1 small eggplant.  Spinning out said liquid felt fiddly.

But more importantly, how did it taste?

The components of the ramen are their own were good but nothing I felt impressed by.  The baking soda noodles were really interesting!  The baking soda made the noodles a bit chewier, and taste very eggy.  The sweet potatoes baked in the spice blend gave a nice heat that quick dissipated.  But, altogether, the dish was very lovely and satisfying.  Jared’s wife got a gluten free version for health reasons.  We replaced the soy sauce with GF tamari in the recipe, and made a separate pot of rice noodles just for her.  Her reaction was “This is amazing!”  We also fed a friend of theirs who is vegetarian and planning to go mostly vegan.  The friend thought it was one of the best things she had had in a very long time.  In short, those with dietary restrictions are probably going to enjoy it best.

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Making flavored oil

A post shared by @ awesomesauceeats on

I can definitely see myself making parts of the recipe for other noodle and soup recipes.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever make the whole recipe on my own (but if I do, I think I would spread it over two days).  Jared and I may make it again, but not for at least 6 months and we’ve had time to recover from the amount of steps this ramen involved.

I will definitely make the sweet potatoes again.  I never thought to bake them with shichimi togarashi before, and I like the idea blending some of it to give the broth more body.  True story, I’ve never cared for shichimi togarashi before.  So I didn’t have it in my pantry, nor did I see the point in buying it for just this recipe.  So I made it with ingredients I did have in my pantry.  The spice blend is supposed to be a blend of seven spices.  (Shichi means seven.)  I used five, so I’m going to start calling my blend “five-mi togarashi.”  It is not traditional but I was quite happy with it.  (I suppose I could also call it go-mi togarashi since go is five in Japanese).

FIVE-MI TOGARASHI (GO-MI TOGARASHI)

1 tablespoon mandarin orange dust
4 teaspoons gochugaru
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seed
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

Mix altogether, and store in a tightly fitted lidded jar.

Reference Links

https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/02/how-to-make-the-ultimate-vegan-ramen-rich-and-creamy-vegan-experience.html

https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/02/vegan-ramen-miso-creamy-vegan-vegetarian-food-lab-recipe.html

http://penandfork.com/recipes/cooking-tips/mandarin-orange-dust/

A (mostly) white vegetable soup recipe

What do you do when you’ve got a small cabbage head and a bunch of small carrots from your CSA? Not to mention that your mother bought you half a nagaimo (Japanese mountain yam) and a couple of chayote squash for no reason?

Soup!

And I must be absolutely mad to be making soup on a hot summer Sunday evening (a little humid and 90F!). It was only made possible by the lone air conditioner in my apartment which was strategically placed in the kitchen.

I was inspired by two driving forces: by the memory of the shiso-white wine-chicken recipe in “Ancient Kitchen, Modern Wisdom,” and by my belief that chayote squash doesn’t pair well with traditional herbs. (I roasted chayote squash once with dried basil, and discovered it was one of the worse pairings I could have done.  It generally tastes good with spices.)

Here’s how the (mostly) white vegetable soup went:

Continue reading

Chinese Black Sesame Soup (dessert soup)

(In advance, I apologize for the lack of pictures. When I first thought about writing this post, I felt that it was too early. Now that I am ready, I do not have the soup thawed out for the task of photo-taking, but I don’t want to wait on this post any longer.)

Recently, I attended a soup swap. What’s that, you might be asking. Well, it’s a gathering of sorts involving something like a game. All of the attendees bring six quart-sized containers filled with a frozen homemade soup/stew of their choice. All of the soups are lumped together in a spot in the room. Then, attendees pick out a number, and proceed, in their numbered order, to explain what they brought in. Once this is completed, the guests then  take turns picking out a new soup container to bring home. So, you bring over six quarts of your soup, and you bring home six quarts of someone else’s soup.

This year, I decided on a Chinese dessert soup – black sesame soup (aka “hak zi ma wu”). Researching only provided me with two recipes that looked usable.

Recipe #1
http://chinesefood.about.com/od/desserts/r/black_sesame.htm

Recipe #2
http://www.flavorandfortune.com/dataaccess/article.php?ID=219

The first time I made this soup, I followed recipe #1 exactly. This time around, I followed recipe #1 in general measurements, but tried the methodology of recipe #2. I had hoped that recipe #2 would be a time saver, what with the rice being blended before cooking. In the end, I got a superior result to my first attempt… but it didn’t take any less time.

The long of the short of it? You must blend your ingredients before and after it is cooked. This is the only way you will hope to obtain the same thick but silky texture that you’ll find in a restaurant. (I guess I would liken the viscosity to something like honey.)

Ingredients:
1 cup white rice (long grain or short grain)
1 cup toasted black sesame seeds
7 – 8 cups water, depending on how thick or thin you want the soup (you may even want to go down to 6.5 cups of water if you plan on freezing this as defrosting seems to affect the texture a little)
1 cup granulated sugar (the amount of sugar is up to you – my family found that the original half cup specified was not sweet enough, so I prefer using one full cup at least)

1. Soak your rice in cold water for at least an hour.
2. In a blender, crush up the sesame seeds. Add half of the rice and crush this as finely as you can. Add about a cup of water, and then blend well. Tip this out into your stockpot or large saucepan. Crush up the rest of the rice, add another cup of water, and blend well. When done, tip this out into your pot too.
3. Add the remaining cups of water into the pot. (I have found that I like the consistency of about seven total cups of water. If you want it thinner, use more water.) Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to medium. Meanwhile, make sure that you stir continuously. Until the rice is cooked, it will sink to the bottom of your pot. If you don’t mix continuously, you will run the risk of burning the bottom.
4. Add the sugar (this can be honey, or a mixture of the two… or you can be silly like me and use powdered cactus honey which was purchased some time ago on a whim). As the sugar dissolves, you will notice that the consistency of the soup has gotten thicker. After about 5-8 minutes, the sugar is completely incorporated and the cooking is done.
5. You can try using an immersion blender, but I prefer letting the soup cool a little and blending it in a normal blender. Blend the finished soup to make sure that you have a silky texture (it’ll lumpy if you don’t… perfectly edible but totally lumpy).
6. Serve the soup. I prefer this soup warm-bordering-on-hot, but my mother says you can serve it cold. (Personally, I have never seen this served cold.)  And enjoy.  ^_^

~Mikan