Mille-Feuille Nabe (A Thousand Leaves Hotpot)

I have bookmarked this dish for the longest time and procrastinated in preparing/cooking it because I thought it looked quite complicated with a long list of ingredients. But I realised how simple it is to prepare after trying out today, especially when I "cheated" by using store-bought broth :p 

Mille-Feuille Nabe is a Japanese-style hot pot that is cooked using napa cabbage and pork belly/collar slices in a savoury dashi broth. But traditionally, "Mille-Feuille" means a thousand leaves and is actually a French pastry made up of three layers of puff pastry, and two layers of crème pâtissière. Somehow the Japanese adopted the idea for cooking nabe by packing many layers of napa cabbage and pork slices into a pot :)


Whatever it is, it is just sooooooo pretty to look at, isn't it? And surprisingly easy to prepare. Main ingredients are just napa cabbage and pork slices (either pork belly or collar), whereas mushrooms and carrots are there to enhance visual appeal :p

As for the broth, the Japanese uses a dashi broth made using dried anchovies, kelp, dried shiitake mushroom, dried bonito flakes and seasonings like sake, soy sauce, mirin etc.

However, I'm too lazy too busy HB cannot take too much anchovies I decided to try using store-bought chicken broth instead. So happen I saw CP Food having a "2 for the price of 1" promo of its Clear Chicken Broth Concentrate and thought why not give it a try. Once in a while I will prepare my own chicken/meat stock or broth but it's a lot of work, and sometimes I will simply buy convenient packs chicken stock from the supermarket.

And yep, I simply pour the chicken broth concentrate and water into the pot after preparing the main ingredients, cook for 20-30 mins, viola! So simple! LOL =D


There are many blogs and videos showing exactly how to prepare and arrange the cabbage so I'm not going into details here. My ingredients are customised for my 20cm pot (serving 2-3 pax), so feel free to adjust accordingly. Some recipes use beansprouts and lay them at the bottom of the pot, I omitted this as my hb hates beansprouts. (Laid some enoki mushroom at first but removed them as I cut the cabbage layers too wide and the height became too tall for the pot).

Basically, one set consists of 3 layers of cabbage leaves and in between slices of pork collar. Arrange the layers as follow, 1 leaf, follow by 4 slices of pork, another leaf, another 4 slices of pork and finally 1 leaf to cover. Cut each set into 3 sections. Repeat until all leaves and pork slices are finished. Next, arrange the cabbage and pork layers into the pot. Start from the outer edges and pack the sets towards the centre. Try to pack as tightly as possible, as the cabbage will loosen during cooking. Stuff some enoki mushroom and Shimeji mushroom in the centre and if desired a few petals of carrot slices.


Finally add water and broth concentrate, almost to the brim (about 1/2 inch allowance). The broth is quite concentrated and salty, and the recommended proportion on the package is 40% broth 60% water. As the cabbage will release some water (thereby diluting the soup) during cooking, I decided to use 50% broth 50% water. Cook for about 15 mins covered, and then 10 mins uncovered. Ready to serve.

Mille-Feuille Nabe (A Thousand Leaves Hotpot)
(using 20cm pot, serves 2-3 pax)

Ingredients
  • 1 small napa cabbage, about 800g - 850g (remove first few leaves)
  • 500g thinly sliced pork collar (or belly)
  • Small bunch of enoki mushroom, shimeji mushroom and few slices of carrot
  • 400ml chicken broth concentrate (2 packets of CP)
  • 400ml water
  • Dipping sauce (optional):  3 tbsp soup from nabe, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp lemon juice, dash of yuzu shichimi togarashi (Jap 7 spice yuzu flavour), 1 tsp spring onion
Steps
  • Remove all the leaves of the napa cabbage, wash and pat drain.
  • Start the layering. First 1 leaf of cabbage, followed by 4 slices of pork collar, then another leaf, another 4 slices of pork and finally top with 1 leaf. This is a set of 3 layers. Cut the set into 3 sections. Repeat until all cabbage leaves and pork slices are finished.
  • Arrange the sets into a cooking pot. Start from the outer edges and pack the sets towards the centre. Try to pack as tightly as possible, as the cabbage will loosen during cooking. Stuff some enoki mushroom and Shimeji mushroom in the centre and if desired a few petals of carrot slices.
  • Add water and chicken broth concentrate. Cover the pot and cook for 15 mins on medium heat. 
  • After 15 mins, remove cover and cook for another 10 mins.
  • Nabe is ready to be served. Best eaten hot, on its own or with dipping sauce.

I think this quick and easy dish looks pretty and is quite presentable for the upcoming Chinese New Year. It can be prepared in advance, store the whole pot in the fridge and cook just before eating. Feel free to play around with the ingredients, probably use some beef slices, add some dark leafy vegetables in between the layers and more mushrooms.


The napa cabbage is tender and savoury, having absorbed the flavours of the broth and pork. The pork is not too heavy since it's thinly sliced and quite flavourful as well. The soup is light and soothing to the palate. Overall quite a balanced and wholesome dish, very tasty even though no other seasonings are added.


This recipe is a keeper for me, whenever I crave for some easy-to-cook and wholesome 3-in-1 (meat, veggie, soup) meal =D

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