When I mentioned to Chef Abe-san of Takegami that I just finished writing a hot pot cookbook with my friend Tadashi Ono, he said he'd show me Takegami's signature version the following day. What a hot pot.
Udon-suki, as you'd expect from the name, centers on udon noodles, which, in Takegami's case are fresh, toothsome and handmade. The noodles are the highlight, but then there's also hamo (conger eel), Hamaguri clams, tiger shrimp, squid, salmon, pork, chicken, tofu, shiitake, negi - 19 ingredients in all. Like I said, what a hot pot.
The broth recipe I'm sworn to secrecy about. But I can tell you it's a mixture of savory and sweet miso, soy sauce, mirin and dashi. It was deep and complex, but as I tasted it, Abe-san looked at me said "not too delicious" -- in other words, the broth is not so overpowering that it overwhelms the other ingredients in the hot pot. A valuable lesson to remember when cooking hot pot.
Abe-san cooked up the hot pot and implored, "eat, eat." When I tasted it, I realized the broth had transformed, with the natural flavors of the other ingredients now infused into it. A delicate, sublime and superb broth. After a couple of rounds of hot pot, Abe-san added the udon, swirled in a beaten egg and sprinkled chopped negi on top. He served me some of the noodles. Incredibly satisfying.
The restaurant only serves their hot pot during the winter. I hope I'm back in Tokyo again next winter so I can try it once again!