Ishikari nabe – Salmon hotpot with miso broth, potatoes, corn, onion, hakusai, mushrooms, ikura, and more.
The days have turned sunny and warm and the cherry blossoms are blooming prolifically: sure signs that spring has come, although a cold snap a few weeks ago almost had me convinced otherwise. Now that spring is here, it’s time to put away my nabe pot, but if it gets cold and gloomy again (which is not unlikely since spring brings plenty of rainy days too) I’ll turn to my trusty nabe pot to make Ishikari nabe.
Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost island. It’s cool temperatures and wide open spaces have given it a reputation for great farm products, especially dairy, corn, and root crops like potatoes, onions, and carrots. It’s bountiful seafood like salmon and crab are also famous throughout Japan. Ishikari nabe is a tasty hotpot that combines some of these famous products in a miso broth accented with melted butter. I found this recipe in 自慢の鍋料理 (Jiman no Nabe Ryouri, Proud Nabe Cooking) but made a few changes to suit my taste (like leaving out the shirako and adding more yummy mushrooms). The recipe calls for fresh salmon fillets, but I can usually only find the ready-to-cook salted fillets at my market. I found that these work well too, but make sure to buy the amakuchi (甘口) fillets instead of the karakuchi (辛口) fillets because they are not as salty.
If you’re looking for a nabe cookbook (written in Japanese), I recommend this one. It has three sections featuring regional specialty nabe, all-Japan nabe, and international nabe. Each recipe is identified by the flavor it uses too: miso, shoyu, or tare (plain broth with dipping sauce).
adapted from Jiman no Nabe Ryouri
500 grams salmon fillets
6 tablespoons ikura
4 large leaves hakusai (napa cabbage)
1 bunch (about 100 grams) shungiku (edible chrysanthemum)
2 naga-negi (or substitute leeks or scallions)
1/3 pack enoki mushrooms
4 shiitake mushrooms
half an ear fresh corn, cut crosswise through the cob into round slices (I used frozen corn kernels instead)
2/3 block firm tofu
30 grams kuzukiri (kuzu starch noodles)
4 slices kamaboko (steamed fish cake)
butter to taste
1 liter dashi
20 grams red miso
60 grams white miso
shoyu, sake, and mirin to taste
Scale or skin the salmon (I skin it), remove the ribs and belly lining, and use hone-nuki to pull out the bones (you will find them along the center line and near the head end of the fish there are also pin bones in the thicker back side of the fillet). Cut the fillets into large bite-sized pieces.
Marinate the ikura in a mix of water, shoyu, and sake (4 parts-1 part-1 part).
Steam the potatoes for about 30 minutes (I skip this step and just cook them in the broth). Cut the potatoes into 1-cm thick slices. cabbage, naga-negi, and tofu into large bit-sized pieces. Remove the tough stems from the shungiku. Cut the bottom end from the enoki mushrooms and divide into small sections if they are stuck together.
Soak the kuzukiri in hot water until softened.
Arrange salmon, vegetables, tofu, kuzukiri, and kamaboko on serving plates. Put ikura and butter in separate bowls with serving spoons.
Combine the dashi and miso in your nabe pot, stir well to dissolve the miso. Heat over high heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with shoyu, sake, and mirin. If you want to serve your nabe tableside, put the nabe pot on a portable burner and arrange the remaining ingredients around the pot. Each diner can put items they like in the pot. When your food is cooked put it in your bowl with some soup and top it with some butter and ikura.