Nabe is a type of Japanese cuisine named after the clay pot in which it is traditionally prepared. It features many fresh vegetables and mushrooms, centered around a main meat or seafood, heated in the nabs-pot over a burner that sits in the middle of the serving table, and is a popular way to warm up during the cool fall and cooler winter nights. Each family has its own variations on the soup base, but a popular recipe features soy sauce, miso, mirin, sugar and sake.
Once the soup base has been heated up, the nabe-pot is filled with as many ingredients as it can hold: several kinds of mushrooms, cabbage, tofu, carrots, onions, and the featured meat of choice. Thin slices of beef are most common, and are also found in a variation known the world over to be “sukiyaki”. A famous variation from Hokkaido featuring salmon is known as “chan-chan-yaki” (a personal favorite that I often make at home). Sumo wrestlers eat another famous variation featuring several kinds of meat together, including chicken, pork and fish, known as “chanko-yaki”. A variation that has grown in popularity recently is called “buta-kimchee-nabe”, and uses pork and kimchee.
What really makes nabe complete is beer and good company. One of Japan’s favorite winter past-times is the nabe party. The table is set with the nabe pot on a burner in the middle of the table, set atop a heated blanket (called a “kotatsu”) under which your guests can stay warm while spooning portions of nabe into their own set of bowls. Some pickled vegetables and small portions of beer pairings (called “otsumami”), as well as bowls of rice are set out to round out the meal.
Ingredients are added to the pot as the cooked ingredients are eaten. When the other food is finished, or when everyone has almost had their fill, the remaining broth is used to cook some noodles (often udon or ramen noodles), and the rest of the soup is enjoyed in this way.