Thursday, February 12, 2009


Nabemono (also called nabe) is a traditional Japanese style hearty winter specialty one-pot dish. There is nothing more delicious than a big clay pot brimming with natural ingredients such as meat, fish, chicken, and vegetables. Nabemono is typically cooked at the table in a communal nabe pot, and needs very little preparation. It is a staple food in winter and is a key aspect of Japanese daily life that brings the family together to share a warm healthy meal. These dishes are known to originate from rural areas sometime around the 9th century. It was a farmhouse fare where a large pot was kept warm over the irori (hearth).
There are two types of nabemono. One type is lightly flavored mostly with konbu (kelp) and eaten with a dipping (tare) to enjoy the taste of the ingredients themselves. Examples of this type of nabemono are yudofu and mizutaki. The other type is deeply flavored typically with miso, soy sauce, dashi, and/or sweet soy, and eaten without further flavoring. Yosenabe, chankonabe, oden, and sukiyaki fall under this category.
At home, nabemono is traditionally cooked in a ceramic clay pot on a portable gas element that is placed on the dining table or kotatsu. A ‘cassette konro’ is a little portable one-burner gas stove which runs on cylinders of butane gas.
Cassette konro

Butane gas cylinder

Butane gas cylinder in cassette konro

The pots called donabe are traditionally made out of special clay for use over an open flame. The nabe pots are usually placed in the center of dining table/kotatsu and the nabemono is shared by many people.


Next, we have to get the ingredients ready. Any kind of seasonal vegetables, fish, and meat can be used. This time I used konbu, hakusai (Chinese cabbage), naga negi (Japanese leek), tara (cod) fish, thinly sliced pork, shiitake mushroom, buna shimeji mushroom (brown beech), tofu, mochi-iri-kinchaku (rice cake wrapped in tofu pouch), fish tsumire (fish ball), and chicken tsumire (chicken ball).

Ingredients of nabemono

My hubby and me, we both prefer nabemono that is lightly flavored with konbu seaweed. I generally put a piece of konbu in the pot and fill it up halfway with water. After lighting the burner, I put the nabe pot on it and bring it to a boil. When the pot comes to a boil, I lower the heat a bit and start putting the ingredients in. The order in which we add ingredients to the konbu stock matters, though there are no hard and fast rules. Ingredients that take longer to cook should go in first. These include mushrooms, meat, fish, hakusai, tsumire, naga negi etc. Delicate ingredients like tofu (and chrysanthemum leaves, though I did not use this time) should go into the nabe pot the last. Then, I let the nabe simmer until done. If necessary, I use a wooden scoop to remove any froth from the pot.

Simmering nabemono

Nabemono are usually eaten with a sauce sometimes called tare, which literally means ‘dipping’. There are several kinds of sauces. The most common ones are the ponzu and gomadare (sesame sauce). Ponzu is made of soy sauce and juice pressed from a bitter orange, sweet sake, and konbu stock. Gomadare is usually made from ground sesame, soy sauce, konbu stock, sake, and sugar.
Dipping sauces

Now we were all set to have a delicious dinner of nabemono. This time, we used ponzu as the dipping sauce. We used shichimi togarashi, a seven spiced chilli pepper blend, to flavor the ponzu.
Nabemono - our dinner

Nabemono is perfect with hot sake or an ice cold Kirin beer. Since the can of beer was not noticeable in the previous photo, hubby tilted the beer can horizontally so that we all could see his brand of beer :).
Kirin beer with nabemono

We relished our dinner.

Hubby posing with a bowl of rice and simmering nabemono

Hubby enjoying the nabemono

Once we finished eating nearly all of the ingredients, we cooked rice in the remaining leftover flavorful broth. Believe me the taste was simply divine.
Everything that goes into a nabemono is healthy. It can be as fat free as we want. We usually drink the soup (broth) too, so that no nutrition is lost. Nabemono warms us from inside, so we do not need to warm up the house for several hours!


google said...

yum yum ...

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Yeah google, it was delicious.

globalgal said...

That looks delicious! And your description and photos are so thorough! It reminds me of hot pot soup that we have here in China. I'd like to try this, substituting the local ingredients I have available. :)

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Hi globalgal. Thanks for you comment.
Since any kind of seasonal vegetables, fishes, and meats can be used for preparing nabemono, I am sure it will be delicious with the local ingredients too.