With winter being nabe season and all, I thought I’d share another hotpot recipe with you! My brother recently gave me an adorable clay nabe pot (it looks like a bunny!!) and I’ve been really wanting to try it out, but wasn’t sure what type of nabe to make… until I saw an episode of Koufuku Grafitti showcase a hotpot dish called chanko nabe!
The taste of chanko nabe lies somewhere between lightly flavored chicken nabe and the robust and richness of beef sukiyaki… With a simple soup base that is more salty than sweet, and a large variety of different meats and vegetables, chanko nabe is so flavorful that no additional sauces like ponzu sauce or soy sauce are needed!
This nabe is also very popular with sumo wrestlers trying to weight-gain because it is low in fat and high in protein. Chicken is the primary meat of choice in this dish, reflecting the thought that the sumo wrestler should always stand on 2 legs like a chicken, rather than be on all fours…
About the recipe:
Chanko nabe is pretty simple to make, though it does require a bit of prep work and some specific equipment… namely a portable burner and a low rimmed pot. While this type of nabe is generally cooked in a clay pot, any low rimmed pot that is only about 4 inches deep will work well too. It’s important to not use a very deep pot because the tall rim will obstruct your view of the pot’s contents while sitting at the table, making reaching for the cooked food difficult.
Because nabe is a “one pot dish”, where all the vegetables and meat you need are included in the meal, there’s no need to make side dishes or anything to go along with the nabe! This makes nabe a simple to make meal that is really perfect for a family or group dinner. That said, since everything is cooked at the table, it’s important to prepare all of your ingredients before hand so that you’re not scrambling to cook and cut vegetables while trying to enjoy your meal.
If you cook this at the table, please also be careful that you don’t inadvertently contaminate your cooked food with the raw meat. A good way to ensure safety is to have two separate pairs of cooking utensils (I like to use chopsticks or tongs): one pair that can be used to handle the raw meat and cook the ingredients in the pot, and another pair for eating with.
And one last thing to note: this recipe can be scaled up or down to accommodate any number of people, but since everyone will be reaching into the same pot to retrieve food, you’re limited by the size of your pot, the size of your table, and the number of people that could comfortably share one nabe pot. I think 6 (maybe even 8?) people could easily share one nabe pot, but any more than that and you may run into conflicts over how quickly the food cooks. In cases of parties of 10 or more people, two pots might work better. Use your best judgement!
About the ingredients:
Fish is a great addition to chanko nabe, adding even more flavor to the broth. I recommend using fish that can hold up to a bit of stewing, such as salmon and yellowtail. Feel free to experiment and ask your local fish seller for additional recommendations!
Aburaage, or unseasoned, deep fried tofu pouches, can be found in many Asian grocery stores in the refrigerated or frozen section of the store. The aburaage tends to soak up the flavorful nabe broth becoming tender and tasty to eat. Boil briefly in water to remove some of the residual oil from the frying process. Squeeze to remove the remaining water in the aburaage before cutting it up and adding it to the nabe.
Chrysanthemum greens (called shungiku in Japanese) is a very fragrant and slightly bitter leafy green vegetable. It can be found in some Asian grocery stores, but I have yet to see it in Western stores. Chrysanthemum greens can be substituted for any leafy green such as watercress, spinach, bok choy, or Chinese broccoli.
Fresh shiitake mushrooms are a great addition to chicken nabe, especially since the mushrooms tend to soak up the flavorful broth and dipping sauces wonderfully. Shiitake mushrooms are commonly found in many regular grocery stores. Only use fresh shiitake, and not dried, since the dried mushrooms have a much stronger and very different flavor than fresh ones, and will generally be a bit chewy. And, if you really can’t find this type of mushroom, you can also use a portobello in a pinch. I think oyster mushrooms or straw mushrooms would also taste good…
Enoki mushrooms can be found in most Asian grocery stores, usually in small packages. These white mushrooms have a long, thin stem and a small cap, and are typically clumped together at the bottom of their stems. To use, simply cut off the dried bottoms and then separate the mushrooms into more manageable clumps.
Udon is typically added to the empty nabe pot to finish the meal off once everyone has had their fill of meat and vegetables. This thick noodle can be found in many Asian grocery stores, either fresh or frozen, and are generally precooked so that they only have to be boiled for a short while before being eaten. If you can’t find udon in your area, you can always try making your own by using this recipe for homemade udon! If you make your own udon, make sure to precook the noodles first (most store bought udon is already precooked), so that the nabe broth doesn’t become starchy.
Makes 4 servings
For the soup base:
- 6 cup water
- 2 tsp dashi granules
- 1/4 cup sake
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 3 tbsp mirin
- 1/4 tsp salt
For the chicken meatballs
- 1 lb ground chicken
- 2 green onions, minced
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp sesame seed oil
- 1/2 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 napa cabbage
- 1 bunch chrysanthemum greens, or any leafy green such as spinach, bok choy, or Chinese broccoli
- 5 green onions
- 1 block soft or yaki tofu
- 2 carrots
- 3 – 4 pieces of aburaage
- 8 – 12 shiitake mushrooms
- 1 bunch enoki mushrooms
- 1 lb fish, such as some combination of salmon and yellowtail
- 2 tbsp sake (for the fish)
- 2 – 3 blocks udon
For the chicken meatballs:
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Form into small, bite sized balls using dampened fingers, and set aside until ready to cook.
For the nabe:
1. Prepare your ingredients in the following manner, and set them aside until ready to cook:
Napa cabbage: Separate the leaves, wash in cold water, and slice crosswise into 1 inch pieces.
Chrysanthemum greens (or any leafy greens): Wash and cut into 2 – 3 inch pieces.
Green onions: Wash and slice the white and green parts into 1 inch pieces.
Shiitake mushrooms: Wipe clean with a damp paper towel. Cut off the tough or woody ends of the stems, if necessary. Cut an X pattern at the center of the mushroom cap, if desired (this step is pure aesthetic). If using a portobello mushroom, cut into 1/4 inch slices.
Enoki mushrooms: Briefly rinse in cold water. Cut off the dried bottom portion and separate mushrooms into several small clumps.
Tofu: Drain of any liquid and cut into 1 inch cubes.
Carrots: Peel and cut crosswise into 1/8 inch slices.
Aburaage: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Submerge aburaage and boil for 30 – 60 seconds to remove some of the oil. Remove from the water and, when cool enough to handle, squeeze the remaining water from the aburaage using your hands. Cut into 1/4 inch slices.
Fish: Scale, rinse, and remove any bones. Cut into 1.5 – 2 inch pieces. Sprinkle with sake and let sit for 1 – 2 minutes to remove some of the fishy smell. Blot dry using a paper towel.
2. Mix together all the soup base ingredients in a clay nabe pot, and set on medium high heat until simmering. Add a portion of the chicken meatballs, cabbage, green onions, aburaage, carrots, and tofu to the pot, keeping the items separated from each other and grouped together with their respective types.
Cover, return pot to a simmer, and cook for about 5 minutes, turning the ingredients every so often to ensure the uppermost items are cooked evenly.
3. Add a portion of the leafy greens, mushrooms, and fish, and continue cooking until the chicken meatballs and fish are cooked through and the napa cabbage is soft, about 5 minutes.
Serve by removing desired items from the pot and placing into a small bowl. Turn down the heat to low to prevent overcooking the items remaining in the pot.
4. When the items in the pot have been removed, turn the heat back to medium high and add another serving of vegetables and meat. Place the ingredients in groups in the broth and simmer as before until cooked through.
5. At the end of the meal, add udon to the empty pot and cooking the noodles as per the instructions on the package. Serve udon with a bit of the leftover broth.
Notes and tips:
- In order to avoid over cooking ingredients and to make way for the next serving of food to be cooked, clear the pan by simply removing the remaining items and distributing them to the bowls. The food will have time to cool off a bit while resting in the bowl, and everyone can still have something to eat while the next portion of meat and vegetables cook.
- Udon is commonly added at the end of the meal to the empty pot in order to soak up the leftover broth. Okayu (rice porridge) can also be made after the udon is eaten.