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Categories: Main courses, Soups

Pork belly and greens hot pot

Pork belly and greens hot pot
Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

What's the most expensive dinner in America? An omakase meal of pristine, perfectly sliced sushi, the fish flown in from Tsukiji market in Tokyo and prepared for you personally by a Yoda-equivalent sushi master? Or maybe a 12-course tasting menu ... Read more

Total time: 30 minutes (plus 1 hour, 15 minutes for the dashi) | Serves 4 to 6
Note: Adapted from "Japanese Hot Pots" by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat. Konbu (kelp for stock), dried bonito flakes, usukuchi soy sauce, negi (Japanese green onions) and the greens mizuna and shungiku are available at Japanese markets. The dashi can be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated for 3 days (or in the freezer for up to 2 months). To slice the meat yourself, freeze until it partially hardens (2 to 3 hours), then slice it thinly against the grain with a very sharp knife.

Dashi

  • 8 cups water, plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
  • 2 (6-by-3-inch) pieces konbu
  • 3 packed cups (1 1/2 ounces) bonito flakes

Step 1In a medium stockpot, combine 8 cups of water with the konbu and set the mixture aside to steep for 30 minutes. Place the stockpot over medium heat and bring it to a boil. Remove and discard the konbu, and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of water. Add the bonito and stir it once to combine. As soon as the liquid boils again, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove any scum that appears on the surface, as this can adversely affect the flavor.

Step 2Remove from the heat and set aside to steep for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve or cheesecloth; don't squeeze the bonito flakes. Discard the bonito flakes. This should make 4 to 5 cups dashi.

Hot pot assembly

  • 4 cups dashi
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup usukuchi ("light," not low-sodium) soy sauce
  • 2 negi (Japanese green onions), sliced on an angle into 2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 to 1 pound fresh pork belly, thinly sliced into 1/8 -inch thick strips (Japanese markets carry it pre-sliced, you can also ask your butcher)
  • 8 cups stemmed spinach (from about 1/2 pound)
  • Scant 4 cups trimmed and cut mizuna (a Japanese mustard), trimmed and stems cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves), stemmed
  • 2 cups watercress (about 1/2 pound)
  • Several baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise, or two regular bok choy, cut into small pieces
  • Ground white pepper, for garnish

Step 1To prepare the broth, in a medium bowl, combine the dashi, mirin and soy sauce.

Step 2In a pot (such as a Japanese clay donabe or cast-iron Dutch oven), place the negi, then pour in the broth.

Step 3Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to a simmer, uncover the pot and add the pork belly, arranging the slices on top of the negi. When the hot pot returns to a simmer, continue to cook for 3 minutes. Add the spinach, mizuna, shungiku leaves, watercress and baby bok choy in a random pile on top of the pork belly. Cover and simmer until the greens are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes; gently press the greens into the broth if necessary for even cooking.

Step 4Transfer the hot pot to the dining table. Serve the ingredients together with the broth in small bowls, garnishing with the white pepper.

Step 5Alternatively, this can be cooked tableside with a portable gas burner: Arrange the ingredients on serving platters. After preparing the broth, do all the cooking at the dining table. Add the negi all at once. Then cook a little of the greens and pork belly at a time.

Each of 6 servings:
429 calories; 12 grams protein; 12 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 35 grams fat; 13 grams saturated fat; 48 mg. cholesterol; 8 grams sugar; 1,436 mg. sodium.
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