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[Photo: Joe DiStefano]

Now that winter has New York City in its icy clutches, the mind and belly turn toward soup. Until very recently, my knowledge of Japanese soup was limited to miso and ramen. All that changed with a visit to EN Japanese Brasserie, where I tried two traditional Japanese hotpots—both of which made me wonder if there's a Japanese word for comfort food.

First up: miso oden ($16), a bowl of milky broth bobbing with handmade ebi shinjo, or balls of chopped shrimp; slippery bits of wagyu beef tendon; and chewy blobs of sweet, nutty nama fu, a mochi-like substance made from wheat gluten and glutinous rice. And more: Daikon radish; atsu age, pillows of fried tofu; satoimo, or taro; and an egg. The white miso-based broth is flavored with soy sauce, sake, and mirin. This hotpot is great way to ward off the wintry chill.

After the jump, a decidedly upscale Japanese take on chicken soup.

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At $32, EN's Dassai Dai-ginjo Sake-Kasu Nabe isn't cheap, but is easily shared between two or three people. The broth in the cauldron is made with sake-kasu, or the lees from premium Dassai dai-ginjo sake, chicken stock, soy sauce, sake and salt.

It's brought to the table with a platter of ingredients: jidori, free range chicken; usu age, thin triangles of tofu; kudzu kiri, translucent flat noodles made from kudzu root flour; enoki and shiitake mushrooms; hakusai, or Chinese cabbage; and shungiku, or edible garland chrysanthemum. That take-zutsu, or hollowed-out bamboo tube, is packed with tsukune, or Japanese chicken meatballs.

After all the ingredients are added to the do nabe, they cook covered for 10 minutes. The end result is Japan's answer to Jewish penicillin: a rich chickeny broth teeming with veggies and bits of dark meat. Standing in for kreplach are those tsukune, wonderful nuggets of ground chicken shot through with onion and ginger.

En's seasonal hotpots are only available for dinner.

En Japanese Brasserie

435 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014 (map)
212-647-9196
www.enjb.com

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