Chanko-Nabe/ ちゃんこ鍋

Tonight's dinner is chanko-nabe, a wonderful Japanese stew.


Looking back at my life in Canada before I came to Japan, one of the things that surprises me is that I ate Nabe, or Japanese stew in Canada. When most people think of Japanese food, Nabe is probably something that most people never think of. Yet, once winter rolls around in Japan, Nabe is one of the ubiquitous foods eaten by many here in Japan.I can't recall what kind of Nabe I ate in Canada (blame the copious bottles of Sake we drank), but it was enjoyed. How is it possible NOT to enjoy Nabe? This is a food that comes in all shapes and sizes. Do you like seafood? There's a Nabe for that. Do you prefer meat? If so, there's a Nabe for that. How about those of you who don't eat meat or fish? There's a Nabe for that as well.Nabe basically involves making a broth (which can be simple or complex-tasting) and then adding other ingredients, all fresh, and cut to bite-size portions, letting it cook together for a short time, and then eating it in small bowls, either as is or with various sauces. Nabe is usually cooked in a clay pot over a portable gas burner at the table-side, allowing guests to eat and cook all during the meal.Once everyone has more or less had their fill, a final dish can be Zosui (雑炊). To make Zosui, the remaining solids are removed from the Nabe pot and adding some cooked rice. The rice cooks in the broth that previously had the vegetables and/or meats and/or seafood, soaking up all those flavours. In our family, a beaten egg is added last, along with a sprinkling of chopped green onions. Usually each person can have one bowl or so of this flavour-packed rice dish to finish the meal. Aahh, satisfaction!Tonight's dinner was Chanko-nabe. This version of Nabe is popular with Sumo wrestlers. There are various vegetables in the Nabe, pieces of aburaage (油揚げ) or deep-fried tofu, meatballs, and often pieces of chicken. Our broth for the Nabe was store-bought, making for a quick dinner.Our portions were modest compared to those served to Sumo wrestlers, but it was enjoyed just the same. After a nice dinner like that, I want no fighting tonight. Instead, as my tummy is happy and the soup has warmed me, I'll sit back, relax and watch some TV.

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