Saya’s Vegetable Nabemono – Japanese Soup

August 31, 2013 § Leave a comment


I’ve always wanted to visit Japan and 20 years later, I finally made it. The food in Japan is so delicious and flavourful but the only problem is the menus are not in English. My first night in Tokyo I went out with friends who were meeting a Japanese friend for dinner. She was kind enough to let the restaurant know that I did not eat meat, fish, or eggs. We ended up having a full on feast and sampled about 10 items from the menu. I ate so much that I thought that I was going to burst.

The next day, I went sight seeing alone and was ambitious enough to follow a Japanese woman into a popular soba restaurant. I sat down and conveyed my dietary requirements to the waitress. She was very polite and spoke in broken English. She said that the broth had fish in it so I left.

In Japan most menus are full of photos so I stopped at a restaurant that had what looked like a vegetarian curry dish. The guy assured me that there was no meat or fish in the dish. So I sat down and ordered my meal. When the food came, I realized that had forgotten to mention that I do not eat eggs. Well this dish was an egg dish. I decided to make the best of it and ate the few pieces of eggplant with the rice and curry. I was still so hungry as even the salad had pieces of meat in it.

I didn’t know what to do.  For the next day and half I ate barely anything. The problem is that nothing is in English. I walked through 7-11’s in Tokyo and ogled the amazing Japanese food like noodles and sushi with hopes that something would be edible, but no luck. Fortunately, I soon went to stay with my Japanese hosts who were gracious enough to cook me delicious authentic Japanese dishes.

Japanese food, is prepared using simple cooking methods. The quality of the ingredients is very high and their cucumbers are beyond what I am used to in Canada. Their dairy is exceptional and the best that I’ve had next to France.

The Japanese value their relationship with their food. They say “Itakakimasu” before they eat, meaning I humbly receive. It signifies paying gratitude to the farmers and nature for creating the nourishing meal. After the meal they say the phrase “Gochisosama” which means thank you and gives thanks to the food for borrowing it’s energy.

I am very gracious to my hosts who have made the effort to feed me delicious authentic Japanese meals. Nabemono is one of my favourites that I can easily make at home. It is a hot pot dish that translates into dish of one. This dish originated in the rural areas and each family has it’s own recipe.

This is Saya’s recipe who made a vegetarian version for me. It is a filling dish with many healthy vegetables. The Japanese include foods that are good for them in their daily diet. I must say, that I am very surprised that there are no obese people here, almost zero.

The soup’s broth is light and citrusy because of the ponzu sauce. The vegetables are warming and would be enjoyable on a winter’s day.

8 cups (2 L) kombu stock
1/4 head nappa cabbage
1 carrot
1 large bunch green onions
1 stalk gobou (burdock)
1 cup (250 ml) mushrooms cut in half
1 yamaimo (Japanese yam) or regular yam
1 package firm tofu cut into 1.5 inch square pieces
ponzu sauce

1. Bring the pot of kombu to a boil
2. Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise and then again lengthwise. Cut the cabbage on a diagonal angle in 1/2 inch strips. Cut the carrot, yamaimo and greens onions the same.
3. Cut the gobou in half lengthwise and then on a diagonal.
4. When the stock boils, add the firm veggies and let cook on high for 5 minutes.
5. Add the rest of the veggies and arrange the mushroom to one side of the pot and the tofu to the other side.
6. If you have a portable stove, set it on the dinning table and transfer the pot and continue cooking. If not, continue cooking on the stove. Cook until the veggies are cook and the colour of the stock turns a slight yellow from the veggies.
7. Add the 1-2 tsp of ponzu to your bowl and ladle the soup. Add hot sauce or spices if you like.


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