Mille feuille nabe

I love hotpot. To be honest, I was thinking of how I could actually make a hot pot recipe, but at the same time, it’s really just such a simple thing to do. Whenever we would fly back to Taiwan during summer or winter vacation, one of my favorite places to go to would be an all-you-can-eat hotpot buffet. Honestly, I can’t even name the place, between it being over 6 years since I went back, and me not being proficient enough with Taipei’s geography or at typing in Chinese to figure out where we would go. But I just remember we would all sit around the hotpot and enjoy a variety of sauces and meats and broths. With nabe, which is Japanese hotpot, you can do all of that, in one dish. With mille feuille nabe, despite that seeming like a dessert, it is actually referring to layers of cabbage and thinly sliced pork belly. Being a pork belly LOVER, I really just wanted to find out some creative ways to take one of my favorite things to eat and translate it into one of my favorite memories of being in Taiwan.

For the mille feuille nabe, we have Napa cabbage, pork belly, a very umami-forward dashi made with mushroom, kombu, mirin, soy, and bonito. We also have a bouquet of mushrooms, made with shiitake, maitake, and honshimeji. Underneath our nabe, there will be tofu skins lining the bottom of the pot, acting like sponges and absorbing all of that delicious flavor. Lastly, because all of that clearly was not enough food, we have our usual sides, being rice, and two sauces, one being a tahini with scallions and chili oil, and the other being ponzu with an egg yolk and nori. Trust me, this is a dish meant to be served to at least two people, so it is not something meant to be eaten by one. Now if you do manage to eat it all by yourself, well, I am impressed. And I would probably not to want pay for your groceries, because that would be terrifying. I would, however, take you to an all-you-can-eat place, because you would absolutely be helping me get my money’s worth.

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For the broth:
1 sheet of kombu
2 cups warm water
1 cup mushroom stems
cabbage stems and ribs; chopped
discarded parts of the scallion
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup bonito flakes
1/4 cup mirin

Soak kombu in the warm water. Sweat out scallion, mushroom, and cabbage in the oil. Deglaze with the mirin, then the kombu water. Add in the bonito and soy. Simmer for at least 15 minutes. Strain out the solids.

For the hotpot:
8 oz thinly sliced pork belly
1 head of napa cabbage; ribs and stems removed
4 oz honshimeji mushrooms; stems removed
4 oz maitake mushrooms; stems removed
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms; stems removed
puffed tofu skins

Start by lining the bottom of the pot with the tofu skins. Layer between the cabbage your pork belly slices, then slice. Place inside of the pot, leaving enough room in the center for your mushrooms. Pour on the broth, making sure to submerge everything, and allow everything to simmer over medium-low heat with the lid on, for at least 20 minutes, until the pork is tender and the cabbage is soft. Skim the top of the broth to make sure that all of the impurities are removed.

For the rice:
1 cup rice
1 1/4 cups water + more for rinsing

Rinse out the rice with water at least 3 times, straining out the water each time before adding in the next round. Combine the rinsed rice with 1 1/4 cups of water and salt, then steam either in a rice cooker, or in a pot, on the stove, on low heat with the lid on, for 15-20 minutes.

For the tahini sauce:
1 cup white sesame seeds; toasted
3 tablespoons canola oil; three parts
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon togarashi powder
1 teaspoon chili oil
scallions, sliced on a bias

Puree the white sesame seeds with two parts of the canola oil, the sesame oil, and the soy. Combine the togarashi with the last part of canola oil and chili oil, and swirl into the finished tahini. Top with the sliced scallions.

For the ponzu:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon mirin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
egg yolk

Combine everything but the egg yolk and nori. Pour into a bowl with the egg yolk, and top the yolk with the nori.

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