By Yukako Oishi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterKani nabe
In this column, chefs and cooking experts share recipes that are easy to prepare at home.
Kani nabe (crab hot pot) is a great dish to make for a special dinner in winter. Naoyuki Yanagihara, deputy head of a cooking school for traditional Japanese cuisine, teaches us his recommended way of cooking the dish. You can appreciate the taste of winter in this hot pot with snow crab, which tastes best at this time of year. But most people probably don’t have many opportunities to cook crab at home.
First, the crab is cut into easy-to-eat pieces. It’s best to eat the crab immediately after heating it in the soup, which contains usukuchi light soy sauce. If the body of the crab is just roughly cut into chunks, it takes time to pull out the meat, so it gets cool or hard. Yanagihara suggests cutting the crab into sizes that are easy to eat before putting them in the pot.
This recipe uses a pre-boiled snow crab. It’s best to select a heavy one, as it will contain a lot of meat.
Separate the torso and legs. The shell and other unused parts are removed from the torso, which is then halved lengthwise. Each of the legs is broken at the joints by hand.
“When you break a leg, the gristle appears. Slowly pull the gristle out,” Yanagihara said.
The legs are then halved lengthwise — and the method you use to do this is important.
On a cutting board, hold a crab leg at an incline with your left hand. Pierce the white back of the leg in the center so that the knife tip punches through to the front. Move the kitchen knife downward while holding the position, thus making a cut through one half of the leg lengthwise. (See photo Step 1.) Turn the leg upside down and cut the other half in the same way.
The best way to heat the crab is to quickly warm the pieces in the boiling soup, as this makes it possible to enjoy the taste without losing its sweetness and softness.
“Because the ingredients are soaked in the soup for a short time, you should [use more stock than usual to] make a stronger, more flavorful soup,” Yanagihara said.
Some vegetables are also best when boiled for a short time only. These include mizuna and thinly sliced naganegi green onion.
Slicing the legs lengthwise means the meat can be peeled out easily with chopsticks. Put the meat in your mouth while it’s soft and juicy to fully enjoy the irresistible flavor of the juicy crab and delicate soup.
Like most nabe hot pots, sharing the dish with family and friends makes the meal even more enjoyable.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3):
1 boiled snow crab
1 pack or 200 grams shirataki (konnyaku noodles)
1 naganegi green onion
4 shiitake mushrooms
1 bunch mizuna (about 200 grams)
5 cups dashi stock (made from dried bonito and konbu)
4 tbsp usukuchi light soy sauce
1½ tbsp sake
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp salt
1. Separate the torso and legs of the crab and break each of the legs at the joints. Pierce the white side of each leg with a kitchen knife and cut in half lengthwise. If the crab still has its shell, remove the front and back shells, along with the gills, known as gani in Japanese. Halve the torso lengthwise.
2. Blanch the shirataki in boiling water and cut to your preferred length. Slice naganegi thinly on a diagonal. Remove the stems of the shiitake mushrooms. Cut the mizuna into 5-centimeter pieces.
3. Put the soup ingredients into a pot and bring to boil. Add the prepared nabe ingredients and heat sufficiently before serving.
Savor full umami flavor
Zosui rice soup is a great way to finish off a hot pot. The umami flavor of the crab that has seeped into the soup can be fully enjoyed this way.
Rinse a bowl of cooked rice in cold water, add it to the soup and heat. When it reaches a boil, add two beaten eggs.
When the beaten egg is cooked, add a few drops of juice from some grated ginger, then add thinly sliced chives. If you have any crab meat or shiitake mushrooms left over, add those too.
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