Yudofu: Tofu hot pot

Yudofu: Tofu hot pot

Learn how to prepare Yudofu, a simple and delicious Japanese winter dish made with tofu simmered in hot water with vegetables and condiments like ponzu and yuzu kosho. This quick and easy recipe is perfect for a healthy and satisfying lunch, especially during snowy days.

Here's the story: It's snowing like mad in Brooklyn and my wife, mother-in-law and I are stuck in the apartment waiting for my honey to begin labor. Yep, she's due any moment now -- and we're laughing that, naturally, the baby's gonna arrive smack in the middle of a major snow storm! So far, so good, but there was the little matter of lunch. We didn't feel like doing a big cooking, and we certainly weren't going out in this muck. So what to do?

Yudofu to the rescue! Yudofu is blocks of tofu simmered in hot water along with veggies, eaten with condiments like ponzu and yuzu kosho. It takes no time to make and is incredibly satisfying, healthy and delicious. I pulled out my ceramic hot pot and gathered ingredients. We cooked it on a portable butane burner set up on the dining table, and enjoyed a lovely lunch watching the snow fall.

Here's how to prepare yudofu: Fill a hot pot with water and place a 6-inch piece of kombu inside. Let the kombu sit in the water for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, assemble ingredients on a platter. I happened to have just gone to the Japanese market, so I used fresh shimeji mushrooms, trimmed; a block of silken tofu cut into 8 pieces; fresh spinach, washed well and trimmed; scallions, both green and white parts, cut on an angle: and a few reconstituted hoshiitake (dried shiitake), which have incredible flavor, sliced into bite-sized pieces. You can also use napa cabbage, shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves), fresh shiitake or other mushrooms, too. Set the platter on the dining table. Bring along, too, green yuzu kosho and yuzu ponzu, condiments I always keep handy in the fridge.

Heat the covered hot pot on the tableside burner on a medium flame, until the water begins to simmer. Now uncover, add ingredients, and simmer until the tofu is heated through, about 5 minutes. While the hot pot is cooking, pour about 1/4 cup ponzu in a small bowl and mix in a dab of yuzu kosho, to your taste. To eat, pull ingredients out of the hot pot with chopsticks and dip into the ponzu-yuzu kosho mixture. Eat in leisurely rounds, like we did, gradually adding more ingredients to the simmering liquid. A bowl of rice on the side is the perfect accompaniment. Leave the kombu in the hot pot while you eat. When you're done, save the cooking liquid -- it makes a fantastic stock for miso soup (don't worry about any little veggie bits inside). And don't forget the cooked kombu: Slice it thin and cook it with soy sauce and sugar (1:1) and a touch of mirin, to make tsukudani, which goes great with rice!

A simple, delicious lunch. Now, if only the baby would come... (My honey is SO ready.)