My Souperinspiration: Sumo Nabe Hotpot
Hotpot fit for a sumo wrestler! We have cooked this using soy milk, the first for me, and I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet, rounded delicate flavour of this soup. Soymilk is made from soybeans with high volumes of isoflavin, important in prevention of many cancers, heart diseases and osteoporosis. This soup, though packed with ingredients, is actually low in calories and boasts of marinated chicken pieces, beancurd, napa cabbage and mushrooms, then finished with soya milk and a little miso. Nutritious to a T.
Ingredients: marinated chicken thigh, carrots, white radish, shitake mushroom, enoki mushroom, napa cabbage, lotus roots, leek, beancurd, miso, soymilk, onions, garlic, sake, mirin and ginger.
Condiments: toasted white sesame seeds.
Some highlights on ingredients:
The protein-rich fermented soybean paste called miso is one of the world’s great flavour foundations adding a savory quality called umami to all sorts of dishes, including soups, salad dressings, vegetables, stews and marinades. According to the The Oxford Companion to Food, miso was first developed in China and the first written reference of it in Japan dates from A.D. 701, and it has long played a starring role in the traditional diet there. The variety and ratio of raw ingredients and the length of fermentation time produce a final product with flavors that range from sweet and mild to salty and rich or pungent; colors that range from pale straw to fudge-brown to almost black; and textures that range from smooth to coarse, or inaka—that is, rustic. A miso may be named for its color, region, or the koji starter with which it’s made. Made from fermented soybeans, there are many well documented health benefits. To read more about miso, its production and its benefits, please refer to my journal entry on The art of Miso | Why you should eat miso daily?
On a trip to Japan, in Matsumoto City, we met Hayashi san, the president and master shinshu miso maker at Marusho Jozo. Through our conversations, I found out he is 80 years old. But the man, does not look a day past 65 years old. The complexion of his skin, its tautness and most importantly his agility climbing up the ladder to the miso barrels was impressive. I asked him what was his secret. Miso soup of course! Every morning, his wife would make miso soup for him for breakfast. This was enough to convince me that miso may be the answer and we all should be eating miso daily!
Nabe a short introduction
Rei san, my translator for my 2015 Japan trip shared with me what she cooks at home most of the time. Hotpot or nabe is her favorite as it cooks easily and most importantly not too many dishes to wash. Indeed a comforting one pot meal. Living in Tokyo with a hectic schedule, convenience is of essence and at the same time meals have to be economical and healthy. Hotpots are quintessential Japanese comfort food, easy one pot meals of wholesome ingredients poached in broth or stock. Usually cooked at the table, having hotpot with friends and family is social in nature and a tonne of fun. Cook, eat, cook, eat, enjoying the meal with flexibility filled with conversations as the pot bubbles away.
Chanko nabe is a kind of stew that’s known as the original sumo food. Despite the reputation that sumos have for their huge statures, the recipe for chanko nabe is actually relatively healthy, low in fat and loaded with vegetables.There’s no fixed recipe for chanko nabe, and versions can contain chicken, beef, salmon, pork or anything else you like. I have read that chanko means father and child symbolising sumo togetherness, where the wrestlers would follow a fixed schedule, live, eat and train together. Tsukune balls (meatballs) and the addition of miso seemed to be a common factor in all chanko nabe despite it not having an official recipe.
Tounyu is soy milk and nabe means hot pot. It is a very popular dish in Japan, often served in ryokan (Japanese inns) or tofu restaurants. And a great option to make the stew more hearty without the addition of dairy. To someone Japanese, a hotpot, or any meal for that matter, does not seem complete without a serving of rice or noodles. When we were having the mizutaki hotpot dinner at Hakata, although we were stuffed with the ample ingredients in the hotpot, we were still asked whether we wanted rice or noodles. This is shime meaning finish, a comforting helping of rice or noodles added to the broth that typically signifies the end of the hotpot feast. By this time, the broth having been infused with the flavours of the simmering ingredients would be heavenly. The Japanese do not have the habit like the Chinese or Singaporeans to drink down the broth, instead preferring to add shime which will magically absorb all the goodness. This to the Japanese is the best part of the meal.