By: Tim H. Tanaka, Ph.D.
Nabe cuisine (Japanese hot pot) is one of the most commonly eaten dishes during winter months in Japan.
Many nutrition experts in Japan consider the dish to be a perfect meal for anyone. This is because it is low in fat, and very high in good quality protein together with a wide of variety of vegetables and fibers. In Kampo (Japanese traditional medicine) and classical Chinese medicine teachings, it is believed that the digestive tract should be always kept warm, especially in Yin (Cold) type individuals. Many kinds of vegetables, however, tend to cool our systems when eaten raw. With hot pot, those vegetables can be consumed in large amounts without any negative impact on the body.
Among the many variations of the nabe dish, here is an authentic recipe of a very well-known nabe called Mizutaki, which originated from my hometown Hakata region.
Ingredients (Four servings):
- 16 split chicken wings (or 8 whole wings)
- 1 lb. chicken thighs with the bone (cut to bite-size pieces)
- 1 tofu, cut into small blocks (1-inch pieces)
- 2 lb. Cabbage, chopped into 2-inch pieces
- 1 cup carrots, thinly sliced diagonally
- A handful of mushrooms (shimeji enoki, or shitake)
- 1 pack of spinach
- 1 Negi (green onion), or 1 leek, rinsed and sliced diagonally
Mix the following ingredients:
- Kikkoman soy sauce (200 mg)
- Rice vinegar (100 mg)
- Juice squeezed from 2 lemon or lime
- Juice squeezed from half grapefruit
Chicken Meat Ball:
- Minced chicken (300g)
- Salt (3g)
- Black pepper (3g)
- 1 Egg
- Soy sauce (1 teaspoon)
- Bread crumbs (10g)
- Minced Onion (1/2)
- Minced garlic(1/2 teaspoon)
- Minced ginger (1/2 teaspoon)
Mix all the ingredients. Take ‘bite-size’ amounts using a tablespoon and cook them in the hot pot for about 5 minutes (they float when almost done).
- Place1.5 liter water in a large donabe pot (earthen or stew pot) and bring it to a boil. Add chicken wings and boil them on medium heat for 30 minutes. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. (Add small amounts of water as needed to maintain initial volume.)
- Add chicken thighs and continue to cook on medium heat. After 30 minutes, remove from heat and let it rest for another 30 minutes. Then move the pot to the dining table and place it on a portable gas stove (for indoor use).
- Chicken and other ingredients are simmered on the portable stove. Eat chicken wings and thighs first, using separate small bowls and the dipping sauce.
- Add vegetables, tofu, and meatball in the boiling pot.
- The leftover broth contains an abundant amount of collagen (good for skin and joints) and many essences of foods. Towards the end of dinner, add rice or noodles in the pot. You can make delicious and nutritious risotto or noodle soup on the dining table (add soy sauce, salt, and/or spice for your liking).
This dish is designed to be eaten as you cook. Do not place all the ingredients in at once (keep additional raw ingredients aside). Adjust heat and cooking time depending on the ingredients for nutrition and better tasting. Shorten the cooking time for ingredients like leafy vegetables, in order to preserve the texture and heat-sensitive nutrients such as vitamin C. Please keep in mind that some foods actually increase the nutritional value and bioavailability with heat exposure. For example, the carotenoid content of carrots is increased by cooking for a longer duration in boiled water.