Monday, January 24, 2011

鍋-A Taste of a Japanese Winter

So recently, Karl and I found this really great grocery store in our town, 小川町。(That's Ogawa-Machi) The food there is reasonably priced. It's amazing. Now, it is a bit of a trek to get to-a whole 25 minutes by bicycle. (That's opposed to five minutes to get to our other two grocery stores.) Plus it's an uphill ride.

Despite the battle against time and exercise, it is so worth it. The produce is great. And cheap.We have been cooking with lots of produce lately, so this fact is especially exciting for us. Mostly because of a recent discovery...

There is a special dish that is extremely popular in Japan during the winter (冬-fuyu). It is called 鍋 (nabe). 鍋 is to Japan like pot roast is to the Midwest. It is basically a stew with vegetables, meat, tofu, mushrooms (Japan has, miraculously, cured me of my disdain towards mushrooms. Shocking, I know.) and some type of noodles.

The thing that is so great about 鍋 is that there are countless ways to make it. I mean countless ways. When we stumbled into the magical world of 鍋 approximately a month ago, we could only dream of the possibilities yet to come. That was a month ago. We've made various forms of 鍋 at least six times since then. I kid you not when I use the word magical.

鍋 is astonishingly simple to make. Throw some broth into a big pot with your sliced veggies, meat, tofu, etc. and let it cook till everything is tender and cooked through. 鍋 is traditionally cooked and served in a claypot. The pots typically come with their own portable burner. This is so you can keep cooking the 鍋 and add additional ingredients as you eat.

To experience a true Japanese winter dinner, envision yourself sitting on a cushion on the floor. Your legs are stretched out under the こたつ (kotatsu) table. The 鍋 simmering away on the table right in front of you. You are warm. You are toasty. You do not want to move till spring hails the first sighting of cherry blossoms. Bliss.

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