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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Negima Nabe (ねぎま鍋)

This is an old-school Tokyo recipe. Otoro, or fatty tuna belly, used to be something that spoiled too fast to be commercially useful. Instead of the prized sushi ingredient it is today, it was sold fast and cheap, and more often cooked than served raw, thought to be too rich to consume raw. Which is insane considering how prized and expensive otoro is nowadays. But at one point in time, we used to feed lobsters to prisoners and indentured servants here in the states because it was so plentiful. Doesn't both of these make you wistful?

Our family took us to a restaurant famous for its otoro fare, apparently the royal family has even frequented there. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to track down the name of the restaurant. I wanted to bring some of that cuisine home to Mr. Mochi and my father since they weren't able to come with us on this trip. The name of this hot pot, "Negima Nabe," is a portmanteau the two star ingredients: Japanese long onion "negi" and bluefin tuna "maguro." "Nabe" just means "pot" and refers to the donabe pot that the meal is cooked in. Don't have a donabe? A dutch oven or even a large saucepan will work fine, you might need to cook in batches however.

Hot pots can generally be served two ways: tableside or stove top. Tableside, you just set out all the ingredients next to the hot pot with the broth. A portable stove tabletop allows you and your guests to put in the pieces and cook them while you chat. Stovetop, you prepare everything and cook it on the stove, then remove the hot pot to serve or dish it out individually. I prefer a hybrid of the two: I serve it tabletop, but I put in all the veggies to cook and the guests cook the meat. I like this because sometimes the veggies take a while and your guests get hungry staring at them waiting! I love how luscious daikon gets after being simmered for a long time.

Negima Nabe (ねぎま鍋)
serves four

4 cups dashi
3/4 cup mirin
3/4 cup shoyu
1 package of shirataki noodles (approximately 12 ounces)
1 package of broiled tofu (approximately 8 ounces)
1/2 napa cabbage
3 negi (long Japanese onion, sometimes labeled as "welsh onion" or "Japanese leek" which are both misnomers), just the white and light green part
1/2 daikon
1lbs of sushi grade fatty tuna belly called otoro*
Serve with yuzu kosho or wasabi

First prep the veggies: slice the napa cabbage into 1" square pieces, cut the negi into 2" lengths, and peel the daikon and chop into 1/2" thick rounds before halving. Next, prep the tofu and meat by cutting into similarly bite sized pieces. Place the shiritaki noodles in the bottom of your donabe arrange the veggies on top, then slowly pour the dashi, mirin, and shoyu on top. Lastly putting the tuna on top, or serve on platters next to the donabe. Serve with a tiny bit of yuzu kosho on the side, or wasabi.

*Maguro, or blufin tuna, is being fished unsustainably and at at rapid pace. Even Jiro Ono has commented on it. If you like this recipe, I recommend seeking out pole caught albacore belly as an alternative, or hook and line caught yellowtail if you plan on making it on a regular basis. Take a gander at SeafoodWatch's recommendations, they have an excellent website where you can punch in your favorite seafood to find the most sustainable type. Some day I hope they find a way to get all my favorite fish to be sustainable. Why is there no excellent vegan alternatives like Gardein? Maybe they can just clone the muscle cells to get slabs of otoro in a lab? I know that sounds freaky but imagine how that would help overfishing! I couldn't find a full pound of otoro despite visiting two Japanese markets, and instead settled for a mix of leaner chutoro and otoro. I made this recipe over two years ago, and I haven't made it again for this reason. Save the bluefin for those once in a lifetime meals. I made this hot pot only because Mr. Mochi and my father weren't able to come along for that once in a lifetime meal.

If you ever wondered why Miss Mochi's Adventures has never posted a sushi recipe that showcased sushi quality fish, this is one of the reasons why. I can't always afford the most sustainable options, and I refuse to buy the less sustainable options.

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