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Essential Journal

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Recipe of the Month: Salmon Nabe

This month we bring you a flavoursome salmon one pot from acclaimed food writer Nancy Singleton Hachisu and her remarkable tome of authentic Japanese cuisine.

What becomes immediately apparent when reading ‘Japan: The Cookbook’ is that it was by no means an easy book to write. Of course, putting together any collection of recipes is no simple task, but Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s exploration of Japanese cuisine seems especially remarkable, just like the country itself.

The book, which took three years to write, gathers together the island nation’s unique cuisine traditions in a collection of recipes, as well as chronicling Japan’s food history and profiling the country’s leading chefs. Through conversations with these chefs, extensive research, sourcing old and rare cookbooks and a lot of chatting with Japanese grandmothers, the resulting recipes are challenging, varied and masterful in their presentation of both visuals and flavours. The selection of recipes covers a wide variety of dishes from noodles and rice to grilled items and sweets.

The average household outside of Japan will be without most of the ingredients on the ingredient list, but the book (like the cuisine it presents) invites the reader to challenge themselves, to create new flavours with new ingredients and substitute where necessary. Radishes, spring onions, leeks and soy sauces can all be interchanged for the more authentic ingredients that prove too difficult to find. Salmon Nabe is a great example. A relatively simple yet wholesome broth with delicious chunks of fish and vegetables cooked to perfection. It’s a meal that requires a communal attention and interaction, channelling the countries culture and attention to detail.

Serves: 6


  • 1⁄2 whole salmon (13⁄4 lb/750 g), gutted, scaled, and head removed

  • 2 pieces (6 inches/15 cm each) konbu
  • 2 (101⁄2 oz/300 g each) momendofu or Japanese-style soft block tofu, each cut into eighths

  • Layered Napa Cabbage and Spinach, cut into 12 pieces

  • 1⁄2 small daikon, 1 lb (450 g), halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into slices 1⁄2 inch (12 mm) thick

  • 12 medium shiitake, stems discarded and caps halved

  • 4 medium negi or 12 fat scallions (spring onions), cut crosswise into 11⁄2-inch (4 cm) pieces

  • Ponzu, for serving

  • 1 tablespoon finely slivered yuzu or Meyer lemon zest


Cut the salmon crosswise at a 1-inch (2.5 cm) diagonal intervals to create 2-inch (5 cm) slices—the skin portion will be 1 inch (2.5 cm) and the flesh portion will be 1-inch (2.5 cm) slices. Cut those slices crosswise into chunks 2 inches
(5 cm) wide and mound on a platter large enough to hold all
of the ingredients.

In a large donabe [flameproof earthenware casserole] or Dutch oven (casserole), combine 8 and 1⁄3 cups (68 oz/2 litres) water and the konbu and bring to a boil over 
high heat. Set a portable tabletop burner on the table, place the broth on the burner, and turn the burner to a low simmer.

Place the tofu, layered cabbage pieces, daikon, shiitake, and negi
 on the platter with the salmon, keeping in mind attractive color arrangement. Bring the platter 
to the table and mound half (or 
a quarter, depending on the size of your pot) of each ingredient in the pot of konbu broth, keeping them in separate areas, rather than scattering throughout. Cook over medium-high heat at a lively simmer.

Give each person a small soup bowl. Once the salmon and vegetables are cooked, about 5 minutes, ladle out all of the ingredients and some of the soup into the bowls. Each person should season with ponzu to taste—1 to 2 teaspoons ponzu for 1⁄2 cup (4 oz/125 ml) of broth – and sprinkle in 1 pinch of yuzu zest.

Replenish the pot with another round of the ingredients and once cooked, another 5 minutes, ladle out. Repeat until all of the ingredients are gone.

Japan The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu (Phaidon) is out 6 April