Japanese hot pots are satisfying, warm meals that you and your family treasure during the cold-weather months. Today's recipe is Mille-Feuille Nabe, one of the most popular hot pot recipes enjoyed at home in Japan.
Slice the ginger and thinly cut green onion/scallion. Keep the ginger on the side and put the green onion in a small serving bowl.
Cut the napa cabbage into quarters lengthwise. Without cutting the edge, wash the leaves carefully and drain well. Don’t throw away the leaves that naturally came off while rinsing. We’ll use these leaves later on.
Place each slice of pork belly between the napa cabbage leaves. If you have extra pork belly, you can put an additional slice in outer layers which have wide leaves. If the pork belly is too long for the napa cabbage, you can trim with a kitchen shear and place it in other parts of the napa cabbage.
Once the pork belly slices are nicely tucked in, cut the napa cabbage into 3-4 pieces, about 2 - 2 ¾ inches (5-7 cm).
Start packing the layers of napa cabbage/pork belly from the outer edges of donabe (or hot pot or regular pot) and work your way towards the center. The napa cabbage/pork belly layers should be packed tightly as they become loosen once it starts cooking.
If you don’t have enough layers, you might want to consider a smaller pot (remember the size of your napa cabbage and proportional pot size you used for next time) or place other ingredients in the center. Here I stuffed the center with napa cabbage leaves that came off while rinsing and cutting the napa cabbage. You can also put enoki mushrooms or shimeji mushrooms in the center.
Combine the soup ingredients (5 cups dashi, 2 Tbsp sake, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, slices of 1-inch ginger, and ½ tsp kosher salt). Don’t cut down on the salt as napa cabbage releases liquid when it's being cooked and will dilute the soup a little bit.
Pour the soup into the pot and start cooking on high heat. Once boiling, skim the foam and fat on the surface. Then reduce the heat to medium-low heat and cook until napa cabbage is tender and pork belly is cooked through.
Serve hot with ponzu, green onion/scallion, and shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice).
Pork belly slices or block can be purchased in Asian grocery stores (especially Japanese, Korean, and Chinese). Some American grocery stores with good meat section (where butchers work behind the counter) carry it, but usually they keep it in the freezer so you have to ask for it. When you slice, you have to defrost until a knife can go through, and don't thaw it completely. It'll be harder to slice thinly. If your pork belly has skin/rind, you will need to remove it.