Recipe Review

Cooking Japanese: Nabemono

published Jan 21, 2010
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Nabe (cooking pot) mono (things, stuff) is a popular Japanese hot pot dish commonly served in the cold winter months. It is cooked table side and served communally. One thing I like about nabemono (in addition to its deliciousness!) is its versatility. There are so many different ingredients to choose from! During the cooking process, the broth becomes more flavorful. At the end, after all the ingredients are eaten, rice and egg are added to the seasoned broth and a porridge is made.

Nabemono is cooked in a lidded clay pot called a donabe. The donabe is filled with a broth made from dashi, soy sauce, and sake. It is placed on a portable electric (or gas) burner on the dining table. Plates of ingredients such as seafood, sliced meat, vegetables, and noodles are laid out. Ingredients are added to the pot and cooked table side. Once cooked, each diner removes ingredients and broth from the pot and places them in a small bowl and eats from that bowl. While everyone is eating, more ingredients are added to the donabe and cooked. By the time the first bowl is eaten, the next bowl is ready to eat. Do not put too much in the pot all at once. Nabe are often accompanied with ponzu in a bowl on the side to dip the ingredients in.

Basic Broth for Nabe:
6 cups dashi
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
2 tsp. salt

Bring this to a boil and then add a combination of ingredients.

Typical Ingredients for Nabe:
Shungiku – always add last so it’s not overcooked!
Negi (a type of Japanese leek)
Napa cabbage
Enoki mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms
Udon noodles
Harusame (starch noodles)
Boneless skinless chicken cut in chunks
Sliced beef
Sliced pork
Assorted seafood (fish, shellfish)
Daikon radish

Ingredients are cut in bite-sized pieces. Harder ingredients (such as carrots) are cooked first as they take longer to cook; tender ingredients such as shrimp and shungiku are added to the pot last so they don’t overcook.

A nabe with a wide variety of ingredients (such as a combination of beef, chicken, and seafood) is called a yosenabe (all things.) You can also stick with a single-ingredient nabe (such as crab, duck, or pork) served with assorted vegetables and noodles.

At the end of the meal there is often a little bit of broth left in the donabe. It is used to make zosui, a Japanese rice porridge. About half a cup to a cup (depending on how much broth there is) of rice is added to the pot and cooked. At the end of the cooking, a beaten egg or two is stirred in.

Buy donabe (clay pot) online here.

(Image: Kathryn Hill)