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Nabe, Winter Food

Story by Oku Japan

Posted: January 19, 2018

For those into Japanese cuisine, words like Sushi, Sashimi, and Tempura surely ring a bell. What most people don’t know is that Japan cuisine also features a variety of traditional dishes, based on seasonal ingredients. During springtime, open-air stands display delicious sweet rice cakes flavored with Sakura, “Japanese cherries,” and when autumn approaches, you can taste a multitude of fresh mushrooms, Také (bamboo shoots) and chestnuts.

In winter, Japanese people gather around big tables where seasonal ingredients are cooked in a big steaming pot containing different kinds of soup stock. This kind of cuisine is called “Nabe,” named for the clay pot traditionally used. Nabe is a very versatile kind of cuisine since you can use a whole variety of vegetables, seafood, meat, Tofu and Konyaku (a jelly-like starch based on potato).

The fascinating part of this custom is that with Nabe everyone cooks their food in the same pot and eats from it. This contrasts with most refined Japanese cuisine, where you would never share the same dish – though you might use chopsticks to help yourself from the same plate as your fellow diners. In some Nabe variations, like Shabu Shabu, finely-cut slices of meat are dipped into the simmering stock and brought to everyone mouths, effectively making the Nabe hot pot the only plate on the table.