Hot pots and nabemono are especially good during the colder months. The cooking can be done and kept warm at the table on portable stoves or in electric pots. I like to serve them during the weekends when dinner can be enjoyed at a more leisurely pace. The ones I have shared so far are normally served with bowls of steamed rice. Sometimes a little noodles or shirataki is added to the pot.
There are also specific noodle hot pots and Hoto Nabe is one of them. This is a one pot dish of hand made flat noodles simmered in a miso based soup with kabocha squash, napa cabbage, carrots, and taro. It is a regional specialty of the Yamanashi area in Japan, home of the very well known 16th century daimyo, Takeda Shingen. During my last trip to Japan, I had the opportunity to travel through this mountainous region on my way to Komagane, in Nagano Prefecture. I got to eat those delicious Nashi pears and Aomori apples in Futaba. Unfortunately I did not get to try this dish.
I used udon noodles as a substitute and cooked them in individual earthenware pots (donabe) and cast iron pots (tetsunabe) on the stove. You can also use a huge pot instead and serve the noodles in individual bowls. I chose to omit the carrots and taro as there was sufficient carbs with the udon and kabocha squash. Other ingredients that may be added include mushrooms and daikon.
- 1 lb (450g) fresh udon noodles
- ½ (1 lb/450g) kabocha squash
- ½ lb (225g) thinly sliced pork
- 4 napa cabbage leaves
- 4 pcs tofu pouches (abura-age)
- 4 green onions, sliced into 2-inch lengths
- 6 cups (1.4 liters) water
- 1½ tsp instant dashi
- ⅓ cup (90g) miso
- Scoop out seeds from kabocha squash. Cut into 2-inch thick wedges. With a vegetable peeler, remove some but not all the skin. Cut wedges into ¼-inch slices.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add udon and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain. In a small pot of boiling water, blanch tofu pouches for 30 seconds to remove excess oil. Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. Slice into thin strips.
- Pour water into a large earthen pot. Bring it to a boil. Add dashi. Combine 1½ cups (360ml) stock and miso in a bowl. Whisk to dissolve miso. Set aside.
- Add kabocha squash and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Next add pork, napa cabbage, and tofu puffs. Let it cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Finally add udon and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Pour miso mixture back into fondue pot. Stir to get it well mixed. Add green onions. Dish into small bowls and serve immediately.
In the winter, it is most enjoyable to eat at the kotatsu, a low wooden table draped with a quilt over its frame. The electric heater attached to the underside of the table keeps your lower body toasty while the food, steam, and cooking keeps the rest of you nice and warm.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!