So I was talking to a Japanese chef friend named Rio Irie about clams, and he brought up something interesting. (Rio, who used to cook with my coauthor Tadashi Ono, is an amazing chef; his knowledge is deep, deep deep...). Cooking clams together with chicken in a liquid, Rio told me, creates a broth with a remarkable mouthwatering flavor synergy. When the umami compounds found in different foods mingle, he explained, the flavor burst is greater than the sum of the parts. Naturally, I wanted to try this. So how to prepare? Rio suggested udon hot pot -- great idea!
Rio suggested two options for the broth: Kansai style (Osaka and environs), using dashi, usukuchi soy sauce and mirin in a ratio of 12:1:1, or Kanto style (Tokyo and environs), using dashi, koikuchi soy sauce and mirin in a ration of 8:1:1. I decided to go with Kasai style 'cause udon's a Kansai noodle.
First I prepared a broth using 12 parts dashi, 1 part usukuchi soy sauce (a lighter-colored, saltier Kansai soy sauce) and 1 part mirin. I then cooked a couple of bricks of fresh-frozen udon, which are available at Japanese markets. (Follow package instructions.) After cooking, I drained, cooled in cold running water to stop the cooking, and set the noodles aside. Now I began assembling ingredients for the hot pot. Which ingredients? Whichever you want! That's the great thing about hot pots. I pulled out clams, chicken legs (boned), carrots, negi, oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, "broiled" tofu and spinach. (Can you tell I went to the Japanese market the day before?). I cut all the ingredients that needed cutting into bite-sized pieces, and neatly arranged everything except the spinach and udon in a hot pot. I poured in the broth, covered, and started cooking. When the clams opened, I added the noodles and spinach, cooked for 2 minutes or so more, and presto! Hot pot was ready. I served it up and sprinkled schichimi togarashi (seven spice powder) to accent. Delicious. And yes, that broth was stratospherically out of this world...
Make the dashi, use whatever ingredients you have, and cook this hot pot. Just don't forget the chicken and clams. Thanks, Rio!!