Mizutaki: A Japanese Hot Pot
This is what you get when you combine Japanese precision and elegance with economy: a hot pot that is prepared and served in a very specific way, but which is infinitely variable in terms of the ingredients used. Discrete little groups of vegetables and meat are arranged in a shallow casserole, then gently cooked in broth. This is often done at the table, with more and more ingredients being added as others are removed. The trick is to keep the different kinds of vegetables apart.
The dipping sauce is very sour, but is a perfect foil for the mellow hot pot. You can find yuzu (a citrus fruit which is very popular in Japan), or bottled yuzu juice, easily now, thanks to larger supermarkets stocking them.
|For the hot pot:|
|1||large piece kombu|
|½||head of Chinese leaf cabbage, cut into thin wedges|
|6||boneless chicken thighs, skinned and cut into slices|
|2||leeks, sliced into 5cm pieces on the diagonal|
|1||large carrot, peeled and cut into very thin batons|
|100g||shiitake mushrooms, sliced|
|A handful||of sprouting broccoli or any kind of oriental green vegetable|
|glass noodles, preferably made from sweet potatoes (optional)|
|Up to 1l||of light chicken stock|
|For the ponzu dipping sauce:|
|100ml||dark soy sauce|
|50ml||brown rice vinegar|
|50ml||yuzu or lemon juice|
|Finely grated zest of 1 yuzu or unwaxed lemon|
You will need a casserole dish and small bowls and chopsticks to serve.
Lie the kombu in the base of a casserole. Cover it with the Chinese cabbage; this will serve as a base for the other ingredients and make them easier to arrange. Mentally divide your pot into six wedges and arrange the chicken, four types of vegetables and noodles over the cabbage, making sure they remain apart from one another.
Gradually pour over the stock until it reaches the top of the vegetables, chicken and noodles; they should not be completely immersed. Season with salt, then cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer for eight to 10 minutes, until everything is cooked through. To make the dipping sauce, simply combine the ingredients together.
Serve, passing round small bowls and chopsticks for everyone to help themselves, providing plenty of ponzu dipping sauce.