Japanese Nabe – Our Guide to This Famous Winter Hot Pot | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

Japanese Nabe – Our Guide to This Famous Winter Hot Pot

By Guidable Writers Nov 18, 2022

Are you currently living in or planning to come to Japan in the future? For sure there are many reasons to come to Japan, to learn Japanese, to have a job here, or maybe just to try out delicious Japanese foods. Autumn is called the ” Shokuyoku no Aki” – the season of appetite”, and you can find many Japanese foods you’ve never tasted before. In this topic, I would like to focus on various “nabe” or hotpot, which is a real treat for the Autumn and Winter seasons.

In this article:

5 Tasty Nabes in Japan (That Aren’t Sukiyaki and Shabushabu)

There are many sorts of nabe in Japan, and you might already know “Sukiyaki” and “Shabushabu”. Needless to say, they are very delicious, but I would like to introduce some different types of nabe. Most are cooked with vegetables, meats, rice/noodles and various seasonings. The most frequently used vegetable is Hakusai cabbage, and various mushrooms such as Maitake, Shimeji, Enoki also play a very important role in this yummy dish.

Chanko Nabe

Chanko Nabe

Photo credit: Canva

This hot pot gained popularity in late 1800, spread by Sumo wrestlers as a “staple” in their diet. Believe it or not, most sumo wrestlers enjoy different variations of Chanko Nabe every day, seasoned with salt, Miso or soy Sauce.

I would like to introduce two Chanko Nabe restaurants in Tokyo:

Chanko Kirishima (Ryogoku)
Kappo Yoshiba (Ryogoku).

You can choose your favourite variation from 4 or more selections, the most popular varieties are: miso, soy sauce and salt.

Ishikari Nabe (Miso Nabe)

Ishikari Nabe

Photo credit: Canva

This Miso-based nabe is a salmon hotpot from Hokkaido. You can add more seafood and some butter to it to make it more flavourful.

Motsu Nabe

Photo credit: Canva

The main ingredient in this nabe, most famous in Fukuoka, is offal (intestines). Cabbage is often used instead of Hakusai cabbage, and soy sauce and mirin, (a kind of sake with a lower content of alcohol and more sugar) are used to create a deeper flavour.

Mizore Nabe

Mizore Nabe

Photo credit: Canva

White radish and pork are used in this nabe, and you’ll find that not many additional vegetables are used. It takes extra delicious when dipped in Ponzu vinegar, and the radish provides a healthy dose of diastase enzyme which can help with digestion.

Tecchiri Nabe (Fugu Chiri)


Photo credit: Canva

This is a kind of expensive nabe using globefish/pufferfish. Pufferfish contains the poisonous “tetrodotoxin” mainly in its liver and ovary, so the a license is needed to prepare and cook the fish. Make sure you do not cut and cook a pufferfish by yourself even if you fish/catch them in the sea. Soy sauce based soup is the most popular one for this nabe.

Get the Most Out of Your Nabe Dish

At the end of the meal (when you’ve eaten most of the vegetables and meat), Japanese people often add the “〆” (shime). This Japanese kanji generally means “to end”, or “to close” and in this case indicates the popular way to end the nabe meal – by adding noodles (udon or ramen) or rice to the rest of the broth.

Preparing Nabe at Home

If you want to cook at home and save some money, the basic cooking styles of Nabe is written as follows:

  • Add soup stock and seasonings to a pot and bring it to the boil
  • Add meat, chicken/pork/beef or seafood into the boiled pot
  • Add vegetables, firstly vegetables with a hard texture, such as the bottom part of Hakusai cabbage and radish with mushrooms and secondly, soft parts, such as Hakusai cabbage leaves
  • Prepare the dipping sauce if required (such as ponzu vinegar and sesame sauce)
  • Enjoy it with beer!!
  • Add your shime noodles or rice, if preferred. If you want to add rice, add it when only the broth remains. After adding rice, wait for about 3 – 5 minutes, and if you like add a beaten egg, then stir. This is called Zosui and is a very common way to end a Tecchiri nabe dish.

Besides these nabe dishes, there are many more nabes in Japan. For example, Suppon Nabe (hot pot of soft-shelled turtle), Kiritanpo Nabe (the local speciality of Akita), Kimichi Nabe, and Curry Nabe.

Yami Nabe (Dark/Mystery Nabe)

Have you ever heard of “Yami Nabe” – translated as “Dark Nabe” or “Mystery Nabe”?

For this nabe, every participant has to bring something in secret to put in – and it’s cooked in darkness so you don’t know what goes in the pot…until it’s too late!

To start, boil the soup stock and turn the light off (or low). Then, everybody adds their secret ingredients into the pot without letting other people know. You then eat whatever you take from the pot in the dark room and guess what it is. You could make rules such as, bringing something weird, but edible… Ha, ha, it sounds exciting, don’t you think so? Have you tried it before? Tell us your weirdest yami nabe stories on Instagram – send us a message!

By Kenny Y./Japan

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