When I traveled in Japan last winter, one of my favorite dishes was matsutake dobin mushi. Matsutakes are wonderfully fragrant pine mushrooms, and dobin ("teapot") mushi ("steamed") is a soup steamed in a small teapot. Put these two words together, and you have matsutake dobin mushi, a nourishing mushroom soup. Each teapot holds an individual serving of soup. The dashi-based broth is delicate, and the soup contains thi slices of chicken, shrimp, ginkgo nuts, and mitsuba (honewort.)
This type of soup is perfect for bringing out the delicious aroma of matsutake mushrooms, and it is commonly served in the fall and winter, but can go into the spring. If you cannot find matsutakes, don't worry about it; king trumpets, oyster mushrooms, or shiitakes would work just fine.
The dobin mushi teapots are smaller than regular teapots and come with a saucer and a small cup fitting over the top. There are grooves where the lid meets the pot that the cup fits snugly against. I prefer the pots with the wide mouths as I find it easier to get the ingredients in and out this way. I found my dobin mushi teapots at Kamei on Clement Street in San Francisco, and Sanko in Japantown (addresses provided below.) There are also online sources for dobin mushi teapots.
After all the ingredients are placed in the teapot, it is placed on a grill over heat, or over a rack in a wok with water in the bottom and steamed.
To serve, each individual teapot is presented on a saucer with half of a yuzu or sudachi fruit on top. The soup is poured in the small cup and the ingredients are removed from the pot with chopsticks and placed in the cup. The citrus fruit is squeezed a little bit at a time in the sake cup. The ingredients and the broth are eaten alternately.
Matsutake Dobin Mushi
Makes two servings (2 teapots.)
2 to 3 matsutake mushrooms, cut in quarters lengthwise
1/2 tsp. sake
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sake
4 shrimp, shelled and deveined
4 slices kamaboko (steamed fish cake)
12 ginkgo nuts
1 1/2 cups dashi
2/3 tsp salt
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp. sake
1 tsp. sake
1 sudachi or yuzu citrus fruit, cut in half across the equator
Wipe the mushrooms carefully with a soft, damp cloth, pressing gently to remove dirt, but do not rub or peel off the skin; this is where most of the aroma is concentrated. Trim off the tough stem ends diagonally as if you were sharpening a pencil. Slice the mushrooms lengthwise in quarters. Place in a small bowl and sprinkle the 1/2 tsp. of sake over them. Set aside.
Slice the chicken breast in bite-sized pieces that are 1/4-inch thick. Place in a bowl and sprinkle 1 tsp each of soy sauce and sake over. Set aside.
Boil the ginkgo nuts in salted water for 7 minutes. Cool, shell, and set aside.
Boil the shrimp for a few minutes in salted water until just cooked. Cool and set aside.
Bring the dashi stock to a boil and season with the salt and the remaining sake and soy sauce.
Place 2 slices of kamaboko in each teapot. Divide the chicken evenly and place over the kamaboko. The kamaboko will keep the chicken from sticking to the pot. Divide all the remaining ingredients, except the mitsuba in each teapot. Cover with the hot broth.
Place the teapots on a grill over heat or over a rack in a wok with boiling water at the bottom. When the broth comes to a boil and the chicken is cooked, remove from heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon of sake to each teapot, garnish with fresh mitsuba leaves, and replace the lids on the teapots. Serve each teapot on a saucer with a citrus half on top.
Where To Buy Dobin Mushi Teapots:
In San Francisco:
Sanko Cooking Supply
1758 Buchanan St
(between Post St & Sutter St)
San Francisco, CA 94115
Kamei Restaurant Supply
525-547 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94118
Cooking Japanese: Sukiyaki
(Images: Kathryn Hill)