I grew up eating one-pot donabe meals during cold winter months, whether it was a hearty meat stew or simple fish soup. There was an extra layer of comfort as my family gathered around the clay pot at the table and enjoyed our shared meal. This seafood soup highlights what we found to be the freshest catch of the day from our local fish market. The simmered vegetables and aromatics mimic a slow and simmered dashi-based broth, even though the cooking time is much less. Finally, the udon noodles soak in all the flavors and make it a satisfying meal that fills your belly right up.
a 10- to 11-inch-wide donabe that serves 4 to 5 people
To make the dashi, fill a medium saucepan with 4 cups of cold water. Add the kombu and bring to a boil over medium-low heat, carefully skimming off and discarding any white foam that might bubble up using a large spoon or ladle, about 15 minutes. Once at a boil, turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
Remove the kombu and bring the liquid back to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat and add the bonito flakes. Let the bonito flakes soak for 15 minutes.
Strain the dashi through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing down with a rubber spatula to extract all the liquid. Discard the bonito flakes. (The dashi can be used immediately or cooled completely before storing in an airtight container for up to 5 days.)
Heat the vegetable oil in a large donabe over medium heat. Add the ginger and scallions and sauté until the scallion whites are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of the dashi and the napa cabbage. Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, mix the mirin and soy sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.
Once the dashi is at a simmer, add the udon in an even layer. Carefully arrange the mushrooms, snapper, shrimp, clams and garlic chives in an even layer on top of the udon. You may need to nestle in and overlap some of the ingredients, such as the garlic chives and mushrooms, but take care not to overlap the snapper pieces too much or they may not cook evenly. Pour in the mirin-soy mixture and remaining dashi. Bring to a full simmer. Cover and let cook until the shrimp are pink, the clams are open and everything is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes more.
Carefully remove the lid and drizzle in the sesame oil. Transfer to the donabe to a trivet on the table. Divide among bowls and enjoy while warm. Season with additional mirin and light soy sauce, if desired.
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