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Japanese Speciality - Kaminabe

Kaminabe is a Japanese Speciality that can become quickly addictive. A creation by a famous chef, Yoshihiko Nishimaya, who often cooked for Emperor Hirohito, it's ideal when the weather turns a little nippy, or when the need for some comfort fare arises. Apparently, the kaminabe is a creation by a famous chef, Yoshihiko Nishimaya, who often cooked for Emperor Hirohito. Whether the Emperor himself enjoyed the kaminabe or not was not elaborated upon.

The word 'nabe' in Japanese means pot and the Japanese do have many different pots which they use for various types of soups. The stainless steel pot, stone pot and ceramic pot all have their own place in Japanese cuisine. In this instance, it's a paper pot, which in itself makes for an initially tense moment as you look around for the nearest fire extingusher.

The ingenuity of kaminabe lies in the paper itself. Usually white to off-white in colour, the paper is folded into a cone that fits into a wire basket, which then rests over the opening of a sturdy stone portable stove. Nabe indicates a style of cooking or eating. There is a type of nabe which involves putting bite-sized vegetables, tofu, fish or meat into slightly boiling broth at the table, and consuming them immediately. The food is only cooked slightly, so items remain light and fresh, retaining their vitamins and minerals. Ingredients in nabe are determined by seasons.

Kaminabe is a whole different kettle of fish. Into the paper pot goes a light or soy stock, into which a myriad of ingredients can be added. The light stock can be made by adding a piece of konbu and shiitake mushroom to water and bringing to a boil -this will give it lashings of umami flavour. Simple kaminabe has precise and equal lengths of green vegetables with a square of tofu, a piece of chicken, two clams and a prawn. Other examples of kaminabe might have slices of salmon just-cooked on the outside or a nice flaky, fatty piece of black cod.

The luxury of the kaminabe is limited only by the chef's imagination and the customers pocket. Imagine Alaskan king crab, live baby lobster, Dungeness crab and even wild boar. Behind the paper pot is a light cooking style, so ingredients must be the freshest. And this, as we know, is the sure-fire sign of a great Japanese restaurant.


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