I wrote about claypots in general when I first purchased my Tanyu claypot. At that time I dreamed of enjoying sukiyaki or nabe from it, and couldn’t think beyond cooking claypot chicken rice (which has made an appearance in many of my bento!).
However, my favourite use of the claypot these days is an adaptation of sukiyaki/nabe/steamboat. As you can see in the photo, there are some of the same ingredients: sukiyaki-cut beef (easily purchased in supermarkets), enoki mushrooms, green veg (iceberg lettuce here), an egg cracked into the clear soup base (chicken+daikon broth). Hidden underneath are also pre-cooked slices of lotus root, and on other occasions I might have tofu cubes as well. The noodles here are wholewheat spaghetti, but there’s a huge range of wheat and non-wheat noodles that one can use to vary the flavour and texture.
As with certain styles of sukiyaki, the paper-thin beef slices have been gently-fried with a bit of oil in the dry claypot first. In this case finely-sliced leeks have been added. Once it’s cooked, then add in the soup and other ingredients.
Unlike sukiyaki/nabe/steamboat where the cooking is done at the table, my claypot noodles are cooked on the stovetop and then served directly in the same claypot. When the lid is opened, the steam hits your face and the soup is still bubbling. This is literally coming face-to-face with the heat conduction of a claypot (the camera lens kept fogging over as I was trying to take this photo)! If I don’t get to the egg fast enough, it gets cooked solid and the soup stays hot till the very last mouthful. It’s really comforting to sit down to this meal after a long day, more so when the weather is cool.
The effect of the steaming noodle soup is heightened because I’m eating directly from this single-serving-sized claypot, rather than having a large common claypot that everyone round the table takes a bit out of. This is the pleasure of 個人火鍋, individual hotpot ^_^.
It’s such an easy dish to prepare, especially if you always have soup stock on hand. Although I have tried making Japanese dashi a few times, the daily presence of clear broth in my home is the legacy of a Cantonese grandmother. The electric crockpot in my home is a well-used piece of equipment, which ensures we have slow-cooked broth from chicken bones (and occasionally pork), either fresh or from the freezer, on the dinner table every single day without fail, and often at lunch as well.
This dish is flexible enough to accommodate food intolerance sufferers, and definitely doesn’t need any sauces to enhance the natural tastes of the soup and ingredients. Salt is the only seasoning used here and yet the soup always tastes so sweet. I’m certain soup noodles at home have never tasted this good before and I can only conclude it must be using the claypot?