Nabemono, treat yourself in winter.
When you find the weather is getting colder and colder, and your craving for delicacies is getting stronger and stronger…time for a Nabe（鍋）now! Nabe, which is short for Nabemono (鍋物), is definitely one of the most popular cuisine in Japan which you can find from Izagaya restaurants to every family’s dining table. It is basically a stew with all different kind of meat and vegetables, ingredients could be anything you like, slowly simmered in a pot, serving with a portable stove on the table. The food inside has been kept warm from beginning to the end of the meal, sometimes with adding cooked rice or noodles inside as a satisfied finishing.
Nabe cuisine varies from one to another, flavors different from one another according to the seasoning, the clear soup changes to a thick broth over time. The most common used seasonings of the soup are Miso, Soy sauce, Dashi, Soybean milk, Tomato, etc. It is eaten just with broth in general. Here are some of my favorite Nabe varieties.
Originally served to Sumo wrestlers, with chicken meat, meatballs, vegetables, tofu…every possible ingredient to add into. Food that are high in nutritious can help wrestlers to gain as much weight as they can. If you have a chance to visit Ryogoku of Tokyo, where the Ryogoku Sumo Hall is located, you might find an authentic Chanko Nabe restaurant to enjoy, might as well run into Sumo wrestlers there.
A local cuisine coming from Fukuoka and then has become popular in the whole country. The popularity was gained by its reasonable price and its unique beef offal tastes. Garlic chives are not common for any other kind of Nabe but here they help to decrease the greasy taste of beef offal. Together with a lot of cabbage leaves and a little chopped red chili added inside, a fresh cooked hot Motsu Nabe tastes just like a home.
Very similar with other Nabe but with thinly sliced meat and eaten with a dipping sauce. The broth is not seasoned but it offers a rich Dashi flavor. Two classic dipping sauces are sesame paste and Ponzu sauce (citrus juice-based). Try both and to welcome the amazing magical journey to your tongue!
Classic Oden ingredients, such as boiled eggs, Konjac, fried tofu, varies processed fishcakes which can be simmered for a long time yet won’t get too soft. Leafy green vegetables are not good for cooking Oden but vegetable lover will find Japanese Oden radish can be fairly tasty. The best thing about Oden is you can easily buy the fresh cooked ones with hot soup from convenience stores all year round.
Sukiyaki is Soy sauce based Nabe of stewed sliced beef, tofu, Shungiku, Konjac noodles, eaten with a raw egg dip can be surprising for a foreigner at first try. Compare with other Nabe, it is considered to be a real treat since beef are more expensive than other meat, therefore pork sometimes is used for its substitute.
Yosenabe, combined meat, seafood, vegetables, tofu…as much as you wish to add as the ingredients. Yose in Japanese means bring together so you can imagine it has no limitation on choices of food inside. Similar with Chanko Nabe with the flexibility of choosing ingredients, the difference is Yosenabe mush have seafood for its Dashi while Chanko Nabe is chicken-dashi mainly.
One lovely thing about all the Nabe food, last but not at least, is that you don’t need to worry about the cooking skills at all. All ingredients, sliced meat, soups, dipping sauces are available in supermarket, some are even already packed into one set. I can’t think of a better winter food than Nabe!