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Sizzling Hot Pots

By Cheryl Forberg, RD

One of our favorite things on cold rainy winter nights are Asian hot pot dinners which reign supreme from Japan to Cambodia. The cooking vessel and ingredients may vary, but the concept is similar. Hot pot dining is communal, and the meal is usually cooked and served tableside. The prep is done ahead of time, so you can enjoy more time with your family while cooking and eating together.

Nabemano, is the Japanese term for hot pot, and one of the most popular Nabemano dishes is called Shabu-shabu, which translates to “swish swish”. That’s because the preparation begins by swishing thin slices of meat or vegetables in a hot broth (such as dashi) to cook. After the vegetables and meat are enjoyed, rice or noodles are stirred into the remaining broth before eating it, which is called shime (in Japanese hot pot terminology) for the end of the meal. Shabu-shabu can fit any budget, as flavorful Kobe beef can be used (if you can afford it), or less expensive cuts depending on your budget.

Sukiyaki on the other hand, uses a more distinctively flavored broth. It often begins with a dashi broth made of kelp and Bonita flakes, and then soy sauce, sugar and sake are added for a sweet salty sauce, somewhat like teriyaki. In addition to the beef, other common sukiyaki ingredients are:

    • Tofu – while very commonly used in a beef sukiyaki, it’s also a key ingredient in a vegetarian style sukiyaki. I usually buy extra firm tofu, as it’s much easier to dice and holds its shape in the hot broth
    • Napa cabbage, (sometimes spelled Nappa) is NOT from the wine country. It is a Chinese cabbage, which is softer and sweeter than the traditional cabbage familiar to American cooking.
    • Kikuna leaves (a type of chrysanthemum green) add a mild celery like flavor
    • Enoki mushrooms, which have a very mild flavor, are often used as well as shiitake and other mushrooms.
    • Shirataki noodles (also known as itokonnyaku), are clear, jellylike and made from a Japanese sweet potato powder. Sometimes seaweed powder is added to the shirataki noodles, resulting in a jelly like noodle which is darker in color. Other noodles can also be used such as udon which is chewier and made from wheat flour.
    • Naganegi onions, which are whiter and thicker than green onions, but smaller than leeks
The best part about most hot pot recipes is that they are very forgiving. This sukiyaki recipe can be made with chicken, pork or no meat at all. If you don’t like mushrooms you can leave them out, and you can add most any veggies you like. I would suggest trying this basic recipe as is the first time, to get a sense of what it’s like. The next time around, you can adapt this to your flavor and budget preferences.

Simple Sukiyaki
Serves 4 (2 cup servings)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients for Simple Sukiyaki


1 tablespoon grapeseed or olive oil
1 pound thinly sliced rib eye steak
1/8 cup sake
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
6 cups dashi broth (or vegetable broth)
2 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
3 green onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
2 cups roughly chopped kikuna
1 ½ cups Melissa’s extra firm tofu cut in ½ inch dice
3 cups Melissa’s mushrooms (maitake, shiitake, enoki or any combination)


Heat a cast iron casserole or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add oil.

Sear beef slices in the pan, and then add sake, soy sauce and sugar. Taste for flavor balance.

Sear beef slices in the pan, and then add sake, soy sauce and sugar. Taste for flavor balance. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook about 10-15 minutes.

Adjust seasonings as needed if broth is too sweet or too salty (add more salt or sugar).

Adjust seasonings as needed if broth is too sweet or too salty (add more salt or sugar).
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