Delicious Japanese Soy Milk Hot Pot recipe with napa cabbage, mushrooms, and thinly sliced pork cooked in a creamy and savory soy milk broth.
Shabu Shabu and Sukiyaki are both very popular and well known Japanese hot pot dishes outside of Japan. However, there are many other kinds of hot pot dishes that we also enjoy in Japan including Kimchi Nabe. Today I’d like to introduce Soy Milk Hot Pot, or as we call it Tonyu Nabe (豆乳鍋).
What is Soy Milk Hot Pot (Tonyu Nabe)
As the name of the recipe suggests, one of the key ingredients for this hot pot is soy milk, which is used as the main flavoring to the base of dashi broth. Vegetables such as napa cabbage, leafy green vegetables, and thinly sliced pork are then added to cook in the hot pot and dipped in the ponzu sauce to enjoy. Meant to be a shared dish where friends and family gather together at the table to enjoy the dish, you can find soy milk hot pot being served at tofu restaurants or ryokan (Japanese inns).
The broth has a really delicate flavor. Due to the soy milk in the broth, the taste is naturally sweet and creamy. When all the vegetables and meats are submerged in the broth, everything comes together resulting in a well rounded, savory hot pot. On the side, a tangy Ponzu sauce is served for you to dip the cooked vegetables and meats for additional sweet, salty, and citrusy kick to the entire experience.
3 Big Flavors: Soy Milk, Miso, and Sesame Seeds
If you have tried my Vegetarian Ramen recipe, you’re probably familiar with the golden combination of these 3 big flavors.
Whenever soy milk is called for in many Japanese recipes, you will often find miso being used alongside. Like peanut butter and jelly, you gotta have one with the other. Soy milk is mild, sweet, and more neutral in flavor, while miso is rich, salty and bold, which makes the duo the perfect pair in creating an umami-packed broth. Sesame seeds are optional, but I definitely prefer to add them as they add a toasty nutty aroma to the dish.
How To Prevent Soy Milk from Curdling
If I had to add one “challenging” part about this hot pot recipe, it is soy milk curdling. If you are like me who gets obsessive about skimming off the surface of broth until it’s nice and clean, this will probably bother you. You might end up skimming more than enjoying the hot pot.
Boiling or simmering can cause the soy milk to curdle. You can reduce curdles by cooking on a lower heat (without boiling), but it can’t be avoided from happening completely. Once you top the hot pot with vegetables and meat, the curdles will not be as visible after all. At least that’s what I tell myself from not being distracted by the curdles.
Hot Pot = Perfect Dinner for Busy Day
In case you’ve never made a hot pot at home, I can’t stress enough that there just aren’t many EASY & QUICK family meals than a hot pot. Here are quick 3 reasons why:
- Only one prep, which is cutting vegetables.
- Eat while you cook. The way we enjoy hot pot is to sit around the hot pot (with a portable gas burner on the table). While each of your family members talks about their day, the meal is being cooked. When you’re enjoying hot food, the next batch of food is being cooked.
- The nutritious meal with all different (colors of) vegetables and protein in one meal.
To minimize your work for a family weeknight meal, you can prepare a big batch of vegetables in advance on the weekend. I often serve the soy milk hot pot with donabe, the traditional Japanese earthenware pot, but you can serve it with a different pot like Asian style steamboat or a large size clay pot.
Soulful, wholesome and heart-warming, this soy milk hot pot is especially terrific when there’s a chill in the air. It also makes a cozy, fun dish to serve when you have a few guests over.
Other Hot Pot Recipes and the Donabe Care
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
- 0.8 lb thinly sliced pork loin (400 g) (Skip for vegetarian)
- 1 package enoki mushrooms
- 1 package shimeji mushrooms
- 4 shiitake mushrooms
- ¼ napa cabbage
- ½ bunch Mizuna (Japanese mustard green) (or spinach)
- 1 shungiku (Tong Ho/Garland Chrysanthemum) (edible chrysanthemums, in Chinese tong hao, or skip)
- 1 Negi (long green onion) (or leek)
- 1 green onion/scallion
- 1 medium-firm tofu
- ½ daikon radish
- 1 carrot
- 1 gobo (burdock root)
- 3 cups dashi (click to learn more anout this soup stock) (720 ml) (I use Awase dashi. Kombu dashi for vegetarian/vegan)
- ¼ cup sake (60 ml)
- ¼ cup mirin (60 ml)
- 2 cups unsweetened soy milk (480 ml) (microwave till it’s warm)
- ¼ cup miso (4 Tbsp) (I use awase miso)
- 2 Tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
- kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; Use half for table salt)
Gather all the ingredients.
- Hot Pot Soup: First we start making the soup and infuse with all the seasonings. In your donabe (earthenware pot) or other type of pot, add 3 cups (720 ml) dashi, ¼ cup (60 ml) sake and ¼ cup (60 ml) mirin. Cover and bring the soup to boil.
- Once boiling, add 2 cups (480 ml) warm soy milk. On medium heat, slowly heat up until the soup almost boils. Keep the lid uncovered and stir once in a while. Meanwhile, grind 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds in a pestle and mortar.
- Once the soup is hot, add ¼ cup (4 Tbsp.) miso and ground sesame seeds.
- Taste the soup and add kosher salt if you like it saltier. Depends on the brands and types of miso, the saltiness of your soup will vary. I recommend making the soup a little bit saltier since you’ll add vegetables that will release water and dilute the soup. Turn off the heat and set aside. Keep it covered.
- Hot Pot Ingredients: If your meat is not thinly sliced, you have to cut it thinly on your own. See how to do it here (picture is thinly sliced beef).
- Cut off and discard the bottom of enoki mushrooms and shimeji mushrooms.
- Cut off and discard the shiitake stem. If you like, make decorative cut on shiitake mushrooms (See how to do it here).
- Cut napa cabbage into 2” (5 cm) pieces widthwise. Then cut into 2-3 pieces lengthwise on the thick and white bottom part of napa cabbage so that it’ll be faster to cook.
- Cut Mizuna (or spinach) and shungiku into 2” (5 cm) pieces.
- Cut Tokyo negi (leek) into 1” (2.5 cm) thick pieces diagonally. Thinly slice green onion/scallion.
- Cut the tofu block into 1” (2.5 cm) slices.
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel the daikon and carrot thinly as if you are peeling their skin. You can cut these root vegetables into thinly rounds or quarters, but my family loves eating root vegetables in long paper-thin form.
- Peel the gobo (burdock root) same way as daikon and carrot. Soak the thinly sliced gobo in water for 15 minutes to prevent them from changing color.
- Put all the vegetables, mushrooms, and tofu in a platter.
- Start cooking bottom white part of napa cabbage leaves, Tokyo negi, tofu, mushrooms, and root vegetables (daikon, carrot, gobo) over medium heat. Basically you don’t want to put leafy vegetables that will become wilted too soon before other vegetables become tender. Don't put too many ingredients. You can save them for the next batch. Once the hot pot soup is close to boiling, turn down so that the hot pot soup will not overflow and curdle. You want to keep it hot, but not boil. You can either start serving food that’s cooked, or add raw meat and leafy vegetable to cook. Make sure to add meat when the soup is hot. Skim any curdles floating on the soup. You can eat the curdle or discard. Pour ponzu sauce in a small bowl and add chopped green onion/scallion. Dip cooked meat and vegetables in ponzu sauce to enjoy! Add more ingredients to the pot as you eat.
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 156, 2016. The content has been slightly updated.