(Hot Pot Cuisine, including Sumo-Style)
Hot Pot Cuisine is a conglomerate of ingredients cooked together in a hot pot, or “nabe” (nah-bay). Generally a number of people will eat together from a single pot.
A wide range of ingredients can be used in hot pot cuisine, with one main ingredient usually boiled together with vegetables and tofu. The ingredients are cut into bite-sized pieces for an enjoyable meal. Except for special cases, an earthen pot is almost always used for hot pot cuisine. A portable burner is placed on the table for the pot to sit on, and the food is generally boiled on the spot while everyone eats, periodically adding new ingredients. Hot pot cuisine is most often consumed in the winter months to keep warm.
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Long ago, a sunken fireplace called an “irori” (eee-low-lee) was at the center of the Japanese home. Families would place a hot pot above the fire to boil their food, eating while periodically adding new ingredients. This is thought to be where hot pot cuisine first originated.
As time passed and kitchens were added to the home, irori fireplaces were no longer necessary. A clay charcoal stove was then used for cooking, but today a simple portable burner is the norm.
How to Eat Hot Pot Cuisine
Occasionally, small hot pots are used for individual diners, but generally one large pot is used, with everyone at the table sharing it. This is considered an important form of communication in Japan.
A large pair of chopsticks is used to transport food from the hot pot to your own dish, and smaller chopsticks are used for eating. Condiments are also available for individual use, but are not to be added to the hot pot.
Once all the food has been eaten, a flavorful broth remains. Some people like to add rice or noodles to this broth to make soup.
Rich hot pot cuisine usually has more than enough natural flavoring, but plain-tasting cuisine is sometimes seasoned with condiments. Chief among those is “ponzu sauce,” a thin, citrus-based liquid often mixed with soy sauce for a potent, sweet-and-sour flavor.
Hot Pot Variations Abound
There are many hot pot variations to choose from.
Types of Meal Sets
Popular beef-based variants include sukiyaki and shabu-shabu, while others are described below. Some shops offer a wide variety of hot pot cuisine variations, but most tend to specialize in a certain type. First decide on what type of hot pot cuisine you’d like to experience, then search Gourmet Navigator for just the right restaurant.
Yose Nabe (Chowder)： An undetermined mixture of seafood, vegetables, and tofu are boiled in spices. Typical ingredients include codfish, salmon, and scallops, with Chinese cabbage, green onions, or garland chrysanthemum. Rich broth is enjoyed as is, but if a bit watered-down, ponzu sauce adds a nice kick.
Sumo-Style Hot Pot： Also known as “chanko” (chawn-koh), sumo wrestlers will often eat this dish to condition their bodies for competition. The younger, less-skilled wrestlers must prepare it for all sumo wrestlers in the stable. Meat dumplings are often added to the pot, but a wide variety of ingredients and condiments can be used. Some sumo wrestlers have opened their own sumo-style hot pot restaurants once retired.
Anko Nabe (Angler Hot Pot)： Angler fish is a deep-sea delicacy that can only be caught in the winter months, limiting this particular dish to winter.
Motsu Nabe (Giblet Hot Pot)： Beef or pork intestines are the main ingredient of this well-known local dish originally from the Hakata region of Kyushu. Chinese cabbage and green onions are often used, as are cabbage and Chinese chives. Garlic or miso can be added as well to rid the intestines of their potent smell.
Chige Stew with Kimchi (Kimchi Chige)
Crab Hot Pot (Kani Nabe)
Chicken Broth Hot Pot (Mizu Taki)
Duck Hot Pot (Kamo Nabe)
Boiled Tofu (Yu Dofu)
Oyster Hot Pot (Kaki Nabe)
Miso Salmon Hot Pot (Ishikari Nabe)
Kiritanpo Hot Pot (Kiritanpo Nabe)
Riverbank Hot Pot (Kaki no Dote Nabe)
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