This winter has been unseasonably warm. Today is December 29th, and right now it’s 13C (55F!) and I don’t care for it at all. I prefer my winters to be medium-frigid, and snowy if possible, so I can enjoy my seasonal dishes properly, with a little kettle full of warm shochu.
My favorite winter seasonal dish is mizore nabe (みぞれ鍋, sleet hotpot), also called yuki nabe (雪鍋, snow hotpot). It gets its name from a pile of grated daikon radish, which looks like sleet or snow on top of the simmering hot pot. Other than the daikon, you can really throw just about anything you want in there — a quick Googlin’ shows different versions with all sorts of seasonal ingredients like yellowtail, pork belly, snow crab, and oysters. A recipe in a cookbook I have calls for chicken, tsukune meatballs, salmon, and cod, all in the same pot. Which seems… excessive.
Those recipes all look magical, especially the snow crab, but usually I don’t make anything that fancy. My preferred ingredients are chicken thigh, mochi, some mushrooms, and a lot of green leafy vegetables, topped with chopped up yuzu peel. The lightly-fried chicken and chewy mochi are just delightful when smothered with grated daikon that’s soaked up a bit of the sauce.
Most recipes specify that you should use a special, wonderfully-named type of grater called an onioroshi (鬼おろし, demon grater) so that the daikon is coarser, with less juice. I don’t have one of those (yet), so I just use a regular grater and squeeze out some of the daikon juice. For the leafy green vegetable, any of spinach, mustard greens (小松菜), shungiku (春菊, crown daisy), or cabbage would work, though this time I used seri (セリ, dropwort). I had JUST finished writing about how you can’t find seri here (in the duck post) and then of course the next time I went to the store, there it was, so I had to get it. I prefer the flavor of shungiku, but the seri had a nice crispiness to it that was very refreshing.
I’ll probably make this roughly every other week for the rest of the winter, though after reading those recipes I’m seriously considering trying to find some snow crab. Now I just need winter to start feeling like winter.
Mizore Nabe みぞれ鍋
- 1 fairly large daikon radish
- 300g of chicken thigh
- Potato starch — for dusting the chicken before pre-frying.
- 2-3 kiri mochi (one per person) — these are not the sweet mochi, but the little rectangular ones that come in a plastic bag like this.
- 1 bunch of your preferred green vegetable — I usually use shungiku (春菊, crown daisy), though this time I used seri (セリ, dropwort). Spinach, mustard greens (小松菜), mizuna, or cabbage would all work too.
- 1 package mushrooms — I prefer nameko, but have a hard time finding them around here, so I usually use shimeji (brown beach). For either of those, one package of mushrooms is good.
- 500ml dashi — I make my own dashi, but you can also use 500ml of water and ~tsp of dashi powder.
- 30ml soy sauce — This can be increased or decreased depending on how salty you want it to be. Since we’re putting ponzu on later I don’t want to use too much.
- 30ml mirin
- A bit of cut up yuzu peel
- Ponzu sauce — for dipping
- Cut the kiri mochi into bite-size pieces and fry in a bit of oil until they’re crispy on the outside and a bit puffy.
- Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces, dust with potato start, and fry in a bit more oil until they’re golden brown and a bit crunchy on the outside.
- Cut off the bottoms on the mushrooms. They’ll cook very quickly in the nabe so you don’t need to pre-cook them.
- Briefly boil your chosen green vegetable in salted water and then immediately dunk into a bowl of cold water to stop it from overcooking. Cut the veggies into manageable size pieces. (Boiling times vary by vegetable, but roughly a minute for spinach or mustard greens, a minute and a half for shungiku, and 30 seconds for seri. Always boil the vegetables before cutting them, and put them in stems-first, since stems take longer to cook than leaves.) Alternatively, you can skip this step and just let them cook in the nabe, but I like to do it this way to remove some of the bitterness first.
- Peel and grate the daikon. You’re going to need a lot of daikon and you’re going to get very tired of grating it. When it’s grated, be sure to squeeze the water out of the daikon, especially if you used a regular grater. If you don’t, the daikon juice will overwhelm the dashi and make it taste watery.
- Add the dashi, soy sauce, and mirin to the nabe and heat.
- When it’s boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and add the chicken, mochi, mushrooms, and daikon, then simmer for a minute or two. Any order is fine, it’s mostly just for presentation at this point. I usually put the daikon on last so that I have a nice layer of daikon-snow, with just a few ingredients peaking out.
- But definitely add the greens last so they don’t get overcooked. And then sprinkle on some cut up yuzu peel if you have it.
This should serve roughly three people. Scoop a little of everything into your bowl and top with ponzu sauce. We usually leave some ingredients on the side so we can make seconds without leaving everything to get soggy in the pot.