I have always enjoyed Japanese food, whether eating sushi in a restaurant or making my own restorative ramen dishes. But I have always thought of the food as an Anglicised version of the original so I decided to find a traditional recipe. The recipes I found for Nabe seemed to be quite flexible, adding different meats, vegetables and bases for the broth. The recipe I settled on turned out to be quite bland, the kombu broth did not add enough flavour for my liking. I tried it with some sliced chilli, as I would put in my own ramen dishes, but found that this overpowered the subtlety of the kombu. After trying a variety of versions I settled on the one below. The ginger adds some warmth and depth to the dish and complements the kombu rather than covering it up. This is a great meal to serve for friends as there is very little preparation and served at the table it makes an interesting talking point.
- 1 piece of dried kombu, or 1 litre chicken stock
- 1cm cube ginger, grated
- 6 boneless chicken thighs – cut into cubes
- 1 block of firm tofu cut into 1cm cubes
- 4 Savoy cabbage leaves, thinly sliced
- Carrot – very finely sliced
- a handful of spinach
- 1 pack of mixed mushrooms, including shitake and enoki
- 1 leek – thinly sliced
- 1 pack of fresh udon noodles
lemon or lime juice
Put the kombu in a pot and add 1 litre of water, leave to soak for 30 mins. Put on the hob and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, remove and finely slice, put to one side. (Or if using stock bring to the boil.) Add the ginger to the stock and continue to simmer.
Prepare all your ingredients. Add the chicken to the stock and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the tofu and vegetables (leeks, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, kombu) and noodles. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface to keep the broth clear. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the noodles are soft.
Traditionally the nabe is served in the pot and the table and your guests help themselves, eating the meat, vegetables and noodles, then finishing off with the broth. If you have a tabletop cooker you can provide extra vegetables and meat at the table and add these throughout, like a Japanese fondue! Soy sauce and lemon or lime juice should be provided so your guests can season the nabe to their own taste.