The snow is falling in the mountains and the temperatures are dropping. It is that time of year when we struggle to find comfort in our uninsulated Gunma apartments. If you are not already spending each evening snuggled beneath the kotatsu grasping for any small amount of warmth, then it is certainly time to open your storage closets (or wallets) and get your apartment set up for the long cold winter months ahead.
And what could be a more perfect accessory for your living room kotatsu but a portable stove and nabe pot!
Nabemono or Japanese hot-pot is a style of winter cuisine often cooked and served from a large pot in the center of a table, commonly shared between several people. Not only is it toasty warm, convenient, and easy to prepare, but it is a highly social and fun way to spend an evening with friends. Japanese people believe that eating from the same pot and sharing a large dinner together will strengthen the relationships between those sharing the meal. The phrase nabe o kakomu (鍋を囲む) or “sitting around the pot” implies the warmth of friendship that comes from sharing a meal in this way.
A nabe pot is typically made of clay (donabe 土鍋) or cast iron (tetsunabe 鉄鍋) and can be purchased for surprisingly cheap at most home stores (between 700円−5000円 depending on the quality and size). Be sure to pick up a portable stove and gas canisters for added convenience (they range from 2000円 – 4000円 depending in quality).
The types and styles of nabe you can prepare at home are endless. Local grocers will have all the ingredients you need to make up any number of nabe recipes, and are usually grouped together conveniently. Yosenabe (寄せ鍋) is the most common and easy dish to prepare, simply meaning “putting together” various ingredients in a pot.
For your basic inexpensive and easy nabe, pick up any combination of sliced meats (pork, chicken or beef does just fine), seafood, mushrooms, negi, carrots, cabbage, daikon, konnyaku, tofu and udon.
Prepare a simple miso or shoyu broth or use the pre-made soups from the supermarket, and add each ingredient. Cook over medium heat for several minutes. Once the nabe is fully cooked, each person can dig in and help themselves! It could not be any easier! If your stomach is still begging for more, add udon to the flavorful broth, or add rice and egg after much of the meat and vegetables are gone for a heartier meal.
Shabu-Shabu is another nabemono variation prepared by swishing finely sliced piece of beef or pork in boiling water or broth. Use tare, or dipping sauces to add flavor to the ingredients. You can choose between ponzu, a sweet soy-sauce mixture or gomadare, a sesame sauce.
Sukiyaki (すき焼き) is yet another variation usually made with a shoyu, sugar and mirin broth. Each person has a single raw beaten egg to serve as a dipping sauce. The raw ingredients are boiled until ready and each person helps themselves by dipping the cooked meat and vegetables in the raw egg.
For more information and nabe recipes check the following links: