Donabe, written by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton, showcases the Japanese style of clay pot cooking. The Donabe is traditional earthen cookware that is often used in the winter for simmering one-pot meals. It is made of porous clay for higher heat retention and the interior glaze helps with natural infrared radiant heating. This book features six styles of the donabe with a variety of recipes from authentic Japanese (Kyoto-Style Saikyo Miso Hot Pot, Daikon Steak, Crab and Wakame Savory Egg Custard, Pork and Vegetable Miso Soup) to more unique (Smoked Heirloom Tomato Salad with Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette,Steam Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Miso Keema Curry, Yuzu-Kosho Pesto Rice).
Naoko Takei Moore grew up in Tokyo, Japan and moved to L.A. in 2001 to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. During a trip back to Japan, she discovered the double-lid donabe used for making rice. She contacted the company that made the donabe, Nagatani-en, and began distribution to the United States. She now has an online donabe shop and hosts donabe cooking classes in her home. She also has a blog- Happy Donabe Life.
Kyle Connaughton’s culinary career has taken him to L.A., Hokkaido, England, and back to California. He was the head chief of research and development for The Fat Duck, a three-star Michelin restaurant. He was also a contributor/ editor for Modernist Cuisine and curriculum author for the Culinary Institute of America’s Culinary Science program. He is currently working on opening Single Thread Farms Restaurant & Inn with his wife in Healdsburg, California.
Chapters are divided based on cooking style: Classic-Style Donabe; Double-Lid Donabe Rice Cooker; Donabe for Soup and Stew; Donabe Steamer; Tagine-Style Donabe; Donabe Smoker; and Dashi, Sauces, and Condiments. A different type of donabe is covered in each chapter. If you only have the classic-style, substitutions are given for what other cookware to use.
Before purchasing this book, donabe cooking was completely new to me. With the guidance of the introduction, I purchased a Classic-Style Donabe (2-2.5 quart or larger is recommended) and a portable gas burner (Stove Butane Single W/Case (1)12,000 Btu, I currently have a ceramic electric stove not suitable for the pot). Everything about the donabe is explained, from the history and culture surrounding the clay pot to choosing one, a seasoning guide, cooking safety, and life-long care. Background information on Iga, the home of the donabe, and the company Nagatani-en is also provided.
The striking photography is by Eric Wolfinger. Every recipe includes at least one beautifully styled full page photo, generally of the finished dish. There are also photos of various meal and menu ideas, the making of the donabe, and the occasional collection of step-by-step photos.
Headnotes at the beginning of every recipe include information about the dish and tips for success. Measurements are provided in US customary and metric. The name of the recipe is also listed in Japanese romanji when applicable. Special equipment required is listed at the top of the page along with shime (finishing course) suggestions and variations. Shime is a way to use the leftover broth in the donabe after the meal. The glossary describes some of the more difficult to find ingredients and kitchen tools.
This is a cookbook with a focus on a specialty type of cookware. It is best for those that have a donabe or are interested in getting one. You can also use the donabe for other types of Asian clay pot cooking. If you have an electric stovetop like me, you will also need a portable gas burner (which is great for tableside eating anyway). The book includes a resource page with shopping information. Some special instructions come along with using the donabe and are explained in great detail. Access to an Asian food market specializing in Japanese products is also helpful for many of the ingredients needed. Substituting an ingredient that you can’t find or for something you would prefer is also encouraged (i.e. using chives instead of mitsuba or swapping different leaf vegetables). Recipes range from traditional to unique, easy to more complicated. There is a varied assortment of condiments, seafood, salads, poultry, meat, vegetables, desserts (steamed cake), appetizers, tofu, and rice.
For this Gyoza Nabe (Japanese Dumpling Hot Pot), pork-filled gyoza are simmered in a kombu dashi with cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, beansprouts, and garlic chives. The dumplings are served with an easy-to-prepare Miso-Vinegar Dipping Sauce.
To form the gyoza, you can simply fold the dumplings in half or form pleats. I personally prefer the pleats. They help the dumplings stand up and look a bit better. Here is a video to show how to make the folds starting at 2:11. Whenever I make gyoza and other dumplings, I generally double the batch and freeze the extra for easy meals later. I place the extra dumplings on a parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer (with parchment dividing if I need more room) and freeze. Once completely frozen, I transfer them to a freezer safe bag. I cook the dumplings straight from the freezer, usually adding a couple extra minutes to the cooking time- until the meat is completely heated.
To make the kombu dashi, add 5 cups of water to the donabe and 2 (3×6 inch/7.5×15 cm) pieces of kombu. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Place over medium heat and remove the kombu right before it comes to a simmer, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat until ready to use for the Gyoza Nabe. You can also make it via cold infusion: allow to soak in a bowl or pitcher covered for 18-24 hours in the refrigerator. Remove the kombu before using the broth in the hot pot.
Katakuriko (potato starch) is available in larger grocery stores in the gluten free or specialty flour sections and Asian food markets. It is also available on Amazon: One 24 oz (1 lb 8 oz) 680 g Bob’s Red Mill, Potato Starch Unmodified, Gluten Free.
Garlic Chives (Gau Choi, Buchu, Nira, Chinese Chives, Chinese Leek) are an Asian variety of chives with a light onion and garlic flavor. The leaves are larger and more flat than the Western Chives and have delicate white flowers. I grew a few plants from seeds, but they are also available in the produce section of Asian food markets and some large grocery stores. They are usually sold in big bundles. Be careful when growing them. They easily spread. There are also yellow and flowering hollow varieties.
The Miso-Vinegar Dipping Sauce lasts 7-10 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It is best paired with gyoza, shabu-shabu, and steamed vegetables.
The shime suggestion for this recipe states to lightly season the broth with soy sauce or fish sauce and mirin. Add some cooked rice noodles and chopped green onion for a light soup.
I also made Orange Butter Rice, Tori Soboro Gohan (Soy-Flavored Simmered Ground Chicken over Rice), Japanese-Style Sizzling Bibimbap, and Matcha Mushi Cake (Green Tea Steam Cake).
The Orange Butter Rice is an easy way to add a bit of extra flavor to white rice. Once the rice has been cooked, it is seasoned with usukuchi shoyu (light-colored soy sauce), butter, and orange zest. I had the rice on its own for a light lunch, but Naoko also recommends pairing it with the Smoke Duck Breast with Creamy Wasabi-Green Onion Dipping Sauce or with grilled meat or fish.
I used the Classic Donabe to make the Tori Soboro Gohan. Ground chicken is simmered with sake, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and ginger. It is served over plain white rice with soft boiled eggs. This was a fairy easy recipe to make and full of flavor. It was also the first time I have ever made soft-boiled eggs and the instructions yielded perfect results.
I am a huge fan of Bibimbap, so was immediately drawn to the recipe for Japanese-Style Sizzling Bibimbap. This recipe takes a bit of prep, but the extra steps are well worth it and many can be done in advance. First, an Umami-Rich Soy Sauce (soy sauce seasoned with sake, mirin, brown sugar, and kombu, then refrigerated overnight) is prepared to soak the egg yolks in for at least 5 hours. The rest of the recipe seems like a lot, but the steps go quickly. Each of the vegetables (shiitake mushrooms, soybean sprouts, spinach, carrots) are prepared separately and lightly seasoned. Sesame oil is heated in the donabe (I do not have a tagine-style donabe, so I used a deep cast iron pan) and the rice is added, then covered with the prepared vegetables. Once a crispy bottom forms on the rice, everything is tossed together, seasoned with Naokochujang (Naoko’s version of the Korean gochujang sauce with miso and coarse ground red chili), and topped with the marinated egg yolks. If the egg yolks are omitted, then the dish becomes vegan. All of the components are well worth it for the delicious, healthy one-pot meal.
Since I do not have a Mushi Nabe, I used a bamboo steamer set over a wok to make the Green Tea Steam Cake. This was my first time ever steaming a cake. It was so easy! I do not have a nagashi-kan (Japanese metal mold with removable inner tray that fits inside the steamer), so I had to improvise a bit and divided the batter among three large muffin cups. There is also a recipe for Black Sesame and Sugar Steam Cake with a beautiful photo of the two cakes cut into squares and arranged in a checkerboard pattern.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own.
Gyoza Nabe (Japanese Dumpling Hot Pot)
Adapted from Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking
Miso-Vinegar Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup (80 ml) red miso
1 tablespoon Saikyo miso or other sweet white miso
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons raw brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons tobanjan (fermented chili bean paste), optional
14 ounces (400 g) ground pork
1 tablespoon katakuriko (potato starch)
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sake
2 tablespoons minced green onion
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
25-30 gyoza wrappers (circular wrappers 3 1/2 inches, 8.5 cm wide)
4 cups (1 L) kombu dashi
1/2 cup (120 ml) sake
3-4 leaves green cabbage, cut into large bite-size pieces
6 medium shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and halved, divided
5 ounces (150 g) mung bean sprouts, crisp white part only, divided
3 ounces (100 g) nira (garlic chives), bottom ends trimmed, cut into 3 inch pieces, divided
To make the dipping sauce: In a small saucepan, whisk together all the dipping sauce ingredients over medium low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula at a simmer until slightly thickened and shiny, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before transferring to an airtight container in the refrigerator.
To make the gyoza: In a medium bowl, knead together the ground pork, potato starch, ginger, 1 tablespoon sake, green onion, sesame oil, soy sauce, and black pepper until completely combined and smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
On work surface, cover the opened gyoza wrappers with a lightly damp towel. Fill a small bowl with water and place nearby. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.
Place a gyoza wrapper in the palm of your hand. Put 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center. Dip your finger in the bowl of water and use it to dampen the edges of the the wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half over the filling and pinch along the edges to seal. Place on parchment lined baking sheet in single layer, not touching. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Cover the prepared dumplings with a damp paper towel until the hot pot is ready. Do not allow to sit for longer than 30-60 minutes to keep the wrappers from absorbing the moisture and becoming soggy.
In a 1.8 quart or larger classic-style donabe, combine kombu dashi and 1/2 cup sake over medium high heat. Cover and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add the cabbage and cook for 30-60 seconds. Add half of the prepared gyoza and half of the shiitake. Return to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes before adding half of the beansprouts and half the garlic chives. Continue to cook until the gyoza are heated through, another minute or so.
Remove from heat and serve with the prepared dipping sauce. Once the gyoza have disappeared, refill and reheat with remaining gyoza, shiitake, beansprouts, and garlic chives.