Hello! I am declaring it officially nabe season in Japan! Japan has more than just the four seasons. In addition to cherry blossom season, autumn leaves season, and probably others, I like to add nabe season to the mix. Nabe is more a way of cooking than it is a food, but this is a special season dedicated to food, and who wouldn’t love that? Nabe is my favourite thing to eat in the winters for lotsa reasons. In this post, I’ll introduce you to this wonderful winter meal and then give you 7 reasons why you should love nabe and eat lots of it during nabe season.
Note: The type of nabe I’m referring to is made in a donabe pot. It’s the one that is easily made at home, and should not be confused with other nabemono dishes, like sukiyaki, shabu shabu, or oden.
What is nabe?
Nabe is a Japanese word meaning “pot,” like the one you use to cook with. Although it’s a pretty generic name for a type of food, the dish itself is incredibly diverse and delicious. It’s a soup base with a whole bunch of vegetables and meats piled in to that you cook until everything is soft and yummy. Everything is cooked all at once in the special nabe pot. It’s usually cooked on a portable gas stove, but I make it on my regular stove.
What is nabe season?
It gets pretty nippy in the winter in Japan, and there are a plethora of ways that people keep warm. One of those ways is to cook hot, yummy soup. Because who doesn’t love tucking in to a bowl of hearty soup on a cold winter night? “Nabe season” is thus the cold winter months when you can enjoy nabe. Nabe season is quite prominent in my house because I eat it almost every day. And, no, I don’t get tired of it because there are unlimited ways to enjoy nabe. Here’s a list of different types of nabe off the top of my head:
- Chanko nabe – this is a pork, fish, or miso base and is famous for being the type of nabe sumo wrestlers eat to gain weight.
- Miso nabe – nabe made with a miso soup base
- Kimchi nabe – a kimchi soup base and one of my favourites
- Motsu nabe – made with intestines and probably my least favourite
- Yosenabe – this means whatever you can throw in to the pot (my specialty)
- Other ready-made flavours you can buy: pork belly, soy sesame, curry, curry cheese, salty chili oil, and more!
As for ingredients, there are some general guidelines and preferred ingredients, but I don’t like to follow any of those rules. I just throw in whatever vegetables and meats I have on hand. If you do care, some common ingredients are Chinese cabbage, long onion, mushrooms, mini sausages, and tofu. But really, put whatever you want in it!
Now, 7 reasons to love nabe this nabe season in Japan
1 It’s easy
You can buy so many different flavours of nabe at the supermarket. They come remade in a bag, you just shake it up and dump it in the pot. Then you cut whatever vegetables and meat you want and throw them in.
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2 It’s cheap
A bag of nabe soup base costs less than $4. And it’s not like vegetables are expensive. You don’t need to buy any fancy ingredients, though you will have to invest in a nabe pot to get started. But it’s worth it.
3 It’s fast
The length of time until the nabe is in your tummy is about 20 minutes. Put the soup base in the pot, cut your vegetables and throw them in, then cook everything for 10-15 minutes. Boom. Nabe.
4 It’s yummy!
The soups are flavourful and delicious, and you choose whichever ingredients you like, so nothing can go wrong. My favourite flavours are salty chili oil, kimchi, tan tan (a spicy Taiwanese soup), and soy sesame. My favourite ingredients are Chinese cabbage, mushroom, fried tofu skin, baby bok choy, spinach, and sausages.
5 It’s warm
And a perfect way to get comfy in the winter.
6 It’s healthy
I mean, depending on how you judge what “healthy” is. But it’s generally full of vegetables, a bit of meat, and soup. To me, that’s healthy enough to be considered healthy.
7 It’s brings people together
This doesn’t apply to me so much, since I eat my nabe alone, in my pajamas, with my feet on the table, staring at my computer. But nabe parties are a thing. It’s where friends get together at someone’s house, bring a nabe pot and portable gas stove, then cook everything together while sitting on the floor talking and laughing. I’ve been to one nabe party. If you like social things, you might have fun at a nabe party. I prefer to share my nabe with YouTube. #loner 🙂
Let’s eat nabe every day this nabe season!
Do you see why I love nabe so much, and why I’m happy it’s nabe season? It’s pretty much the perfect thing to eat in the winter, and I get excited when I start to see lots of it on display in the stores. I hope this was nice introduction to nabe and nabe season in Japan and you are intrigued by this wonderful winter dish. It’s encourage you to give it a try if you are in Japan, and recreate it if you are outside of Japan.
Tell me, what’s your favourite winter meal?
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