Thursday, March 18, 2010

What's for Dinner??

While sitting back and catching up on past Gintama episodes, I was suddenly reminded that our family hot-pot machine had not been put to use lately. So, with this in mind I decided that it was time to rummage through the basement, wipe the dust of the hot-pot box and come up with a delicious meal-idea for dinner that night.

In the anime, the characters were eating sukiyaki... being that I'm living off of a student's salary I decided to forgo the expensive meat and opted for something cheaper (although still tasty and still traditionally Japanese). Can you guess what it is??? Here are pictures of the ingredients I used... I'll end the post by showing you the final product, and including a recipe.

Clockwise from top-left corner: chikuwa, firm tofu, beef tendon balls, bonito flakes and sukombu.


Suey Choy, Konjak Board, more tofu and enoki mushrooms


Konjak Board cut into triangles, sukombu (soaked and knotted)

Assorted fish-cakes, fish-balls, beef-balls, tofu and imitation crab.

Kamaboko (Japanese fish-cake)

And to be somewhat healthy, some veggies: carrots, green onions, bok choy and satoimo

Kabocha Squash... mmmm


Daikon

Enoki bundles

I also included some other ingredients, but didn't take photos of them because I'm sure you know what cubed potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and skewered chicken look like. So, have you kind of guessed what the meal was supposed to be from the various ingredients I listed?? Hmm... what other hints can I give? Well, it's a Japanese winter-dish that consists of the above ingredients, all simmered in a kelp-bonito flake broth for hours and sometimes even days. When served at vendor stalls or in oden restaurants, the fishcakes, veggies etc. are often served on skewers. The dish can be served with Karashi (Japanese hot-mustard) to dip.

It's ODEN!

The dish was fairly simple to make. Once the broth was prepared, all I had to do was add in the flavoring ingredients, allow the soup to simmer and then add in the "absorptive" ingredients and serve. Anyways, here's the recipe I used for my Oden Broth.

Oden Broth

- 10 cups dashi stock (see recipe below)
- 2 tbsp sake
- 3 tbsp mirin (or substitute 1.5 tbsp sugar)
- 1.5 tsp light soy sauce
- 1.5 tbsp dark soy sauce

Method:
1. In a wide and shallow pot, combine the broth ingredients and bring to a boil over high-heat. Then, adjust to maintain a low simmer.
2. Add in the flavoring ingredients (fish cakes, kelp knots, meat skewers) and the ingredients that take a fairly long time to cook (satoimo, daikon, potatoes and carrots etc.). Simmer for 20minutes or more.
3. Add in the "absorptive" ingredients (par-boiled kabocha, tofu, konjak, hard-boiled eggs etc.) Simmer for 10 minutes or more. Add more broth as necessary, and adjust to taste by adding more soy sauce or more sugar as needed.
4. Transfer the hot soup and some of the pot-ingredients to the communal hot-pot at the dinner table. Keep hot-pot machine on to maintain a constant low simmer.
5. Provide fresh vegetables on a serving plate at the table. Ensure that everyone at the table has their own serving utensils, bowls, plates and dishes of condiments (i.e. karashi mustard). Have communal cooking utensils (i.e. serving chopsticks and soup ladle) at the table.
6. Everyone helps themselves to the skewers of fish-cakes, tofu, vegetables and meat. As the pot clears, more ingredients from the cooking pot can be added to the hot-pot dish, or the fresh vegetables can be cooked in the hot-pot broth.
7. Serve the oden by itself, with steamed rice, salad, soba, onigiri... basically whatever you would like to complete your meal :)

Dashi Stock

Ingredients:
- 10 cups water
- 12 square inches of kombu (preserved kelp)
- 1 1/2 cups (12g) bonito flakes (dried, shaved, fish flakes)

Method:
1. Soak the kombu in the water in the large-shallow pot that you will use for cooking the oden over stove-top. Soak for 10minutes, or longer depending on personal taste.
2. Bring the kombu and water to a boil, lowering heat once bubbles begin to break the surface. Use tongs to remove the kombu, and turn off the heat.
3. Add in the bonito flakes and allow to sit for 3 minutes.
4. Strain stock through a cloth-lines sieve and place the stock back into the large pot, over medium-high heat. Use this to make your oden broth.


I served the meal with onigiri. Some were plain and some were mixed with furikake... I find this an easy, tasty and no-fuss way to serve rice.

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