Before you gather your loved ones around the table, make sure everyone knows their role in this collaborative dish.
While a nip in the early spring air might leave us Westerners hankering for a hearty bowl of soup, the Japanese are more likely to crave a hot, steamy pot of nabe. In fact, a survey in 2013 found that over 60 per cent of Japanese people eat nabe at least once a week through the coldest months. Traditionally made up of seasonal veggies, a protein and flavourful stock, nabe is cooked in a large pot on a portable stove set on the centre of the dining table for the whole family to huddle around and share. In addition to the classic types of nabe—which include dishes you might find familiar, such as sukiyaki and shabu shabu—there are endless varieties across the different regions of Japan, and they are largely influenced by the specialty foods in each area. Individual households might even have their own unique recipes. But whatever the ingredients may be, the experience of sharing a pot full of delicious food made by the joint effort of the people you love is what forms the foundation of this collective and dynamic dish.
The name means “sumo-style,” and it’s no wonder—this miso-based nabe is a feast fit for a sumo wrestler. Served with sliced pork, minced chicken, chicken leg, tofu and veggies galore, don’t be surprised if your pot runneth over. Finished feasting? Throw your leftover rice into the broth, crack an egg into it and enjoy a “second course” of zosui. We promise, you’ll want to savour this sumo-licious broth a second time.
30 St. Patrick St., Toronto | 416-340-0472
Open:• Mon–Fri 11:45 am–2:30 pm, 5:30 pm –10:30 pm • Sat 5:30 pm–10:30 pm • Sun 5:30 pm–10 pm
Healthy Tomatoes Hot Pot
690 College St., Toronto | 416-533-8083
Open: Mon–Thurs 5 pm–12 am • Fri 5 pm–2 am Sat 11:30 am–2 am • Sun 11:30 am–10:30 pm
Homestyle Tsukune Hot Pot
This homestyle nabe is rich in flavour—and fun! Served with a platter of vegetables and a portion of tsukune (minced chicken meat), you’ll feel right at home making your own meatballs. Once they’re ready, throw them into the pot and watch them sizzle. And, as mom would say, don’t forget your veggies! Enjoy the traditional flavours of a savoury broth mixed with a hint of sweetness. Serves two people.
Don Don Izakaya
130 Dundas St. W., Toronto | 416-492-5292
Open: Mon–Thurs 11:30 am–12 am • Fri 11:30 am –1 am • Sat 5 pm–1 am • Sun 5 pm–12 am
Hot Pot with Noodle and Seafood
This noodle-y nabe is uniquely flavoured by the same type of broth you’d find at the bottom of your bowl of udon! Served with a variety of veggies, some silky tofu, udon noodles and a healthy portion of seafood, you’ll be saying hello to shrimp (with their heads still on), oysters, clams, squid and the catch of the day (usually salmon or halibut). No artificial flavours!
Bushi Udon Kappo
1404 Yonge St., Toronto | 416-323-9988
Open: Tues–Thurs 11:30 am–2:30 pm, 5 pm–10 pm • Fri–Sat 11:30 am–2:30 pm, 5 pm–10:30 pm • Sun 11:30 am–2:30 pm, 5 pm–9 pm • Mon closed
Tan Tan Hot Pot
This subtly spicy nabe was born from Kingyo’s original tantan recipe. Served with thinly sliced pork, veggies and a chunk of tantan miso paste, it’s so rich you’ll want to share the wealth with friends! Once finished, avoid nabe withdrawal by drinking the broth (we’re not kidding!) or throw some noodles in the pot for Round 2. This selectively available dish is back on the menu this month. Get it while you can!
51B Winchester St., Toronto | 647-748-2121
Open: Sun–Thurs 11:30 am–3 pm, 5:30 pm–11:30 pm Fri–Sat 11:30 am–3 pm, 5:30 pm–12 am
Good to the last bite
Everybody takes from the pot in the middle of the table and eats from their own serving plate. But the most important thing to know about eating nabe is that you shouldn’t forget to leave enough room for the shime (or “finish”). The broth is considered one of the best parts of the nabe, rich and packed with the flavours of all the foods stewed in the pot. As a culture that doesn’t like to waste things, the Japanese came up with a way to consume every last bite by adding rice or noodles at the very end of the meal to soak up all of the flavours from the rich broth. To a Japanese person, nabe is not a complete meal without the shime.