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A Staple of Winter: The Origin and Types of Nabe

An introduction to Various Nabe including Hot Trends

One of Japan's most popular winter dishes is "Nabe," a hot pot served at the dining table. Nabe is a general term for a dish eaten at the table while the food is still heated in the pot used for cooking. It is also called "Nabemono" or "Nabe ryori(=cuisine). You may have heard of "Sukiyaki" (photo) or "Shabu-Shabu," but these are also types of Nabe dishes. Nabe-ryori is a type of cooking in which various ingredients are simmered in a single pot. The following is an introduction to Nabe dishes, including the tools and rules for eating them. Table of Contents 1. Basic knowledge of Nabe cooking and its history 2. Types of pots and pans and tools used with Nabe 3. Basic Nabe recipe and varieties 4. Are there any eating rules when eating Nabe? 5. Summary

1. Basic knowledge of Nabe cooking and its history

Nabe is a dish cooked in a pot and served on the table without being separated and eaten as it is cooked. In most cases, the food is heated on a tabletop stove (i.e., cassette cooker, using a small replaceable gas cylinder) or IH cooker and is served in individual bowls or bowls with dipping sauce. Sukiyaki and Shabu-Shabu with high-quality beef and Nabe with luxurious seafood such as crab (photo above) are a feast for the Japanese! This is the kind of Nabe that you should be excited to eat on birthdays and anniversaries. It is also a winter tradition to gather around a hot pot with your closest friends. Several people usually share Nabe, but at Kaiseki(formal party feasts), meals and banquets are served at inns. It is sometimes offered in small pots for one person at a time. Now that the number of households living alone has increased, small pots for one person are also sold. In the late 18th century, when electricity and gas began to spread, the Irori(traditional hearth) began to disappear, and restaurants invented a type of hot pot cooking called "Konabe-jitate(small pot setting)" using portable Hibachi(brazier), etc. This type of hot pot cooking developed in which several people share a pot from the pot.

(↑Irori) In the Meiji era (1868-1912), meat-eating became more common in Japan, and Nabe cooking became popular due to the popularity of Sukiyaki-style "Beef Nabe," the spread of Chabudai(Low tables), and the modernization of cooking at home. Furthermore, with the spread of cassette stoves and other appliances, Nabe dishes became common at home.

2. Types of pots and pans and tools used with Nabe

The most popular pot used for cooking Japanese hot pot dishes is Donabe, the earthenware pot (1). Compared to iron pots, Donabe allows heat to pass through it more slowly and has excellent heat retention properties. It is suitable for cooking in a pot as there is little risk of burning even if you simmer for a long time. Donabe is used for various pot dishes, such as "Yose-nabe," a most common type of pot. Yose-nabe is a general term for one-pot dishes. Many ingredients such as seafood, meat, vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, and shirataki(konjac noodle) are cooked lightly seasoned broth. Local products are added to give the dish a unique flavor, and salt, soy sauce, sake, and miso (red or white miso) are commonly used as seasonings. When you eat all the ingredients, udon noodles or rice are added to the soup that has been infused with the flavor of the various ingredients. Chanko-nabe, which is eaten regularly by sumo wrestlers, is also a type of Yose-nabe. (2) A tabletop stove (3) A pair of Sai-bashi, long chopsticks for serving and cooking (sometimes a serving spoon is provided for the soup) (4) A small bowl for serving (in this case, a soy sauce-based bowl with ponzu sauce) (5) Renge(soup spoon) On the other hand, metal pots such as iron or stainless steel are used for Sukiyaki (note: there are several cooking methods, such as putting the meat in a base called "Warishita" without grilling the meat), where there is a grilling process before stewing the ingredients. Yu-dofu, Shabu-Shabu may also be prepared in specially designed pots (such as at specialty restaurants). If you don't have an earthenware pot, you can substitute metal pots for dishes for which earthenware pots are usually used.

↑Chinese-style Shabu-Shabu hot pot (ingredients include thin slices of beef, pork, etc., meatballs, vegetables, etc.) is popular these days. (The ingredients include thinly sliced beef, pork, etc., meatballs, vegetables, etc. You can select two soup bases, such as spicy and mild.)

↑Shabu-Shabu pot with a "chimney." The chimney increases the contact area between the pot and the fire, making it harder for the soup to cool.

A unique type of hot pot is the Kami-nabe, a "paper hot pot" (photo above), which is often served at inns for dinners and banquets. As the name implies, Washi paper is used as a pot to hold the soup and ingredients, then heated over an open flame. You may be wondering why the paper does not burn. Paper does not burn because the boiling point of water does not exceed 100 degrees Celsius, while the flashpoint of paper is higher than 300 degrees Celsius. In other words, as long as there is water inside, a paper pot will not burn. These pots can be easily cleaned up by simply throwing them away when the meal is over, and they can add surprise and splendor to a large party.

3. Basic Nabe recipe and varieties

So what kind of Nabe dishes are there in Japan? Oden (pictured above) is made by simmering Daikon radish, Chikuwa(tubal-shaped fish cakes), and other items in a soy sauce-based broth; Kimchi Nabe is seasoned with kimchi, a spicy Korean pickle; Motsu-Nabe is featuring pork intestines called Motsu; Yu-dofu(Hot Tofu) is made with a simple Kombu broth. There are also Shabu-Shabu, where thin slices of beef are dipped into the broth and cooked quickly, and Mizutaki, where chicken is the main ingredient. There are many hot pots named after the city or province in which they are eaten. For example, "Ishikari" in Ishikari-Nabe is a fisherman's dish from Ishikari, Hokkaido, a city famous for its salmon fishing. Ishikari-Nabe is a fisherman's dish in Ishikari, Hokkaido, famous for its salmon fishing. It is a Nabe in which chopped salmon meat and bones and vegetables are simmered in a miso-based soup.

↑ Ishikari Nabe : "Our Local Cuisine" There is a wide variety of Nabe dishes, from the ingredients used to the type of Nabe and seasoning, and there are many local specialties all over Japan. The basic method for making soy sauce-based Yose-Nabe is as follows. Basic Yose-nabe recipe (for 4 persons) <Ingredients> Cod fillet (2 or 3 slices, or white fish of your choice) Chicken meat (thigh, breast, wing, or other parts of your choice, 200-300g) Shrimp (4 shrimp or crab) Hard tofu (1 package) Chinese cabbage (1/4 head) Shungiku green(Garland chrysanthemum) (1/2 bunch, spinach, etc.) Leek (1 stalk) Carrot (1/2) Enoki mushrooms (1 bag) Shiitake mushrooms (4 pieces) <Soy sauce-flavored soup> Kombu or bonito soup stock (800ml) Mirin, sweet cooking wine, and sake (4 tablespoons each) Soy sauce (3 tablespoons) 1. Cut the cod fillets and chicken into bite-sized pieces and peel the shells off the shrimp, leaving only the tails. (1) Cut the cod fillets and chicken into bite-sized pieces. Cut the tofu into about 8 pieces. 2. Separate the Chinese cabbage into soft leaves and core, cut the leaves into 5 cm wide and the core into slightly smaller 4 cm wide pieces for easier cooking. Cut the Shungiku green in half, and slice the carrots into 2 or 3 mm thick pieces. Slice the leek diagonally into 1 cm pieces, cut off the roots of the enoki mushrooms, and divide them into small pieces. Cut off the stems from the shiitake mushrooms. 3. When the soy sauce-based ingredients come to a boil in an earthenware pot, add the chicken, cod, and shrimp, which are difficult to cook. The chicken, cod, and shrimp, which are hard to cook, will release their flavor into the soup, making it more delicious. Next, add the hard-to-cook core of Chinese cabbage, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, leek, Shungiku green, tofu, and Chinese cabbage leaves, in that order. You can arrange the quantity and types of ingredients as you like. When you have finished eating the ingredients, add udon noodles or rice (not listed in the ingredients) to enjoy the soup's flavor fully.

↑ Photo: Simple Yu-dofu is also known as a Kyoto specialty.

4. Are there any eating rules when eating Nabe?

↑Motsu-Nabe with fresh pork intestines Although there is a wide variety of Nabe dishes, they all have one thing in common: they are all served together around a single pot (shared). For all eaters to share comfortably, it is essential to know the manners of Nabe dishes based on the unique considerations of the Japanese. When the ingredients are ready to eat, it is crucial to consider how they are to be taken and served. When adding ingredients to the pot, and even when serving ingredients from the pot, the person by the pot should do so spontaneously. Usually, the person who prepared the pot; the host, is in charge. Priority is also given to those far away from the pot, superiors, and children. When serving the food, it is important to be fair in quantity and variety. Especially for meat and seafood, which are the main ingredients of the Nabe, be careful to distribute them evenly. When cooking ingredients yourself, such as for Shabu-Shabu, be careful not to overdo it on your own. Also, use the proper chopsticks or ladles for serving. Do not stir the contents of the pot when serving.

↑Mizutaki with rich chicken broth:   "Our Local Cuisine"

5. Summary

We have provided you with information about Nabe, a winter food tradition in Japan. Nabe is a form of communication through food for Japanese people who value harmony. Nabe served with family or close friends warm the heart and body. Are there any Nabe dishes you would like to try or have tried?


In addition to the traditional Yose-nabe and Yu-dofu, Nabe has recently been expanded to include curry, tomato, cheese flavored, and soy milk-based soups, as well as arrangements and types such as Chinese-style hot pot, kimchi hot pot, and fondue. In the photo above, the white bear in the center of the pot is the recently introduced grated daikon art. It is made of grated daikon. It is so cute that you may hesitate to eat it, and it shows the playfulness of the Japanese.

Why don't you learn seasonal Japanese cuisine at JCI, which teaches Japanese cuisine and offers a business-friendly curriculum that incorporates the latest food trends?

When you think of it, it's a good day!

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