Some years ago, when we remodeled our kitchen, and were exiled to cook in the basement for the duration of the construction, we got a tabletop induction cooker. We also had a butane canister gas table top cooker from our days in California. Although we used it for Nabe and Sukiyaki dishes, the gas cooker and the canisters were almost 30 years old and we were worried about their integrity. Despite their age, they seemed to work fine but we did not buy extra gas canisters after we used them up. Although our Sukiyaki pot was cast iron and compatible with induction cooking, we could not use our Japanese “Donabe 土鍋” earthen pots. So I just cooked our nabe dishes on the regular gas range and served them at the table which is not as much fun as tabletop cooking.
Induction cookers are much more popular in Japan than in the U.S. and are called “induction heaters” or “IH” for short. As a result, IH-compatible “donabes” have been available in Japan for some time. Although I wanted to purchase one, as far as I know, it is expensive to ship to the U.S. even if the Japanese companies would be willing to ship it. Then, I came across Kinto store where they sell rather modern design Japanese table- and kitchenware. One of these items is an IH compatible Nabe (it came in two colors – black or white and two sizes – 40 and 82oz).
Instead of traditional earthenware, this is made of a much less porous heat-resistant porcelain with a special induction compatible plate embedded on the bottom. It comes with a steamer insert as well. It was reasonably priced and above a certain price break-point, shipping was free. I bought a small nabe (40oz) with some other items (so shipping was free). It is not a traditional design but we like the modern and clean line. This nabe can be used on gas, electric heating element, induction or in the oven. So, I took out our old induction cooker and decided to make “Cod and vegetable nabe” or “Tarachiri” 鱈ちり鍋 on the table. I would have used edible chrysanthemum or shun-giku 春菊 as a green if it had been available but I could not get it. So, I used a small bunch of whole spinach. I also added scallion, fresh shiitake 椎茸 and hen-of-the-wood 舞茸 mushrooms, nappa cabbage 白菜 and tofu 豆腐.
I got some black cod filets with the skin removed. If the skin had not been removed (but hopefully cleaned and scaled, which is not always the case, here, when the skin is left on the fish) it would have helped hold the the fish meat together better and added a different texture and flavor. I salted the filets a few hours prior to cooking and kept them in the refrigerator uncovered before cutting them into chunks.
As condiments, I prepared thinly sliced scallions and grated daikon with Japanese red pepper (the daikon turned out to be too spicy for us).
For a change, we cooked and ate this in our sunroom. The pictures were not really good since it was getting dark and the lighting was quite dim by the time we had this.
Traditionally, the cooking liquid is just kelp broth without seasoning and the cooked food is served with “ponzu” dipping sauce and the garnish. I made a minor deviation and made the broth with kelp and dried bonito flakes and added sake, mirin and a small amount of “usukuchi” light colored soy sauce. I first put in the vegetables and tofu and when they were almost done, I added the cod.
We used Ponzu sauce (from the bottle). As I mentioned the grated daikon was too spicy even without the red pepper flakes. We really enjoyed the tabletop cooking. There is something very comforting about the steam rising from the pot, the soft sound of the the liquid bubbling and lovely cooking smells. We ate much more than we thought we would. In Japan, the end of this nabe dish would include adding noodles or rice to the remaining broth, which, by the end of the dinner, would have built up some very nice flavors from the vegetables and fish or whatever ingredients were cooked in the pot. This broth was exquisite; very complex and slightly sweet from the veggies. Although it was really good we were too full for more than a few sips to taste let alone adding noodles or rice. Instead, the next day, we added rice to the leftover broth and whatever was left in the pot and made rice porridge with the addition of eggs as a lunch. With that we felt we had done justice to the nabe.