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Enjoying Nabe This Winter: A Japanese Tradition

By Devy Dec 8, 2021

Winter is the perfect time to enjoy this famous Japanese hot food known as nabe! 

Nabe, also called hotpot, is a classic winter food consisting of a wide selection of ingredients, from vegetables to various meat or fish in a broth.

There are several different ways to serve nabe; the most typical way is to use a portable stove on the dining table, so you can enjoy the nabe whilst steaming hot. 

Eating nabe while it’s cooking on the stove is a popular way to eat it,  as it helps to warm the body during the cold season in Japan. 

Nabe (or hotpot) uses a soup made of thick stock that can come from a variety of bases. Some are derived from animal products, such as gelatin or chicken stock, whilst some are made from vegetable proteins which are great for vegetarians.

Some nabe are also served with a dipping sauce on the side such as ponzu or goma tare to enhance the taste and match the preferences of whoever is eating. 

Here, we would like to go deeper into various types of nabe, a special winter dish in Japan! 

Our Favourite Winter Nabe

Chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋)

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The first nabe is the traditional chankonabe, which was originally served to sumo wrestlers. 

Chankonabe contains many more ingredients than other types of nabe because it is supposed to help sumo wrestlers stay strong and healthy. 

It includes all kinds of proteins, including vegetables, meat, fish and sometimes even horse! 

This dish is believed to be the food of sumo wrestlers, who are greatly respected by the Japanese people. Serving chankonabe was meant to boost their spirits in order to be able to win the match.

Now, you can find chankonabe in certain specialised restaurants. Don’t be surprised at the huge portions! Trying chankonabe will give you a whole experience of trying one of the traditional foods associated with sumo wrestlers. 

Sukiyaki (すき焼き)

The next nabe is the most common type in Japan; sukiyaki

This dish contains meat slices, tofu, and vegetables as the main toppings. You can find many restaurants that sell sukiyaki all around Japan. 

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Fun fact: local Japanese restaurants usually remove their sukiyaki menu when summer comes! 

Local Japanese restaurants then bring it back when the temperature drops again during the fall. This is because sukiyaki provides warmth to those who eat it, so it is seen to be unnecessary in summer and is usually substituted for another type of seasonal summer dish. 

An interesting part of sukiyaki is that Japanese people usually mix in raw eggs! They believed raw eggs give more health benefits to the dish and give it a thicker texture.

This kind of nabe is great for those who want more protein on account of the ingredients being made up of a lot of protein. 

There are also some seafood sukiyaki available in Japan. The concept is similar, but instead of meat, the main ingredients all come from the sea! Fish, octopus, shrimp, and crab are often the main ingredients of seafood sukiyaki

Some people also choose to keep the seafood raw and dip it into the soup instead of mixing and cooking it together. 

Trying these different kinds of sukiyaki is one of the most exciting parts of enjoying this delicate winter dish from Japan. 

Yudōfu (湯豆腐)

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This is the best nabe type for you tofu lovers. Yudōfu is served with tofu marinated in kombu stock, with a sweet and bitter ponzu. 

The main ingredient of this dish is tofu, which is cut into small blocks. It may not be easy to eat tofu as a main dish in another country. But in Japan, tofu can be the main star! 

Japanese people believe that eating tofu is a source of good energy without having to worry about consuming too many fats.

This is why yudōfu is the best choice for those who are on a diet but still wish to taste the deliciousness of hotpot during the winter season. 

Oden (御田)

japanese winter foods, japanese recipes, nabe, hotpot

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The last one is the famous street food that you can easily find in convenience stores or buy from street vendors. 

Oden is a small dish containing things like boiled eggs, konjac, or daikon, which you may already be familiar with. 

The remarkable thing about oden is it is served in a take-out bowl, and there are people who will still eat the soup with chopsticks! 

This is a small fun fact about oden that people may not have noticed before; if you buy it from the convenience store or from a street vendor, the staff will still give you chopsticks to enjoy the oden. Although nowadays, they may also give you spoons to make it easier to enjoy the food. 

So, Have You Tried One of These Popular Nabe Yet? 

Nabe will always be the Japanese’s favourite winter dish to enjoy with their friends and families.

Especially during big meals and parties, you will always find a stove serving one or two types of nabe at the table. 

Even though it may look all the same for some of you, there are differences in each nabe’s meaning and the way they’re served. 

Find out more by trying out these popular nabe in Japan! 

Devy Mufliha,


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