What Exactly Is Japanese Hot Pot?

Nabemono, what we today call nabe or hot pot, is a Japanese meal that has graced our tongues for centuries. According to Savor Japan, nabe is a unique way to eat soup because it is cooked and eaten at the dinner table out of the same pot. Traditionally made during the winter with a rich broth and various combinations of meat and vegetables, the nabe is meant to be shared with family or friends.

How can nabe be both cooked and eaten in the same place? Well, it's all thanks to the donabe pot (pronounced doh-NAH-bay). Just One Cook Book states that a traditional nabe meal is made (usually cooked on a gas stove) and served in this heavy clay pot because it maintains heat and flavor so well. You can buy a donabe pot at most Japanese grocery stores. Because the pot is made from clay, it is porous and must be seasoned to prevent heat and stain damage. You can use flour or rice water to do so (via Just One Cook Book). But, be careful with your donabe pot, it is delicate and can break easily due to sudden temperature changes.

The different kinds of nabe

Typical hot pot ingredients are negi (green onion), hakusai (cabbage), mushrooms, and other hardy veggies that you can find in the fall and winter, and your pick of seafood or meat to create an incredibly rich and fulfilling soup. The broth which is used to cook all the hot pot ingredients usually doubles as a soup base.

According to Just One Cook Book, popular hot pot dishes are: Oden, which utilizes fish cakes and seaweed. Sukiyaki, known for its thin-sliced beef and noodles. And Shabu-Shabu, which has both red meat and seafood and involves a special ponzu citrus sauce.

You can enjoy nabe all across Japan, but specific hot pot dishes are more popular regionally. So, if you ask for nabe in Fukuoka, Japan you are most likely to receive Motsu-nabe which has pork, chili peppers, and noodles, as Savor Japan points out. But, if you were to visit Kyoto, Japan (considered to be the cultural center of the country) you would find Hot Yudofu common, which highlights the soft and delicate nature of tofu, according to Taste Atlas.

Hot pot is an amazing way to share a delicious dinner with friends. It is easy to make, affordable, and you can customize it for whatever your heart desires.