Monday, December 01, 2014

Of indeterminate origin

A photo posted by Phoebe Bovy (@phoebe_bovy) on

The above photo is of a very inauthentic bowl of hot-pot-like soup. It is, however, vegan, and probably healthy, yet delicious. Instructions below:

-Fill one cast-iron Japanese hot-pot bowl (which we all have lying around; a saucepan would also work) nearly full of water.

-Add some kombu seaweed. Bring to a boil.

-Before or after that, add some sake.

-Once you decide everything's infused or become broth, remove the seaweed with the mesh strainer you bought after watching "Cooking With Dog." (There's always foam to be removed.) Lower the heat to a simmer.

-Add a couple of fresh hot peppers.

-Dissolve miso paste into the broth. Not too much.

-Add soy sauce.

Now the broth part is done. The pot is ready for solid ingredients! (As I type "solid ingredients," it occurs to me why I'm not a food writer.) Those may include:

-Chopped vaguely scallion-type vegetable.

-Oyster mushrooms.

-Diced firm tofu.

-Rice cakes.

-Bok choy.

-Pea shoots.

As it's cooking, you're of course removing foam, while making sure not to scrape the pot with the mesh strainer.

The rice cakes shouldn't overcook (or, as I just learned, undercook), but ideally the greens are barely cooked. Ideally-ideally there's a tabletop burner involved, so you're dipping the greens at the table. If that's not the case, you will have to bring the pot from the stovetop to the dining table shortly after you've added those last ingredients.

A dipping sauce is then needed. Last time I'd attempted something complicated involving tahini, which is apparently the best approximation of an actual Japanese dipping sauce (or would have been if I'd properly followed the recipe, which involved toasting and possibly grinding sesame seeds), but this time I went with what was on hand: soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic. This turned out better than the tahini version.

Admittedly, part of the reason for the vegan-ness of the proceedings was that temperature-wise, things were bound to be a bit iffy. Lukewarm-pot, basically, by the end. But it worked! If only I'd measured and written down the proportions, because the end result was some kind of miracle: a vegan broth that tasted like, dare I say, the real deal.

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