Cook the Book: 'Japanese Hot Pots'

20090928japanesehotpots.jpgThe hot pot or nabe in Japanese is more than a meal—it's a social event, a reason for people to gather around the table and enjoy not just a meal together but one from the same pot.

In Japan there is a common belief that str sharing a meal forges closer relationships among diners. You might not have shared a steaming hot pot before, but anyone who has tackled a cheesy, bubbling pot of fondue with friends knows it's a fun, though a bit messy, way to eat with friends.

Japanese Hot Pots by chef Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat, Japanese food aficionado and creator of the comprehensive Japanese food culture bolg, The Japanese Food Report sets out to bring this Japanese dinner time staple onto all of our tables.

Japanese Hot Pots is full of beautiful photography. A quick perusal will make your stomach grumble for a steaming bowl of broth with all kinds of vegetables, proteins, noodles, and tofu. If your knowledge of Japanese is limited to California rolls and shrimp tempura, recreating these stunning hot pots at home might strike you as a daunting task. But let me assure you—these hot pots are a breeze to put together, most of them coming together in less than 30 minutes. Hot pots are more about assembly than complicated cooking. Even the soup bases don't require a long time to simmer.

After a weekend of cooking hot pots at home, I've come to realize that the basic principle is adding simple, flavorful ingredients to a stock and simmering them all together for a brief period of time so the bold flavors transform an otherwise ordinary stock.

Once your hot pot is ready, there are two final elements that complete the meal: the shime (literally translated as finish) are the rice or noodles leftover after the meal, and second, the variety of garnishes at the table. Popular garnishes include thinly sliced scallions, citrusy ponzu, and some shakeable peppers, sansho, and shichimi.

Win Japanese Hot Pots

Gather some friends because everyday this week we are going to be sharing a warming recipe with from Japanese Hot Pots. Get ready for Salmon Hot Pot and Sumo Wrestler Hot Pot, as well as some basic soup stock recipes to help get you started.

Thanks to the generosity of the folks over at Ten Speed Press, we are giving away five (5) copies of Japanese Hot Pots this week. All you have to do is tell us about your favorite meal-worthy soup in the comments section below.

Five (5) people will be chosen at random among the eligible comments below. We're sorry, but entry is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Comments will close Monday, October 5 at noon ET. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.