FW-76 -- Frugal Favorites (The Season of Good Appetites)

* * * * * * * * 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 19, 2005 Issue No. 76

- Frugal Favorites (The Season of Good Appetites)
- Credits

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+++ FRUGAL FAVORITES (The Season of Good Appetites)
(Note: While Frugal Watch author Wendy Jonas Imura is on
maternity leave, please enjoy a "Blast From the Past" - favorites
from past Frugal Watch issues. Wendy will resume new Frugal
Watch content in late October 2005.)

Dear Frugal Readers,

Do you feel hungrier lately? Maybe it's the changing of the seasons.
Or perhaps it's more than that. After all, the Japanese do speak of
"shokuyoku no aki" ('the good appetites of fall') for a reason. While
my own stomach growls, I thought I'd explore an autumn culinary
tradition in Japan that is both frugal and very yummy.

The dish in question is "nabemono," a hot-pot dish. 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.

The 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 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 avoiding 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 your 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 and little meat.

Frugally Yours,
Wendy J. Imura

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

Copyright 2005 Japan Inc. Communications Inc.