Japanese Vegan Hot Pot

From Top Cap Mushrooms: Story, photos and recipes by Rezel Kealoha

Hot pot is a great way to entertain a group on a cold winter’s night. If you are unfamiliar with the tradition, here’s how it’s done:

Each guest at the table has a small soup bowl set on a plate with chopsticks, soupspoon, and small tongs on the side, and dipping bowls for the two sauces set above the plate. One soup ladle is used to serve broth into the bowls, but each guest uses their own tongs to retrieve mushrooms, veggies, and noodles from the hot pot at any time during the meal. The veggies and the noodles can be placed either on the plate or in the bowl, depending on whether diners want to eat the meal as a soup or just want to dip into the sauces directly. Guests often switch eating methods during the meal.

Hot green or jasmine tea is the perfect complement to the meal, but sake is great, too, and will make for a very entertaining interactive meal.

Find many of these ingredients at Asian markets.

Serves 6

For the broth:

4 cups water
1 4-inch piece kombu (a type of kelp)
2 tablespoons kelp flakes
For the hot pot:
1 bunch broccolini (chop in half if stalks are long)
2 cups sliced lotus root
16 ounces pioppino or shiitake mushrooms
1 bunch bok choy
1 bunch spinach (or about 8 ounces baby spinach)
3 cups mung bean sprouts
2 cups firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes

For the table:

Precooked rice or udon noodles (frozen cooked udon can be added right into the pot)
Creamy sesame and soy with yuzu dipping sauces

Place the water, kombu, and kelp flakes in the hot pot. (If you don’t have an Asian-style hot pot with its own heat source, make this dish in a large pot on your stove and just bring the pot to the table.) Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes for the broth flavor to develop. The kombu is a seasoning, but leave it in the broth throughout the dinner for more intense flavor.
Add broccolini and lotus root to the broth and cook for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, the rest of the vegetables, and the tofu. (If using frozen udon, add now, one packet at a time.) Cook an additional 5 minutes until all the veggies have softened. Turn the heat to low and serve.