The Versatile Japanese Pot David Chang Says You Need In Your Kitchen

For those looking to embrace all the wonders of Asian cuisine, David Chang is a solid source of information. The founder of the Momofuku empire and inventor of the beloved Momofuku savory salt is back with a new tip for cooks looking to invest in a top-tier versatile Japanese pot. For Chang, the donabe is the perfect tool for flexible, one-pot cooking. Translated from Japanese as clay pot, the donabe has held an enduring place in the country's kitchens, continuously in use since the 8th century. Think of the donabe as an ancient earthenware slow-cooker, as its porous clay builds heat slowly, then retains that high temperature for a long time. In Japan, it's often the central cooking vessel for group meals, as it works like a portable hot pot.

As Chang describes in a video for GQ, the donabe is "the epitome of what I like," i.e. endlessly useful cookware. Among the many things he uses his donabe for, Chang calls out braising and steaming fish as two of his favorites. It's also perfectly oven safe, so you can use it much like a casserole dish for roasting meats or stews. This vessel works particularly well when making Japanese, Korean, and Chinese dishes, as all three cultures have extensively used it.

The ancient allure of the donabe pot

So how should you go about tapping into the versatility of your earthenware pot? You can start by trying your hand at making a traditional donabe meal, shabu-shabu, a hot pot-style of dish that has eaters dipping their uncooked seafood, beef, and vegetables in a roiling hot broth until tender. There's an even simpler use for your donabe: making the perfect pot of rice. After soaking the rice, you'll heat it with the water in the donabe on medium for about 14 minutes. Then you'll remove it from the heat and let it sit and steam for 20 minutes. The best part of this method? You can layer vegetables, like mushrooms or bok choy, and thinly sliced beef over the rice before you begin cooking so that everything steams together for a flavorful and efficient dish.

This pot can be used for plenty of other cuisines, like a classic French dish of braised short ribs or a German-inspired beer-steamed brats and onions recipe. Basically, if you have a recipe that requires a long generous cook, the donabe will work wonders. As an added bonus, it can double as an attractive, heat-retentive dish to bring to a potluck. Depending on the size, a proper donabe can run from $70 to $200, but the quality investment will pay off. Soon, you'll have the key to hundreds of easy, delicious meals within your grasp.