Spring Comfort Foods - Workshops

Posted on February 11, 2016 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)


My flowering pear tree in the patio is in full bloom and my grapefruit tree is heavy with fruit. The weather has been so warm, it feels like summer is already here, but let’s hope for more rain. Some exciting things are happening in my kitchen. Last year, writer Francis Lam did a two day soba immersion class with me and wrote about it. The story is featured in the March issue of Saveur, “Sonoko Dreams of Soba.” along with of step step instructions and beautiful photographs by Dylan + Jeni. I hope you pick up a copy at the newsstand. To celebrate soba, I am going to be sharing the recipes that were featured in the magazine at the upcoming March workshops. I am also offering my first miso making workshop as well as the popular udon noodle stomping workshop. In all three workshops, you will put your hands in dough, learn about the Japanese pantry and have a lot o fun. If you sign up before February 15, you will get a 10% discount. To register, please e-mail me at


Hope to see you at one of my workshops.


Thank you for your support.


Best wishes,





Make Soba Noodles by Hand

Session 1: Saturday, March 5  3-6pm

Session 2: Sunday, March 6, 11-2 pm

Sesson 3: Sunday, March 6, 330-630pm

Hands on soba workshop - We will make our own flour blend to make soba, using aromatic, coarse, and finely milled Anson Mills flour. I will show you how to make the sauces and soups featured in the Saveur, March Issue, which includes Chicken and Egg Soba with Herbs in a hot broth and Mushroom Seiro with dipping sauce and Zaru Soba with Walnut sauce. I will serve something sweet to tie the soba meal. Fee: $95. You will take home 2 servings of Soba. To register email




Make Miso at Home

Saturday, April 2,  11-3pm

There is nothing like home made miso. The fermentation is a six month process so you won’t see results overnight but it is fun to see the gradual transformation of beans to miso. Once you try it, you don’t want to go back to store bought miso anymore. In this Hands on miso making workshop - you will make your own batch of miso, using Non GMO soybeans, koji and sea salt. Sonoko will serve a lunch of Japanese rice bowl with miso soup, homemade pickles and something sweet to tie our miso themed day. Please bring a 6 cups container with lid for your miso. This is a 4 hour class. $110 To register email


Udon Noodles and Donabe Clay pot Cooking

Saturday, April 9, 11-2pm

Udon or Soba, that is the question. People in the southern western part of Japan will say Udon! Some people eat and love Udon more than rice. Udon is a thick wheat noodle that is commonly served hot as a cold weather comfort food but we can also serve it cold like soba. I will show you both ways. We will be stepping on dough so it will be a fun work out. The noodles will be served Udon-suki - a Classic Donabe hot pot so you will also be learning how to cook with a donabe pot. If you don’t have a donabe pot, no worries. A regular pot will do. You will take home 2 servings of udon noodles. What to bring: Apron and your kitchen knife. Fee: $95



Shabu Shabu Nabe Workshop - Sunday, October 18, 11-2pm

Posted on October 15, 2015 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (0)
It is that time of year to cook in a donabe - Hot hearty soups right at the table. I am teaching a Shabu Shabu class this Sunday, October 18 from 11-2pm.  Let's swish and swash those meat and vegetables in a beautiful umami rich broth. We will finish with homemade ramen noodles. What a way to start the Fall!  To register, e-mail me at  Fee $95

Donabe Clay Pot - Tender, Love and Care

Posted on August 20, 2011 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Just out of the box. Ready to be seasoned.

Donabe is one of my favorite pots in the kitchen.  I own four.  The oldest one I have is small donabe inherited from my grandmother, which I use to make Yutofu (Tofu nabe).  One block of tofu is about all that I can fit in that one. But with the others, I have made all sorts of donabe dishes, including the popular Chanko Nabe.

If you treat donabe properly, it can last a lifetime, and I don't mind that they take up a lot of space in my small kitchen because they are so beautiful to look at. Just yesterday, I bought a new donabe to cook rice.  It's huge for a small family like mine but  I can use it when I have company and for teaching my upcoming Onigiri class, at in Venice, where they also sell these pots.

I also own an electric rice cooker but the Iga-yaki style double lidded donabe makes really beautiful rice.  (See my  in the LA Times. 

One thing you have to remember though is to treat the donabe pot with tender, love and care.  It is a clay pot after all. it looks and feels solid but it is more delicate than a metal pot.  Before use,  wash it,  turn it over and let it completely dry. If you don't dry the bottom of the pot completely before each use, the pot can crack.

Flip it over to dry.

The pot needs to be seasoned before you starting cooking with it.  Take some cooked rice and water, and make a porridge to seal the clay pot.  For the 5 cup donabe rice cooker, I used 2 cups of cooked rice and enough water to fill it 3/4 of the way up.  I cooked the rice over low heat for about an hour.  Then I let it sit overnight. This morning, I discarded the porridge. Now I am ready to start using it. 

Donabe pot being seasoned with leftover cooked rice and
buckwheat groats  porridge.  I like mixing rice with other grains.

After you throw out the porridge, wash the pot, and remember to dry it completely before you use it again.
Then you can put it back on the shelf and admire it like I do.


Mushroom Rice - Cooked in a Donabe Clay Pot

Posted on July 27, 2010 at 1:28 AM Comments comments (2)

A basket of nameko, shitake and maitake mushrooms

A pot full of rice with maitake, shimeji, shitake, nameko mushrooms.

The most exciting thing that happened  at the farmers market in LA this summer is .  Maybe they have been around longer but I just discovered them at the Sunday farmers market in Pacific Palisades.  Their mushrooms are gorgeous - fresh and varietal. They look like they were just picked off the bark of a tree.  We have seen mushroom farmers with shitake, morels and chantrelles but not maitake, hen of the woods, "nameko".  I can't even get such fresh nameko in Japan!  I was so excited I spent about $20 buying mushrooms. That's easy to do. What is wonderful about mushrooms is how they can adapt to almost any dish.  I use mushrooms in soups, rice, salads, stews, etc.  With these mushrooms, I made rice  in a donabe clay pot.  Last year I blogged about Mushroom rice garnished with Shiso (here is the link to the recipe) It was also made in a donabe rice, and I also did a story for the LA Times about donabe rice cooking ( ;).   I used enough mushrooms to cover the top of the donabe pot.  The mushrooms will shrink quite a bit so you can be quite generous.  The mushrooms add an excellent flavor and fragrance to rice.

Notice the double lid.  This inner lid acts like a pressure cooker.

My donabe clay pot is about 4 years old.

Here are the left over mushrooms in the brown bags. 
This is the way to store them. Don't use plastic bags.


(This recipe works for both donabe rice cooker and electric rice cooker)

2 cups medium grain rice plus 1/4 cup sweet rice (equals 3 cups Donabe 180 ml cup)

15 oz water

3 Tbls Sake

3 Tbls Light color soy sauce (Usukuchi shoyu)

1 package of shimeji mushrooms, 3 medium size shitake mushrooms and 1/2 package of Maitake mushrooms

Garnish options:

1 Tbls yuzu or lime rind  

Roasted sesame seeds, shichimi pepper, sansho pepper, chopped Mitsuba leaves, Cut Nori seaweed


Rinse rice and sweet and let stand in the strainer for 15 minutes.

Trim ends of mushrooms and separate them into individual pieces. If using shitake mushrooms, slice them into 1/4 inch pieces. Set aside.


Put the rinsed rice, light color soysauce and sake in the donabe or electric rice cooker. Mix the sauce and sake into the rice. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Cook donabe over medium high heat for 15-17 minutes or until the steam comes out "vigorously" from the ventilation hole. Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes.

Open the donabe, using pot holders so you don't burn your hands. Add the sliced mushroom and close both the inner and upper lids. Let stand for another 5 minutes.

Open the donabe and gently toss the rice with the mushrooms. You may have some toasted rice on the bottom which is good.

Garnish with yuzu rind and/or other recommended garnishes.


The rice tastes best when served right away.

Hot Pot with Meat Balls and Napa Cabbage

Posted on December 15, 2009 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (3)
Nikudango no donabe

Meat balls, napa cabbage, harusame noodles and scallions
are cooked in a seasoned chicken broth. 

The first and best Chinese food I ever ate was at my Chinese friend Peichun's house in Tokyo. Peichun's father worked for a Taiwanese newspaper. He was the Japan correspondent for many years so Peichun did most of her schooling in Japan but at home, she was completely Chinese.  Her mother was an excellent cook.  Their house always smelt of exotic foods and spices- anise star, peppers, sausages, dried shrimp, dried mango, sesame oil.  Even the soysauce  was different than what I used at home.  I remember how my nose would wiggle from all the unfamiliar aromas whenever I was invited to their house. This was back in the sixties. 

Peichun's mother made cooking look very easy. She would stand at the stove, frying up one dish after another in the sizzling wok. If Peichun's father came home from work early, he would serve us the food. and we girls would giggle and eat. One particular dish that I loved very much was Peichun's mother's hot pot with Meat Balls. The hot pot had four huge meat balls, napa cabbage and spring noodles.  I was thirteen or fourteen years old but could eat a whole meat ball.  My friends still remind me of that. Yesterday, one of my old girlfriend, Yumiko, e-mailed me from Tokyo telling me that she made Peichun's mother's hot pot with Meat balls. I got inspired to make the hot pot too.  Fresh chicken broth is key to making a good nabe My meat balls are smaller than Peichun's mother's meatballs but they are made in the same spirit - joyfully.  

Serves 3-4

Meat balls recipe:
10 oz ground pork
 5 water chestnuts, chopped (optional)
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 tbls sake
1 tbls potato starch (katkuriko) or cornstarch, dissolved in equal amount of water
1 tsp chopped ginger
1/2 tsp roasted sesame oil
Ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup chicken broth

1 package (5oz) of dried spring noodles (, hydrated
4 oz Napa cabbage leaves, washed and cut into bite sizes, about 2.5 inches wide
1 tsp sliced ginger
2 tbls sake
1/2 -1 tsp salt 

2 tbls sliced scallions or negi

1 hot pot or cast iron pot

Hydrate the Harusame noodles in water for at least 3 minutes.

Put the meat ball ingredients into a food processor.  Add only 1/2 of the chicken broth and pulse until the meat is combined well.  Then add the rest of the broth and pulse again until the mixture is smooth and feels starchy. You can do this step by hand.  The broth makes the meat balls very tender and flavorful.

Bring the donabe hot pot or cast iron pot to the stove or portable burner. Add 8 cups of chicken broth with the sliced ginger, sake and salt and bring to a boil. Then turn down heat to a simmer.
Add the harsume noodles and cook for a minute.   

With wet hands, make little meat balls, using about 1.5 tbls of meat mixture.  
Put  the meat balls into the simmering pot.  If you plan to serve the nabe in two stages, only put half of the meat mixture.  You should have about 16 meat balls.

Add the napa cabbage and cook for a couple of minutes, with lid on.  

Test one meat ball to see if it is cooked.  Taste the soup. If it needs more flavor, add a itittle more salt, pepper and sake.

Garnish hot pot with sliced scallions.  Serve in individual soup bowls.

Sukiyaki - A Love Song and A Hot Pot

Posted on December 10, 2009 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

The ingredients for sukiyaki         

Sukiyaki-style cut beef

Finally we have some cold weather in Los Angeles. Even during the day, I felt like turning the heater on but I made sukiyaki and steamed rice, and put on a heavier sweater instead.

Sukiyaki is the most famous kind of nabe - it is a beef based dish that is cooked in a cast iron pot. Sukiyaki is also the name of the most famous Japanese love song by Kyu Sakamoto (). This song has nothing to do with the food but a DJ who could not pronounce the original Japanese title "Ue wo muite arukoo" came up with it. To call this love song Sukiyaki, which means to cook on a hot cast iron plate (Suki is a metal farm tool), is absurd but this is back in the sixties when Japanese culture and music were quite exotic and remote. A Newsweek columnist noted that the re-titling was like issuing "Moon River" in Japan under the title "Beef Stew." Still Sukiyaki made it to the top of the US music charts, and Kyu Sakamoto was invited to appear in the Steve Allen Show. (). When I hear the song play I get nostalgic and almost teary eyed. Sakamoto did a lot of charity work for old, handicapped and young people. Sadly, he died in an airplane crash in 1985 but his beautiful song lives.

Back to Sukiyaki, the hot pot. Making Sukiyaki was a great way to use up the left over vegetables from last weekend's nabe workshop. I am the type of Sukiyaki eater who nibbles on the beef, and goes more for the tofu and vegetables which have been seasoned by the umami of the beef and the Warishita sauce.  My boys go for the beef so it balances out nicely.

Tofu, enoki, shungiku, onions, napa cabbage, negi and

shitake mushrooms add flavor, moisture, texture and

nutritious balance to the sukiyaki.

To make Sukiyaki, you can use a traditional Japanese cast iron pot or any heavy cast iron pot or enamelware with enough depth to hold the saucy ingredients.  Since beef is a precious and expensive food in Japan, sukiyaki dinners are a real occasion.  When I was growing up in Japan, we had sukiyaki once or twice a year. The beef is sliced paper -thin and cooked in a sweet soy sauce broth with tofu, shirataki (yam noodles), napa cabbage, shitake mushrooms, and shungiku (chrysathemum leaves).  As a condiment, a raw beaten egg, into which each morsel of food is dunked before being eaten, accompanies the dish.  The raw egg dip is optional, but it gives the dish a special rich flavor.  If you like the sauce sweeter, you can add more sugar.  My grandmother made a Kansai style Sukiyaki where you start the nabe with just beef, which is seasoned with sugar and soy sauce. If you saw the amount of sugar she put on top of the beef, you would shiver. Sugar was as precious as beef in my grandmother's generation. It was a treat to have both beef and sugar in abundance.  My sukiyaki is Kanto-style. Instead of seasoning the sukiyaki with sugar and soysauce at the table, I make a Warishita sauce. It is made with soysauce, mirin, sugar and Konbu seaweed dashi (stock); Some people use sake too. That can't hurt.  Depending on who makes the sukiyaki, it can be very strong or it can be mild like mine.  I don't like my sukiyaki too sweet, so I hold off on the sugar. Like with all nabe cooking, the flavor of the sauce can be adjusted with the broth or seasonings. Make sukiyaki a few times and get used to the rhythm and flavor of nabe.  It's a bit like making music.  

Sukiyaki -simmering in a cast iron pot. The beef and negi are

ready. Other ingredients need to simmer longer. Be careful 

not to overcook the food.


Serves 4 

2 lbs beef sirlioin, sliced paper-thin, sukiyaki style, 1/8 inch thick

6 scallions or 2 Negi, sliced diagonally, about 2 inches wide

1/2 bunch chrysanthemum leaves (shungkiku). ends trimmed, cut crosswise in 1/3

1 tofu cake - grilled tofu (yaki-tofu) or firm tofu (mengoshi)

1 package - shirataki noodles, blanched and cut in half.

8 shitake mushrooms, stems removed and cut into four pieces

4 napa cabbage leaves, sliced crosswise into 2 inch pieces

1 spanish onion, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

1 bunch enoki mushrooms

Warishita (the Sauce):

3 cups konbu dashi (see recipe below)

1 cup soysauce

1/2 cup mirin

2-3 tbls sugar or more to taste


Konbu dashi:

4 cups water

2 - 3 inch piece of dried konbu

Make the konbu dashi by hydrating the dried konbu in the measured water for 20 minutes. Combine soysauce, mirin, sugar and 3 cups of konbu dashi to make the Warishita.  Put the Warishita in a pitcher.  Set aside 1 cup of plain konbu dashi in a separate pitcher.

Cut scallions or negi diagonally in 2 inch pieces. Wash chrysanthemum leaves well to remove sand and cut them in thirds.  Cut the tofu cake into 8 cubes. Cut the mushrooms into four. Arrange on a platter.

Arrange beef on a plate.

Blanch the shirataki noodles. It can have a unpleasent smell but the blanching will take it away. Drain and cut in half.  Arrange in a bowl.

Set the table and heat the pot on the burner.  Add beef suet (remove from the beef) and use it to oil the pot.  Add the sliced negi or scallions first.  Then add about a quarter potion of the beef, let it cook halfway, and pour in a quarter portion of the Warishita and cook over medium heat, about 2 minutes. Turn the beef and vegetables with chopsticks to cook both sides. 

At this point guests may help themselves to the beef and negi or scallions with chopsitcks, dunking them in the beaten egg (the egg is optional).  

As they are enjoying the beef, add roughly one quarter of tofu, onions, shirataki, napa cabbage, mushrooms to the skillet.  Add more Warishita and let the nabe simmer for a couple of minutes, turning the ingredients to cook both sides evenly.  Add the shungiku and cook for a couple of minutes. If the nabe gets too salty or looks dry, dilute it with about 1/2 cup of dashi. The plain dashi prevents the foods from becoming too salty or sweet, and restores the proper consistency to the sukiyaki.  Don't put too much dashi as it would make the meat and vegetables soggy. Add more meat while the guests serve themselves.  Keep alternating. 

Rice and pickled vegetables are traditionally served with this nabe. 

Start with the negi.  Get is browned on both sides and then

push them to one side to make room for the beef, which

comes next.  

Cook the beef half way through and add the Warishita.

Add the vegetables and more Warishita.  Cook for a couple of

minutes. Turn over  the meat and vegetables to make sure

they are evenly cooked. Let the guests help themselves when

the food is cooked. Don't let the food overcook. If the sauce is too salty, sweet or dry, add a little bit of plain dashi. Continue replenishing the pot.

Break the egg into a bowl.  You can serve the rice at the

same time as the nabe or later, with pickles.

Dunk the beef and vegetables into the raw egg and 

eat.  The raw egg is optional.  Serve Sukiyaki with rice

and pickled vegetables.

Hot Pot Workshop Part VII - One-on-One

Posted on December 6, 2009 at 12:21 AM Comments comments (0)

  Keith is proud to serve his Chanko nabe.

Holiday season is always a tricky time to plan a workshop. Everybody's busy. Yesterday, I offered a make-up session for those who missed my last two hot pot workshops but Keith was the only one who could make it.  So we did a one-on-one, a new experience for both of us.  Keith was very sore from Aikido practice but he managed fine.  The aching ribs didn't get much in the way of cooking or eating.  

What's great about a one-on-one is that you get to design the class according to the person's needs. Keith was a novice in Japanese cuisine so he wanted to learn the basics. He brought along his pair of shiny new Japanese chef knives, which he carried in a wooden box. He said the knives were an investment.  I could see he was serious about cooking.  It's a good place to start because a dull knife will make a dull cook.  I bought my first good knife from the four hundred year old knifemaker in Tsukiji, Tokyo.  I've had it for more than twenty years, and it is still my favorite kitchen knife.   

One thing some Japanese will say about Nabe is why take a class? It is so easy, you can do it yourself.  It's yes and no. Japanese people can take Nabe for granted because it is the most popular winter dish we make in a single pot.  It appears like any other hearty soup but there are some important steps in nabe making that a cook should know. Nabe is meant to be cooked at the table, and not on the stove.  You can do it on the stove but then, you kind of missed the point - the social occasion for people to participate in building and seasoning the nabe. 

We made two nabes: Chanko nabe and Winter Nabe, and a rice porridge called Ojiya to finish the nabe.  You can go to the previous nabe workshops to access the recipes.

What I talk about first at the nabe workshop is the stock. Good stock leads to good nabe. The chicken stock for the Chanko nabe takes about four to six hours; the Dashi for the Winter nabe takes less than twenty minutes. The chicken stock needs to cook longer to extract the good collagen from the chicken. You can make either stock ahead of time, so there are ways to make life easier for the cook. 

As I walked Keith through all the ingredients and showed him how to prep them, he realized how nabe really differed from making a soup, and why I was being a little fussy about how the uncooked foods should be cut and arranged on the platter. For nabe, you want to start with the freshest seasonal ingredients possible. They should be cut in even pieces to make them cook uniformly. You also want to arrange them on the platter in an appealing way because it is the platter that people see first. If you can win over your eaters before the food is even cooked, you have already accomplished half the task as a nabe maker. 

Since it was only the two of us when we started cooking the nabe ingredients, we used half of the ingredients on the platter. You don't want leftovers in the pot.  Nabe is slow food. Take your time and stretch the evening for good conversation. Replenish the pot with more food and stock when the pot looks low. Between the two of us, we ate most of the Winter Nabe. The cod added a really nice flavor to the based stock.  Later in the afternoon, we had more people join us, as we were making the Chanko nabe. My artist friends Bob and Kathy, and Sakai came for tastings. We opened a bottle of chilled Onigarashi - a smooth dry sake. It paired nicely with Chanko nabe.  Keith cleared the pot and made a fresh batch of nabe. By the second nabe, he was in control and built the nabe on his own.  The initial one-on-one session turned into a little gathering of friends but that's what happens when you set the hot pot on the table top. It creates a convivial atmostphere. Nabe is a living pot.

Miyagi's famous quote in The Karate Kid:


First learn stand...then learn fly...nature's rule..

Mushroom Nabe - Nabe workshop V1

Posted on November 29, 2009 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)

A medley of mushrooms - shimeji, shitake, chanterelles, oysters,
enoki and maitake 

There are some foods that take time, sometime years, for the palate to appreciate. That's how mushrooms have been for me.  As a child, I hated them.  I had this preconceived idea that mushrooms were more medicine than food, and found their appearance, flavor and smell utterly unappealing.  My mother had a lot to do with it.  She cultivated slimy medicinal mushrooms under the kitchen sink. I got goose pimples every time I saw her brew tea with them. My grandmother had smiliar interests in mushrooms. She often visited the Chinese herbs shop in town and I would tag along for the thrill. Dried mushrooms could be found next to the dusty bins of dried rattle snake skins, shark fins and ginseng roots. The medicine man would come up with a cure for whatever ailment my grandmother was complaining about that day. Mushrooms were high on his list of recommendations. How I eventually came to appreciate mushrooms was my encounter with m in a delicate dobinmushi - soup that my mother made. The scent of matsutake was fragrant and lovely, and it was served in a clay pot like tea. I suddenly felt like a grown up when I had my first sip. Since matsutake is so expensive, all I got was a sliver but that was enough to enjoy its essence.  Now, I enjoy mushrooms of all kinds for their scent, flavor, and medicinal properties. I discovered that many edilble mushrooms contain lots of minerals, fiber and protein - not bad for a fungus.  My mother and grandmother weren't just practicing some follklore medicine after all. At the workshop, we made a mushroom nabe with tofu and salmon.  It was a healthy combination of foods in one pot.

Alexandra smelling the fragrant Maitake

Serves 4-6

You can use a variety of edible mushrooms. I used both Japanese and western mushrooms. Besides mushrooms, you can mix other vegetables like napa cabbage, mizuna, or shungiku.  If you like a totally vegetarian nabe, you can substitute the salmon tofu tsumire for plain tofu.

On the platter are shitake, shimeji, enoki, maitake, chanterelles
and negi. 

The Dashi:
Basic Broth 8 cups Dashi or Dried Shitake Mushroom Dashi 
2 tbls sake
1 tbls Mirin, optional
1/3 cup )

The Vegetables:
1 package of enoki mushrooms, ends removed
1 package of maitake mushrooms, ends removed
1 package of shimeji mushrooms,ends removed 6-8 shitake mushrooms, stems removed
1 Negi or 3 scallions, ends removed

The Tofu Salmon Tsumire: **
8 oz salmon fillets, skin and bones removed
2 pinches of salt (about ¼ teaspoon)
4 oz firm tofu 1.5 tbls potato starch (Katakuriko) or all purpose flour
1 tsp ginger juice
1 tsp sake
1/2 egg
½ negi or 1 scallion, chopped
¼ tsp salt
Dash of pepper

Garnishes and Condiments:
1-2 Yuzu or lemon sliced rind into thin slivers
1/3 cup grated ginger
Optional garnishes: Grated daikon, sansho pepper,
ground roasted sesame seeds, sliced scallions

** For vegans, you can substitute Tofu Salmon Tsumire with medium firm tofu. Cut the tofu into 8 cubes.  Do not over cook the tofu in the nabe.  Just keep it in the dashi long enough to heat it, about five minutes.

Ian and Missy slicing the vegetables.

Make the Dashi broth. Season 6 cups of the broth with sake, mirin, usukuchi soysauce. Reserve the remaining 2 cups of plain broth to replenish the hot pot.

Prep the Tofu Salmon Tsumire: Take the tofu out of the package, and drain water. Wrap drained tofu in a clean cloth to remove excess water. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Place the skinless, boneless salmon on a cutting board. Cut the salmon in small cubes, about ½ inch in size. Take a couple pinches of salt (around ¼ teaspoon or a little more) and sprinkle it all over the cubed salmon. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Mince the salted salmon cubes, using a knife. It’s should have some texture like a steak tartare. In a medium size bowl, combine the tofu, minced salmon, sake, ginger, egg, negi, salt and pepper to taste. Use your hands to mix the ingredients.  Crumble the tofu with your hand.  Transfer the tsumire mixture to a clean bowl. Refrigerate. (Note: Don’t make this more than 1 hour ahead of time or it will get watery).

Clean the mushrooms. Separate the shimeji, maitake and enoki mushrooms, so they are easy to eat. The enoki mushrooms can be cut in half. Arrange everything on a platter. Keep each ingredient in separate piles.

Slice Negi or scallions crosswise, about 1/4 inch thick. Arrange negi on the mushroom platter.

Prepare the Garnishes.

Rebecca mincing the salmon by hand.

Set the table with chopsticks, spoons, and serving bowls for each person. Bring out the condiments and garnishes and set them on the table.

Bring the seasoned dashi, the plain dashi (in a little pitcher or cup) the mushrooms and the negi, and the bowl of tsumire to the table. Turn on the portable burner. Pour the seasoned dashi in the Donabe, Hot pot, and heat the dashi over medium heat.

When the seasoned dashi starts to gently boil, turn heat to low, and add all the mushrooms except for the enoki. Close lid and cook the mushrooms in the simmering broth for 4-5 minutes.

Open the lid. With two spoons or clean wet hands, make tsumire balls, using about 1.5 tbls of the mixture, and drop the balls gently into the broth. Repeat until you have used up half or all of the mixture. Closed lid to continue cooking for a couple of minutes.  (Note: If you plan to serve the nabe in two stages, reserve half for the second round.)  Open the lid and taste the soup. If the soup tastes a little salty after you added the Tsumire, you can adjust the flavor by adding plain dashi. If the soup tastes bland, you can adjust it by adding a ½ teaspoon of soysauce or usukuchi soysauce. For a rounder, sweeter taste, sake and sweet sake can be added sparingly.

Add the enoki and the negi.  Close the lid and continue cooking until the tsumire floats freely, about 3-5 minutes more.  Serve one tsumire and the mushrooms with ½ cup of soup per serving to start with. Garnish with sliced yuzu.

Let everyone help themselves to the condiments and garnishes on the table. Note: If you plan to do a second round, try to clear the first round of ingredients out of the nabe.

Have a bowl ready to scoop out the leftovers, which gets eaten or discarded. One of the things a host does during the nabe dinner is to encourage the guests to have more, so you have no left over’s. You don’t want to mix overcooked ingredients with the fresh ones. The left over broth can be used to make a porridge or used as a broth for noodles.

The mushrooms will shrink as they cook.

When the Tsumire floats freely, they are cooked and the
nabe is ready.  Garnish with yuzu rind.

Ojiya with Egg and Yuzu - Hot Pot Work Shop Part V

Posted on November 21, 2009 at 3:01 PM Comments comments (0)
Ojiya - porridge with egg and yuzu rind

There was some leftover rice from last night, so I made Ojiya for breakfast.  This porridgy rice dish is often served at the end of Nabe but I made it in the place of my breakfast miso soup.  I always have a good appetite in the morning.  Plus there is the sculptor to feed. Sakai always needs something solid to get his engine going. At the start of each week, he usually buys two fresh bagels, one for him and one for me, and another bag of day old bagels to last him for a week; and with it, he has rice, pancakes, soup, porridge, fruit, whatever I put on the table. Making art is physical.

Ojiya resembles a risotto in its consistency but unlike the Italian counterpart, there is no need to stir. Ojiya likes to be left alone in the pot to cook.  At the workshop, we used the rich chicken broth that was left over in the Chanko nabe to season the Ojiya.  For additional flavor, we added eggs and yuzu, and some leftover pork from the nabe.  Chopped scallions would work nicely too.  My morning Ojiya came out a little bit on the soupy side.  If you go to Rosanjin nabe, you will see a much thicker version. 


Serves 4
2 cups cooked medium or short grain rice
4 cups dashi, broth (dried bonito/kombu dashi or Japanese chicken broth) *
2 eggs
Salt or or regular soysauce to taste
1/4 rind, sliced thinly (if you can't find yuzu, try lemon or lime)
1/2 scallions, sliced thinly (optional)

Serving suggestions: Pickles go nicely with Ojiya.
How to make Ojiya:
If you are making Ojiya as a "Shime" or finish for the nabe, make sure to clear any leftover food so all you are left is the rich broth.  Taste the broth.  If it tastes bland, add 1/2 teaspoon of soysauce or salt.  You may need a little more if you like a stronger flavor.  

Close the pot and cook the rice in the seasoned broth over medium heat until the rice absorbs most of the broth and taken on the consistency of a thin porridge. This will take about 5 minutes.  

Break an egg or two in a bowl and mix lightly.  Pour the egg into the pot, using a slow circular clockwise motion, so it gets evenly distributed.  Close the pot and turn off the heat.  Let the rice and eggs cook in the remaining heat for a couple of minutes.  The porridge will turn thicker, as it absorbs the broth. 

Now open the pot,  sprinkle some yuzu rind and serve in individual rice bowls.
Pickles go nicely with the rice.

Ojiya ready to be served.   Notice sprinkles of Yuzu rind.

Winter Nabe with Yuzu - Hot Pot Workshop Part IV

Posted on November 20, 2009 at 11:01 AM Comments comments (1)

Of the miso based Nabes, one of my favorite is Winter Nabe seasoned with . I made it in the patio this morning for breakfast. I call it winter nabe because the white winter vegetables -  napa cabbage, , white shimeji mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, negi, and tofu inspire a snowy landscape. The greens in this nabe don't really belong in this nabe but my body wanted some this morning so I threw in the pot at the end. It's never too cold to eat outdoors in Los Angeles. I put on an extra sweatshirt, and I am fine because the nabe will warm me up. I also know I can count on the sun.  Before noon, I will probably be in a t-shirt. This nabe was also a hit at the Nabe workshop.

Outdoor Nabe - the vegetables, tofu and fish are ready to
be cooked in the pot.


Serves 4 -6
The Ingredients:
½ Napa Cabbage, leaves washed,
1 negi
4 , peeled
1 package enoki mushrooms, ends removed
1 tofu, soft type (kinogoshi)
1/2 bunch or or Spinach (optional)
4 cod fillets, about 1 lbs (with skin and bones - optional)
2 s (deep fried tofu poutches)

- continue below.

Saikyo Miso (white miso) -- Dissolve the paste with some
broth before you put it into the Nabe. A mortar and pestle 
works well.

The Dashi - Basic Broth:
6 cups Dashi (see recipe attached)
2 Tbls
8 tbls of
1—2 Yuzu rind, sliced thinly

Other recommended garnishes and condiments:
Ground roasted sesame seeds

Winter vegetables - napa cabbage, daikon radish, Japanese
Make the dashi and season 6 cups with usukuchi soysauce. Take a couple cups of the liquid and use it to dissolve the miso. Pour the miso liquid into the dashi. Set aside.

Slice each cod fillets crosswise, at an angle, about 1.5 inches wide.

Cut Napa cabbage into bite size pieces.

Slice Negi at an angle, about 2 inches long.

Slice turnip thinly, about 1/8 inch thick.

Cut tofu into 8 squares. Arrange everything on a platter.

Keep each ingredient in its own pile.

Sarah, Nicole and Rebecca at the Hot pot workshop

Set the table with chopsticks, spoons, and serving bowls for each person.
Bring out the condiments and garnishes and set it on the table. Bring the seasoned dashi, the plain dashi (in a little pitcher or cup) the vegetables, tofu and the fish platter.

Turn on the portable burner. Pour the seasoned dashi in the Donabe, Hot pot, and heat the dashi over medium heat.

When the seasoned dashi starts to gently boil, turn heat to low, and add the turnips first and the white part of the napa cabbage.  Cover the pot and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Don't over cook the tofu and enoki mushrooms.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the tofu and enoki mushrooms.  Cover the pot and cook for another 4- 5 minutes over simmering heat.

Add the negi, tofu and enoki mushrooms. Cover the pot and simmer for for a couple of minutes. Add the Mizuna and cook briefly for a minute.  Now open the donabe and serve the nabe in individual bowls with the soup. Since the fish contain bones, warn people to be careful.

Garnish with sliced yuzu.

Let everyone help themselves to the condiments and garnishes on the table.

Note: If you plan to do a second round, try to clear the first round of ingredients out of the nabe. Have a bowl ready to scoop out the leftovers, which gets eaten or discarded. One of the things a host does during the nabe dinner is to encourage the guests to have more, so you have no leftovers. You don’t want to mix overcooked ingredients with the fresh ones. The leftover broth can be used to make a porridge.

Chanko Nabe - Hot Pot Workshop Part III

Posted on November 19, 2009 at 10:07 AM Comments comments (0)

Chanko Nabe with Tsumire, chicken balls and ten kinds of vegetables

Chanko nabe was a big hit at both nabe workshops.  I think a lot had to do with the familiarity of the ingredients, particularly the dashi in this nabe, which is chicken broth. Japanese chicken broth is very easy to prepare at home, and with that in hand, you are set to make this nabe.  Every time I make Chanko nabe, I try a new ingredient.  Almost anything goes: meat, Seafood and a variety of vegetables of your choice.  Someone asked if bell peppers would work or not.  Naoko thought it would if you added some curry in the broth.  Good idea.  In the Sumo world, the wreslter in charge of cooking gets to pick the ingredients and seasonings.  If he decides butter and cream should go into the chanko, then so be it. 

My Chanko nabe is healthy and hearty. The basic seasonings are sake and salt but not too much.  If the chicken broth is really good, you don't need that much seasoning, so you taste and decide what suits your palate.  I skim the fat off the chicken broth and use a half a dozen or more vegetables in the nabe mix plus tofu. There is one thing to remember when using a variety of vegetables in nabe.  Root vegetables such as carrot, potato, daikon radish, burdock, turnip take longer to cook, so they go into the nabe first. Greens, such as spinach and mizuna go into the pot last because they need only a minute to cook. The one thing you want to avoid is overcooking the ingredients - and that applies to everything.

For the Saturday workshop, we stuck to the purist Sumo wrestler Chanko nabe.  The only meat we used was ground chicken, which are shaped into balls, tsumire, and cooked in the nabe. I was more flexible on Sunday because people wanted to taste the Chanko Nabe with pork.  So I threw some sukiyaki style Kurobuta belly into the Nabe.  The pork added savoriness to the broth. Both versions came out delicious.  

Somebody asked me if you can make this nabe on the stove top in a regular cast iron or enamelware pot.  Sure, why not.  I do it sometimes.

How about making a post Thanksgiving soup, using the carcass of the roasted turkey.  If I get around to making a Turkey Chanko Nabe,  I will blog about it!

Watching how to make Homemade dashi, the broth.


Serves 4 to 8

Almost any ingredient goes with this nabe. Serve this nabe with plain rice or Ojiya, porridge.  Cold sake or Shochu go nicely with Nabe.

The Dashi - Chicken Broth: 10 cups of chicken broth (Here is the link to the recipe)

1 cup sake

4 tsp salt to taste

Vegetables and Tofu:

½ cup cabbage, leaves washed and separated

1 onion, peeled and sliced crosswise, 1/4 inch thick

1/3 daikon, peeled and sliced into half moons, about ¼ inch thick

1 carrot, peeled and sliced into rectangles or flower shapes, about ¼ inch thick.

4 Shitake mushrooms


1 bag

1 Firm tofu

½ bunch of or

3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly

1/2 pork belly (sukiyaki style cut) - optional

Chicken Tsumire (Chicken Meat Balls):

1 lbs ground chicken (prefer chicken leg)

¼ onion, peeled and minced

2/3 tbsp  (potato starch) or cornstarch

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 tbls sake

1 egg

½-1/3 tsp salt

Dash of ground pepper

Garnishes and Condiments for the Table:

½ cup ground roasted sesame seeds

½ cup scallions, sliced thinly

1/3 cup grated ginger

Seasoned ground chicken to make Tsumire, chicken balls,

which are cooked at the table. 


Make the Dashi - chicken broth. Season 8 cups of the broth with sake and salt.  If the quality of your broth is very good, you may not need as much salt.  Taste and decide what suits your palate.  Reserve the remaining 2 cups of plain chicken broth to replenish the hot pot.

Chicken Tsumire:

In a medium size bowl, combine ground chicken, sake, ginger, egg, onions, salt , sake and pepper to taste. Use your hands to mix the ingredients. Refrigerate.

Cabbage is a popular chanko ingredient.

The Vegetables, Age and Tofu:

Take tofu out of the package, and drain water. Cut into 8 cubes.

Cut the age into 1 inch wide pieces, crosswise.

Clean the mushrooms. Remove stems.

Wash the greens, and cut root end.

Slice Negi or scallions crosswise, about 1/4 inch thick.

Arrange everything on a large platter, keeping each ingredient in its own pile.

Prepare the garnishes and condiments.


Set the table with chopsticks, spoons, and serving bowls for each person. Bring out the condiments and garnishes and set them on the table.

Bring the seasoned dashi, the plain dashi (in a little pitcher or cup) the chicken tsumire, and the vegetable platter to the table. Turn on the portable burner.

Pour the seasoned dashi in the Donabe, Hot pot, and heat the dashi over medium heat. When the seasoned dashi starts to gently boil, turn heat to low, and add all cabbage, daikon, carrot , age and the onions and the garlic slices. Cook the ingredients in the simmering broth for 4-5 minutes.  

With two spoons or clean wet hands, make tsumire balls, using about 1.5 tbls of the ground chicken mixture, and drop the balls gently into the broth. Repeat until you have used up half or all of the mixture. (Note: If you plan to serve the nabe in two stages, reserve half for the second round.)  Cook for a couple of minutes, until the tsumire floats freely. Also add the tofu at this time and cook for 3-5 minutes.


kim off any surface scum if you see any. Taste the broth. Make adjustments with

plain chicken broth or sake if it is on the salty side. Likewise, add more salt if neceessary.


Add the greens during the last minute. Do not over cook the greens.

Serve one tsumire and the vegetables with some soup. People can also serve themselves.

Garnish the soup with your favorite condiment.

Sake cups drying after the workshop.

Note: If you plan to do a second round, try to clear the first round of ingredients. Have a bowl for the leftovers. One of the things a host does during the nabe dinner is to encourage the guests to have more so you don’t end up with leftovers. You don’t want to mix overcooked ingredients with the fresh ones. The left over broth can be used for the second round or to make Ojiya, porridge or used as a broth for noodles.

Tofu Nabe - Yudofu - Hot Pot Workshop Part II

Posted on November 18, 2009 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (0)

My grandmother's donabe

Nabe or Nabe-mono means "food cooked in a pot". It is a soupy Japanese dish eaten especially during the cold weather.  Even though my apple tree thinks spring is already here and is giving off blooms,  I think we are about to enter winter.  So it's perfect nabe season, and it couldn't not have been more timely to do the two Japanese hot pot Nabe workshops last weekend. To those who participated, I hope you enjoyed the workshop, and will incorporate nabe into your repetoire of dishes.  A few people could not make it for baby matters and other emergencies.  One couple couldn't find my house. They were driving up and down the alley way looking for the house but gave up and went to work instead (on a Sunday!)  I am so sorry that happened.  I will do a make up class after Thanksgiving.  

  November 14 Workshop

Thanks to Tortoise for their support, especially Keiko Shinomoto for sending me e-mails from Tokyo to make sure I had everything I needed for the workshop. To Naoko Moore for helping and sharing her knowledge in hot pot cooking; Marissa Roth for taking the beautiful pictures; and Jason Moore for volunteering in the kitchen. What a team!


Nabe begins with a good dashi.  Dried Kombu
seaweed hydrating in water.

I began the Nabe workshop by telling the story of my grandmother's clay pot -donabe (see above picture).  At about age fifty three (roughly my age), my grandmother became a widow and lived mostly alone in .  Many of her one-person meals were cooked in this small donabe.  The underside of her donabe is pitch black from the years of use.  I found her old donabe when I went to visit her house after she had passed away at the age of 102. The donabe was cracked in places, and ready to be put into the trash bin. I rescued the donabe, brought it back to the U.S., cooked some porridge in it to seal the cracks. It was at this hot pot work shop that I used my grandmother's restored donabe for the first time to demonstrate the tofu nabe - Yudofu. It was one of her favorite dishes. She would make yudofu her entire meal but if I was visiting her, the nabe was served as an appetizer, and she would get sashimi from the fishmonger.  I felt Grandmother's spirit near me during the workshop.

Yudofu - I love the simplicity of this tofu nabe.  Kyoto is its birthplace. Tofu is the main ingredient of this nabe and dried kombu seaweed is used to make the broth, dashi.  Other ingredients such as daikon, napa cabbage can join the pot, but the one I demonstrated was just tofu.  I like to make Yudofu with artisinal tofu, which can be found in a few places in Los Angeles. My favorite one is  , which you can find at Granada Market on Sawtelle in West Los Angeles.  Get their Silken tofu.  The basic broth is made with Kombu seaweed, which is full of umami - savoriness and thus, makes a good nabe starter.  We usually don't eat the kombu in the Yudofu but you can slice it up later and munch on it.  It's good fiber. Have it with a little miso.  Enjoy the heated tofu with the condiments.  

Set a piece of dried Konbu into the pot of water. Let stand for
30 minutes to extract the Kombu's umami, savory flavor.

Gently put the tofu on top of the kombu.

Serve the heated tofu with grated ginger, sliced scallions,  dried bonito flakes and soysauce.

Serves 4 as an appetizer 

1 piece of Kombu seaweed, about 6 inches long
6 -8  cups water 
2 packages of silken tofu, preferrably artisinal like Meiji Tofu
6 oz daikon radish, peeled and sliced into matchsticks, about 2.5 inches long (optional)

Daikon makes a nice match with Tofu.

1 negi or 3 scallions, sliced thinly
Dried bonito flakes (fine shavings)
Shichimi pepper

From top: hydrated kombu seaweed, dried bonito flakes (fine shavings) Grated ginger, soysauce and dried kombu seaweed.   They brighten and give flavor to the bland tofu.


Slice the negi or scallions thinly and soak them in water for about 10 minutes. Drain water and wring lightly.  Serve in a bowl.  

Put the dried kombu seaweed and the soaking water in the pot, and let the Kombu hydrate for 30 minutes.

Cut the tofu into 8 squares.  Serve the tofu on a plate.

Peel the daikon radish and cut it into 2.5 inch long matchsticks.  Serve the daikon matchsticks on a plate.

Bring the tofu and daikon matchsticks to the table.  

Bring the pot  to the table and set it on the portable burner.  Turn on the heat and boil over medium heat. Bring heat down to low, uncover the pot, and gently put the tofu and daikon matchsticks into the pot. Leave it in until the tofu is warmed through, between 4-5 minutes.  Do not over cook the tofu.

Scoop out the heated tofu and daikon radish matchsticks, and serve in individuall bowls with the condiments of your choice: dried bonito flakes, sliced scallions, shichimi pepper, negi and soysauce.

Table top cooking: Use only half the amount of tofu and daikon radishes or the amount that will be eaten in one round. Reserve the other half for the second round.  Every person should have a spoon to scoop out the tofu.

Chanko Nabe - Hot Pot Workshop Part I

Posted on November 18, 2009 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (1)

A medley of vegetables for nabe.

I  have been testing my Nabe, hot pot recipes to prepare for this weekend's hot pot workshop, and yesterday, I broke house record.  I made FIVE Nabes in one day.  I started cooking at 11 am with my friend, Naoko Moore, who is helping me with the workshop.  Then a bunch of  friends came over for dinner, and I made more. We finished around 10 pm.  This may not sound like many hot pots to a chef, and it certainly isn't. What surprised me was my appetite.  Even though I continuously cooked and ate throughout the day, I never felt really stuffed.  Instead, I felt nourished and energized. Good food and friends do magic, and I have not turned into a sumo wrestler.

One of the recipes I tested was the sumo wreslter inspired hot pot called Chanko Nabe. This Hot pot is a savory soupy dish that is made with a rich chicken broth base. As with all Nabe, you always want to start with good dashi, basic stock, so it's worth taking that extra step to make it from scratch.  This chicken stock takes a minimum of two hours to make, using a whole chicken, and it is best if you let it cook for another three or four hours to extract the collagen, which gives the stock the savoriness or Umami, to the broth.  


 Chanko Nabe

A typical Chanko nabe contains chicken balls and a variety of vegetables, meat and seafood. These white balls symbolize  "shiroboshi" the white victory stars in a sumo match. So the more chicken balls in a Chanko nabe, the more luck comes your way.  I ate a half a dozen chicken balls while testing and tasting the nabes, and yesterday turned out to be a rather victorious day. All five of my Nabes came out delicious.  Some Chanko nabes contain no pork or beef because unlike the chicken, these four-legged animals are in the looser's pose in a sumo match - both hands touching the ground.  That means bad luck for a sumo wrestler.  But many sumo wrestlers don't bother with this superstiton.  I have come across Chanko nabes that contain pork belly, sausges, even bacon.  Seafood is popular, too. Throw in that lobster tail.  I bet it will make a good Chanko. 

We made the chicken balls with ground chicken legs, grated ginger, egg, sake, salt and pepper. You can also add a little miso for extra flavor but we omitted it.  The chicken balls were cooked in the chicken broth, along with sliced onions, cabbage, carrots, daikon, napa cabbage, age (deep fried tofu pouches), Mizuna, tofu, and slices of garlic.  Certain vegetables take longer to cook than others, and act as flavor enhancers so they go into the pot first. Those were sliced onions, cabbage, carrots, daikon, age, the lower white part of the napa cabbage.  After about five minutes of simmering, we opened the pot, and added tofu, the leafy part of the napa cabbage, and the mushrooms.  We cooked the ingredients for another 5 minutes, and during the final minute, added the Mizuna.


Naoko is enjoying the fragrance of Yuzu. Look at the beautiful steam rising from the Donabe, hot pot.  

The chicken balls, or the shiroboshi, the white victory balls, were very tasty. So were all the vegetables and tofu.  I wonder what this Chanko Nabe would taste like with pork belly?  It would probably add more umami but I wanted to stick to the traditional Chanko nabe.  We served the nabe with lots of garnishes:  grated daikon radish, roasted sesame seeds,  Yuzu kosho, shichimi pepper, and ponzu sauce.  I love this Nabe with ground roasted sesame seeds.  This Chanko Nabe was a winner!  Here is to sumo-togetherness!

Simmering the chicken broth.


Makes 8-12 cups depending on how long you cook the broth.

Make the broth earlier in the day or the day before.

1 Whole chicken or 1 carcass of chicken with wings

2 Negi or 4 scallions, green parts only

1 inch of ginger, peeled and sliced about ¼ inch thick

3 garlic cloves, peeled

5 peppercorns

20 cups of water

Wash the chicken under running water. Set aside.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Pour over the chicken. This step is called “Shimofuri”, and it is giving the chicken a pre-bath before it goes into the Pot. This step helps remove the chicken’s odor and scum.

In a large saucepan combine the water, chicken, scallions or negi, garlic, and ginger and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower heat to a simmer and cook the chicken for 4-6 hours, occasionally removing the scum from the surface.

Strain the broth, using a cheese cloth over a strainer. Reserve the chicken broth. Let stand overnight in the fridge. Remove excess oil from surface. Use the broth for Chanko Nabe (here is the link to the recipe).

Note: The chicken meat is used to make a good soup. If you want to eat the meat,

you can take the chicken out of the pot after an hour and remove the breasts.  Leave the

other parts in pot to make the  broth.

Rosanjin Hot Pot

Posted on November 3, 2009 at 6:52 AM Comments comments (0)

Every night after the soba workshop, was standing in the kitchen with me cooking dinner for everyone.  I  know he was very tired from the workshop, and so was I but we still wanted to eat a nice meal.  We didn' t even discuss eating out because we both knew we could eat better at home, and we did. 

On the final evening before going back to Tokyo, Akila made us a memorable meal. It was Nabe and Tempura.  Nabe is Japanese hot pot cooking. It is one of my favorite ways to eat and entertain. Since I am doing a Japanese hotpot this month, I  was excited that Akila included a hot pot dish in the menu. 

 is the multi-talented Japanese artist, ceramist, scholar, calligrapher and gourmet, who found the Bishoku-kai, gourmet club in the 1920s.  He looks a little intimidating in this picture.  Many say he was rather arrogant, and had uncompromisingly high standards when it came to food.   




Once I made roasted eggplant dish, yakinasu.  It was a simple dish. You roast the eggplant, peel the skin, and serve it whole, with grated ginger and soysauce on the side.  Serving it whole is the essential part of this dish. Rosanjin didn't want you to slice the eggplant in the kitchen.  He believed that the best way to enjoy the fragrance and flavor of the roasted eggplant  was to bring it to the table in its whole form, and then split it open with a pair of chopsticks to eat it. The seasonings and condiments were there to enhance the flavor of the eggplant but never to mask it.  He was meticulous about freshness and seasonality of foods, and how they should be served.  I love his food philosophy and his pottery.  

The Rosanjin hot pot follows a similar philosophy as the roasted eggplant dish. It's pure and simple.  Akila served the hot pot as an appetizer. The hot pot consisted of only two ingredients: thin slices of pork and Komatsuna, a leafy vegetable like spinach but much milder in flavor. Komatsuna is something you can always find at the Japanese markets. The two hot pot ingredients are cooked shabu-shabu style in a light dashi based broth, seasoned with Usukuchi-soysauce, sake and salt, and some Mirin. used soysauce to make the final adjustments to the flavor.  Akila kindly walked me through the steps.

First step: Making the dashi base stock.

  Akila at the stove, making the dried bonito and konbu dashi.

The degree of "umami" in the dashi stock defines how much to season. Use the recipe as  a guide, and make adjustments as you go. This is true especially with hot pot cooking. The dashi base seasoning is determined by the quality of the stock you make, so start with good konbu and dried bonito flakes.   




Most of the time, Akila was measuring with his eyes but later he explained to me that he tries to keep the salt level to about 1.1%. to 1.2% of the total dashi base.  He added a teaspoon or two more of the Mirin and Soysauce than what the recipe calls for.  The saltiness of the salt and soysauce, and the sweetness of the mirin are there, but never to overwhelm the umami of the basic dashi.


The pork is sliced Shoga-yaki style, between 1/8-inch -3/16-inch thick. This is slightly thicker than Sukiyaki-style cut.  We did all our shopping at t  in Venice.


We needed  a group picture. So Japanese.  My son Sakae and his girlfriend Bina flew in from Portland for the weekend. I hadn't seen my son in 3 months so I was happy that they could join this special dinner. Plenty of sake and wine are on the table, with all the hot pot utencils ready to go.  A refreshing  tomato salad was served before the hot pot. 

Second step: Constructing and serving the nabe.

First, you poach the pork in the simmering dashi broth, and eat it straight.  It's simple.  One person puts the meat into the pot. When the meat is cooked,  we each take our serving bowls and help ourselves to the the meat.  It was so tasty, we didn't need any condiments.

When the pork is gone, Komatsuna comes next. You put the leaves into the pork infushed dashi, and let them absorb the savory flavors of the broth; this only takes a few seconds. You pick the komatsuna leaves out of the dashi with your chopsticks, and eat them before they go limp or darken in color.  Everything was flavorful and pure.  Sorry no time to take a picture of the cooked Komatsuna. It all happened so fast and I wasn't about to miss out on the experience.

  Mmmm, smells so good.

The finish: Making the rice porridge

To finish the hot pot, Akila made a rice porridge in the rich dash.  Akila tasted the dashi again. He added a little soysauce.  

We added 3 cups of rice to the hot pot, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes over medium low heat until the rice absorbed most of the broth and turned into porridge.

Akila added two scrambled raw eggs into the simmering porridge when the porridge was nearly cooked. You don't want to over cook the eggs or the rice.

We put the lid back on the donabe while the porridge was cooking.   The heat was turned off.

Only a pinch of yuzu zest is used to accent the porridge.   


Porridge with egg and yuzu zest, ready to be served.


Mostly gone.  The rice was served with pickles.  

Thanks to Akila for making this beautiful Rosanjin hot pot.  And this was only the beginning of this meal. Tempura was next!  I tell you, it was a feast.  




Serves 6 (as a appetizer)

1 bunch Komatsuna or Mizuna if you can't find any Komatsuna. Ends removed.

Don't use spinach.

1.5  lbs 1/8-inch -3/16 inch thick pork slices - shogayaki-style cut (This is slightly thicker than sukiyaki style cut)

1/4 tsp Yuzu zest for garnish


Dashi broth base for Rosanjin hotpot:

41/2 cups Dashi - dried bonito and konbu seaweed

1 tsp usukuchi soysauce

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sake

2 tsp Mirin or more to adust flavor

1 tsp or more soysauce to adjust flavor


Wash the Komatsuna and discard root ends.  Put the leaves on a platter.  

Arrange the sliced pork next to the spinach.

Prepare the yuzu zest.  If yuzu is not available, use lime.

Make dashi broth base. You can do this earlier in the day or

the night before and keep it in the fridge


Add the seasonings to the broth.  Before adding the soysauce, taste

the broth.  It should be strong flavored but drinkable. 

Adjust flavors with more Mirin and/or Soysauce but do not put too much.

About a teaspoon more if you need to make such adjustments.

Once you make a hotpot by yourself,  you can figure out

what best suits your palate.   

Bring the broth to the table and bring it to a simmering level.

Start with the pork and then follow with the Komatsuna. Use chopsticks or wooden paddle

to spread the pork evenly around the hot pot.  The komatsuna only needs to

be cooked for less than 10 seconds.  Every body picks up their chopsticks

and bowl and serves themselves.

Finish with porridge. It's usually the host that makes the porridge.

Porridge with eggs Recipe:

3 cups cooked medium or shortgrain white rice

5 cups of dashi broth infused with pork.

Taste the dashi broth.  If it tastes good and a little

stronger flavored than soup, it's about right.  Add rice to the

simmering broth, put the lid on the hot pot, and cook it over

medium low heat for about 5 minutes,

or until the rice absorbs most of the broth.  Add two scrambled

eggs in a swirling pattern.  Do this about 1 minute before

the porridge is done.  Cover the rice with donabe lid. Turn off the heat.

Open the lid and serve immediately in individual rice bowls.

Pickles go well with this porridge.

Cat Hot Pots - Neko Nabe

Posted on October 11, 2009 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (2)

I found a funny side bar about Cat Hot Pots in the wonderful new Japanese cookbook I blogged about.  No, Cat Hot Pots are not recipes for cooking cats.  Japanese felines have their own clever ideas about repurposing old pots. Here are some on-line Cat Hot Pots "Neko-Nabe" images taken by Japanese cat lovers.  






Chestnut Rice - A Fall Dish

Posted on September 21, 2009 at 8:38 PM Comments comments (0)

I missed Ana's afternoon walk yesterday. I was mailing out the announcements for Sakai's  and my friends in Echo Park invited me over for dinner, so I had to leave early.  Ana gets two walks a day. Sakai gets up no later than 6 am (This sculptor works like a farmer.) walks Ana, eats a hearty breakfast and goes to his studio. With all the pounding that's been going on in the studio, however, by early afternoon, Ana needs a break from the sculptor's garden.  That's when she comes to me with a tennis ball in her mouth to remind me it's time to go outside and play. I still have to finish peeling the chestnuts for the rice I am making and answer a few e-mails.  Ana waits patiently in the patio.  Her ears perk up when I call her name.   

These California grown Chestnuts are one of the signs that fall is finally coming. Chestnuts are easier to peel when they are fresh. I slit a cross in the shell and briefly boil them in salt water for about 5 minutes.  After they have cooled down a bit, I peel off the hard shell, then the bark like skin and get to the bright yellow meat.  It takes me about 20 minutes to peel 15 chestnuts.  I am going to make the chestnut rice in a but first the walk.   


Serves 6

15 Chestnuts in their shell

1 tsp salt for soaking the chestnuts

2 cups Short grain white rice

3 Tbls Sweet rice

2 inch piece Konbu seaweed (optional)

1 Tsp salt

1 Tsp light color soy sauce 

2 1/4 cups of water 

1-2 Tbls roasted sesame seeds 

Equipment: or Electric rice cooker.

Soak the chestnuts in warm water for about an hour. Soaking will soften the shell of the chestnut.  Cut and cross with a knife on the flat side of the chestnuts.  Peel the chestnuts.  

Put the peeled chestnuts in a bowl of warm water with the measured salt for about 30 minutes.  Drain water.  Slice the chestnuts into 1/2-inch pieces.  In a medium pot of water, put the chestnuts and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  


Rinse the short grain and sweet rice together.  Put the rice in a bowl with enough water to cover the rice.  Soak for about 15 minutes.  Drain.  


Combine the rice, chestnuts, salt, soy sauce, konbu seaweed and measured water and cook in a   electric rice cooker or regular pot as you would cook steamed rice  Gently toss the rice and serve in individual rice bowls.  Garnish with roasted sesame seeds if you like.

The black square is the konbu seaweed.


Discard the konbu.  You can eat this.  It's great fiber.



Off she goes!  

Note: Chestnut Rice makes a nice accompaniment to almost any fish or meat dish. I use a konbu based vegetarian broth so this would make a nice dish for vegans. I cooked the Chestnut rice in a donabe rice cooker. I also did a story in the which features the

and goes into more detail about  how to use the donabe rice cooker.

Mushroom Rice with Yuzu

Posted on August 31, 2009 at 2:54 PM Comments comments (1)

My new electric rice cooker broke down a couple of weeks ago.  I have to take it down to the service shop in Gardena but the heat and perrenial traffic discourage me from driving. There is another reason why I am not in a rush to fix my fancy rice machine which looks like R2D2.  I can cook a much better rice in a donabe rice cooker. 

I did a donabe story for the Los Angeles Times () in March. I wrote three rice recipes but the Mushroom Rice recipe did not make it into the story for limited newspaper space.  Since then, I made the mushroom dish many times and found a way to keep the fragrance of the mushrooms more in tact.  I do not add the mushrooms until the last few minutes of cooking. By doing so, I let the mushrooms cook in the steam of the rice.  This works especially well with such aromatic mushrooms as maitake, shitake and matsutake (matsutake will no be in season until the fall).  You can also do truffles but I would just shave them into the rice after the rice is fully cooked because they don't need cooking.  I like to garnish the mushroom rice with Yuzu rind, which adds a refreshing citrusy fragrance on top of the earthy mushrooms.  That's what I call food perfume.



(This recipe works for both donabe rice cooker and electric rice cooker)


2 1/4 cups medium grain rice (equals 3 cups Donabe 180 ml cup)

15 oz water  

3 Tbls Sake

3 Tbls Light color soy sauce (Usukuchi shoyu)

1 package of shimeji mushrooms or a combinations of 1/2 package of shimeji mushrooms and 3 medium size shitake mushrooms  or 1/2 package of Maitake


Garnish options:

1 Tbls yuzu or lime rind

Roasted sesame seeds, shichimi pepper, sansho pepper, chopped Mitsuba leaves, Cut Nori seaweed

Rinse rice and let stand in the strainer for 15 minutes.


Trim ends of mushrooms and separate them into individual pieces. If using shitake mushrooms, slice them into 1/4 inch pieces. Set aside.

Put the rinsed rice, light color soysauce and sake in the donabe or electric rice cooker. Mix the sauce and sake into the rice. Let stand for 15 minutes.


Cook donabe over medium high heat for 15-17 minutes or until the steam comes out "vigorously" from the ventilation hole. Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes.


Open the donabe, using pot holders so you don't burn your hands. Add the sliced mushroom and close both the inner and upper lids. Let stand for another 5 minutes.


Open the donabe and gently toss the rice with the mushrooms. You may have some toasted rice on the bottom which is good.


Garnish with yuzu rind and/or other recommended garnishes.

The rice tastes best  when served right away.