* * * * * * * * F R U G A L W A T C H * * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of how to be frugal in the world's most
expensive country to live (unless you read this!), written
and compiled by Wendy J. Imura.

Regular edition, October 10, 2004 Issue No. 28


- What's new
- Weekly Bargain Roundup
- Frugal tips
- Credits

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Dear Frugal Readers,

Do you feel hungrier lately? Maybe it's the changing of the seasons, but
the Japanese do call autumn “shokuyoku no aki" (‘the season of good
appetites') for a reason. While my own stomach growls, I thought I'd
explore a fall food tradition in Japan that is both frugal
and very yummy.

The dish in question is “nabemono," or hot-pot dishes. Most people are
familiar with some of the more famous nabe, including sukiyaki or shabu-
shabu. However, despite what Japanese supermarkets want you to think, you
don't need a lot of special ingredients to make good nabemono, or to eat
them almost every day.

In our house, nabe are fixed very simply -- the soup in the pot is usually
a package of instant dashi (or homemade, if we're feeling finicky),
plus a half ladleful each of mirin and soy sauce. You can vary the seasonings
for different kinds of nabe, but frankly -- this base works almost every time.

Then ingredients are equally simple: ample portions of whatever vegetables
are in the refrigerator, a meat or fish of some sort, and an extra. Almost any
vegetable will work in nabe, though some need to be cooked longer than others.
Root vegetables and thicker cabbage slices should be put in the pot first,
followed by mushrooms and finally leafy vegetables last. All different kinds
of fish can be used, even ‘ara,' or the head and trimmings of the fish, if
you're feeling adventurous. The fish or fish products (fish balls, etc)
can be added together with the root vegetables to give the soup flavor.
Meat can be simmered in chunks with root vegetables, or cooked shabu-shabu
style while eating if you have think slices. Both pork and beef make a nice
shabu-shabu style nabe. Finally, the extra: this can be anything from
regular tofu, fried tofu (agedofu) cut in squares, fish or chicken balls,
or some kind of clear noodle like shirataki or harusame. The key to avoid
overcooking is to leave the leafy vegetables for last! For the dipping
sauce, we usually choose something simple like store-bought ponzu (a sour
soy-based sauce) or sesame-flavored sauce.

Finally, after you've eaten most of the vegetables and meat, you
might try adding frozen udon or leftover rice with one beaten egg to the
soup. Let this simmer, and you have a great end to you meal.

Nabemono are great party foods, family foods, or even last-minute foods,
as preparation time is very short. Just slice the vegetables, season the
soup, and basically you're done! I also find nabemono very frugal, as the
variety of ingredients you can put in a simple nabe means you can make a
good use of bargains. Finally, nabemono are very healthy -- tons of vegetables,
very little meat, and its home-cooked.

Frugally yours,
Wendy J. Imura

This week's Bargain Roundup features (you knew it) nabemono-related products!
A real key to delicious nabemono is having a good pot. Here, I'll show
you a selection of pots, and one of my favorite “nabe sets."

1) TWINBIRD Electric Grill Pot (Nabe) EP4161SI
http://www.amazon.co.jp/(Use search function)
Price: 3,980
Did you know Amazon.co.jp sold kitchenware as well? Well, they do.
TWINBIRD is consistently among the lowest-priced, yet reliable,
kitchenware electronics brands I've encountered. This simple pot
does just what it was intended to do: nabe, nabe, nabe! You can also
grill, fry, and simmer, of course, but really..? The plate is removable
for easy cleaning, and is perfect for on-table dining. 24cm in diameter,
2.2L size good for families of four or less.

2) Sharp Grill Pot/Nanbu-Yaki Pot (Nambu Ironware Pot)
Price: 16,120
Okay, so you're defintely wondering why a 16,120 pot is listed in
the Bargain Roundup. Well, here's the deal: we use it, and we love it!
The pot comes with three dishes: the grill, a regular pot, and then
the cast-iron (nambu-yaki) pot. Nambu ironware is a type of ironware
produced in Iwate that dates back centuries. It's most often used
in high-grade teapots and other tea ceremony materials, but is prized
because of its weightiness and the extra iron it adds to food. I was
initially skeptical of the benefits of the pot, but I'll say the food
somehow tastes better. As a borderline anemic, it's also good for me.
It's a pain to clean, but we do enjoy the nambu-yaki pot. We got ours
at Yodobashi Camera for 13,000, so shop around.

3) Crableg-Shabu Shabu Set
Price: 50% off 5,000, to 2,480 (shipping not included)
While I did find some cheaper deals on nabe sets (ingredients for
nabe packaged together), I did not find any that looked this good, for
this little money. Crabs in Japan are expensive, with prices like
7000-8000/crab for Northern snow crabs, so 2,480 for
premium crab legs is actually not that bad. In our house, it's
a birthday or anniversary meal! This crab-leg set includes 300g
of fresh crab meat, in both legs and split legs, dipping sauce, and
seasoning for the soup. Shipped direct from Hokkaido anywhere in the
country for 1,000.

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Subscribers: 426 as of October 10, 2004


Written by: Wendy J. Imura (frugalwatch@japaninc.com)
Edited by: JI

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