Mille-Feuille Nabe is a Japanese hot pot that layers Napa cabbage interleaved with sliced pork belly. While it looks spectacular and tastes utterly delicious, it is very easy to make and can be prepared ahead of time and then cooked when ready. It is great for small dinner parties as it takes around 20 minutes to simmer. A little bonus is that you can cook udon noodles in the soup after you have finished the pork and cabbage. This is a pushy recipe Dear Reader.
The humble cabbage gets a glow up with this Mille-Feuille Nabe! This dish looks so stunning and yet delivers in flavour too. Mille-Feuille is a French term (pronounced mil foo-y) meaning "a thousand layers" and usually relates to pastry but here it references the many layers of cabbage and pork belly. Nabe or Nabemono are Japanese style hot pots where ingredients are simmered in a pot and then served. They are a wonderful comfort food for when the weather feels a bit chilly or if you need a bit of comfort.
Tips for Making Mille Feuille Nabe
1 - This Mille-Feuille Nabe works with Napa cabbage or Wombok cabbage or Chinese cabbage. I had a small one weighing 450g/1lb and this fit perfectly into my medium sized Le Creuset 20cm/8inch cast iron pot with lid. For larger pots you will have to increase the size of your cabbage and quantity of pork belly.
2 - Mille-Feuille Nabe is usually made using pork belly but you can also use thinly sliced beef brisket or sirloin. For a seafood version, salmon can also be used-see this dish called Choux farci au Saumon.
3 - I asked my butcher to slice the pork belly for me to the same thickness as bacon. If you are slicing the pork belly yourself, try freezing the slab of pork belly for 30 minutes and then slicing it as the semi-frozen meat will be easier to slice. If you've got a great Asian grocery store near you check out their freezer section for already sliced pork belly and beef.
4 - Dashi (fish stock) is traditionally used in Mille-Feuille Nabe but chicken stock will also work well with it.
5 - Start packing the pot with the cabbage from the outer edge and pack it tightly as the cabbage and pork belly will shrink a bit once cooked
5 - Some people add mushrooms to their nabe, try adding some fresh shiitake mushrooms or shimeji mushrooms.
6 - If you have a portable gas cooker this is perfect as you can cook this at the table and then add the noodles after you eat the pork and cabbage.
7 - I love using long life udon noodles as they are already cooked and cook easily in the leftover soup.
8 - The dipping sauce is made with ponzu, chives, shichimi togarashi and freshly grated ginger. I have also tried this with a Chinese dumpling dipping sauce made with soy sauce and black vinegar with the chives, shichimi and ginger. Just water the dumpling sauce down a little using 1 part water and 2 parts dipping sauce as it is quite strong otherwise.
The first time I made this it was so tasty that Mr NQN asked me to make it again - and this is someone that doesn't even like pork belly that much. In this soup it becomes melt in the mouth that it becomes irresistible. The second time I made it I adapted it to suit what I had at the time, I didn't have any more dashi powder so I used chicken stock powder and my ponzu had run out so I improvised with a dumpling dipping sauce. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is very versatile! So if you're making the traditional Japanese version of a more Chinese version of it it will still be delicious as long as you use cabbage and sliced pork belly or thinly sliced beef brisket or sirloin. I've even wondered what this would be like with Thai soup flavours.
I made this on the perfect day last week. Last Thursday was so bitterly cold, rainy and windy. You wouldn't think it was a month before summer starting but I was again in my winter clothes. I was going to make guacamole but I flicked through my cooking calendar and my finger rested on this Mille-Feuille Nabe. It was bubbling away on the stove and smelled so wonderful and I couldn't wait to eat it. There was a knock at the door, someone had arrived.
Mr NQN has been busy offloading lots of items on marketplace to clear our garage, mostly furniture items and there was a couple that were interested in our table and chairs. While the cherry wood set wasn't really au courant they were very well made and super sturdy. This couple wanted something super sturdy for their growing family who had apparently broken all of the chairs in their current set.
The tested the chairs and table and were pleased. He was very friendly but she had an unusual air about her. "Discount?" she said but he hushed her and said not to worry. "What else do you have?" she said looking around our kitchen. "The table?" she said pointing to the coffee table. "Sorry no, we are keeping that," I answered. I mentally went through the list of things that Mr NQN was selling and remembered we had my treadmill for sale. "How about a treadmill?" I asked her.
"What?" she said her brow furrowed.
"You know for exercise and for walking on?" I said miming the action of walking on a treadmill. She still looked completely confused so I grabbed Mr NQN's phone and showed her the picture of the treadmill.
"What is that?" she said peering closer at the treadmill picture. She looked at it suspiciously, her expression read like it was some weird sex toy or something. I don't know how an adult could not have seen a treadmill in their life but there she was backing away and looking actually quite disgusted at it. They ended up taking the furniture but obviously didn't buy the treadmill, someone else did. But it is on days where it rains that I wish I still had it. Instead, we will just have to do content ourselves with a bowl of this nabe hot pot!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like hot pot? Have you ever tried Mille-Feuille nabe?