How to Enjoy Eating Japanese Nabe (Hot Pot Dish) with Your Friends? | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

How to Enjoy Eating Japanese Nabe (Hot Pot Dish) with Your Friends?

By Guidable Writers Feb 27, 2017

Have you already eaten Japanese Nabe (hot pot dish), which is one of the common foods in Japanese winter? Japanese Nabe is soup/stew dish with cooking seasonable vegetables, fish, and/or meats in a pot, but it has a great value on it when you eat it with your friends. Usually, it is prepared with the electric cooker on the table and eaten by more than two people. There are so many varieties and styles of Nabe in Japan.


Types of Japanese Nabe

Nabe offers you different kind of soup. Basic soup is prepared from Kelp or Bonito. This soup will be used for Mizutaki and is so simple, but to bring out the taste of ingredients cooked in the pot. Cooked veggies, chicken, and seafood will be eaten with dipping sauces such as Ponzu (citrus flavored soy sauce) or Gomadare sesame sauce)


Yosenabe is another type of Nabe, popularly eaten at home and in the restaurant. The soup is seasoned with Miso, soy sauce, or salt depending on your preference. Then ingredients will be varied as well. When cooking at home, you can put any vegetables, meats, and fishes that you can find in your refrigerator, which make your dinner easier and quicker! Nowadays, ready made soup for Nabe can be purchased in the supermarket, and this makes your home cooking, even more, easier. It offers a variety of soups such as Soya milk seasoning, Kimuchi seasoning (Korean style), Chanco seasoning (Sumo wrestler’s style) etc.

The interesting part of this dish is that it has also been locally developed and specialized by using locally available ingredients. For example, in Hokkaido, the northern part of Japan, you can find Nabe called Ishikari Nabe. They use miso based soup and the main ingredient is salmon that the fishermen often catch in the region. If you go to Kyoto, you can find the simplest Nabe called Yudoufu that Tofu is boiled into the basic Kalp soup. Simply you can enjoy the natural texture and taste of Tofu and vegetables.

Etiquette for Eating with Friends

Since Nabe is a dish to eat with family and friends from ONE pot, there is some etiquette that you might want to know and try not to spoil the time.


During the preparation

Some people are particular about the order and the way to put ingredients into the pot. So, if you do not have any idea, let them be in charge to prepare it for you. They are happy to do it.

In general, ingredients such as meat or seafood go first in order to soak its flavor into the soup once the basic soup boiled up. Then, vegetables which take a bit longer to cook will be put in second. Next would be tofu and mushrooms, which can be easier to break down if overcooked. In the last, the leafy vegetables such as Chinese cabbage go into the pot.

Eating Nabe

  • You should not use your own chopstick to pick food from the pot to serve individual bowl. Make sure you use separate chopsticks and the ladle for serving to each one’s bowl.
  • Don’t be picky and greedy. You might have your favorite ingredients, but do not take only the food you like. Serve into your bowl with a variety of ingredients in a balanced manner.
  • Once you pick food from the pot, do not return it to the pot, even you find the ingredients are not cooked yet.
  • Do not stir the pot, because it is not stew and some ingredients are breakable.
  • If you sit near to Nabe pot, you can offer to dish out food for your friends who cannot reach to Nabe. 
  • Check with the friend’s pace for eating.

It seems like that the devil is in the details when it comes to Nabe. However, don’t be panicking. After all, it is an enjoyable moment to eat Nabe with friends, which brings you a good conversation during preparation on the table!

Yuko Murakami