Nabe refers to a variety of Japanese hot-pot dishes. It is a typical winter food. All the ingredients for nabe are prepared together in a large clay or iron pot. The pot is usually placed on a burner in the middle of the table and the dish is cooked at the table. Everyone gathers round and picks from the pot what they like, as the ingredients cook. This makes the eating of nabe a highly social event and therefore a perfect excuse for a party, the so-called ‘nabe party’.
There are several stages to a nabe party, involving different ingredients that are added in turn to the pot. Many varieties of nabe exist, but it all comes down to a mix of different ingredients in a broth. The nabe that I will describe below consists of stock, lots of vegetables, tofu, fish cake, thin slices of meat and rice. Dipping sauce and an egg were also involved.
As the nabe is placed on the cooker, the party can begin. Friends gather round and wait for everything to start simmering. A perfect moment to enjoy a glass of wine and a laugh together. When the broth has come to a boil and the vegetables have shrunk somewhat, very thin slices of meat are placed on top of the nabe. Since the slices are so thin, they cook in about a minute.
Now the time has come for everyone to dig in. You may take whatever you like from the nabe pot. This communal enjoyment of the meal creates a very cozy feeling. A nabe party is perfect for warming both body and heart during a cold winter evening.
You might have noticed the collection of sauces on the table. They are dipping sauces for the nabe, collectively referred to as tare. Everyone has two bowls for dipping sauces. As you take food from the nabe pot, you may dip it in the sauce of your choice.
When most of the vegetables are eaten and the pot is nearly empty, it is time for the second round. More vegetables are added to the pot and everyone continues eating.
At the end of round two, when only a little of the broth and some pieces of vegetable remain, cooked rice is added to the mix. The rice absorbs the taste from all the previous ingredients and gets a porridge like texture.
While everyone enjoys the first serving of rice, the rice left in the pot continues to cook and starts sticking to the bottom. A raw egg is added to this crunchy rice mixture, thus turning the dish into baked rice. This baked rice forms the end of the meal.
This nabe party was such a wonderful experience. Thank you to my friends for showing me this great piece of Japanese culture and for welcoming me in their midst!
would this be the same as calling it ‘shabu-shabu’ party? or is that a totally different dish?
Shabu shabu is a different dish, although the classification of different nabe-like dishes is a tricky affair. Nabe litterally means ‘pot’, so in principle it could apply to all dishes where ingredients are cooked in liquid in a hot-pot, which would include shabu shabu. However I would consider shabu shabu to be a different dish from nabe. Nabe is cooked in rather shallow earthen pots, while shabu shabu is cooked in a deep metal pot, with two compartments containing two different broths. Also in shabu shabu you pick up each separate ingredient that you want to eat and boil it in water consecutively. With nabe, all the ingredients for all the guests are in the pot together. This is my experience anyway. I would love to get a Japanese person’s perspective on this though.
According to http://blog.hinomaple.com/2011/08/02/nabe/: “Shabu shabu and sukiyaki are variations of nabe, but not always considered nabe itself. … Shabu shabu is closer to Chinese hot pot than nabe.”
Aahhh, i see. Thank you for the education. I do think nabe is the perfect choice for winter meal. Much more filling and comforting.
Nabe dishes are fun, can be nutritious and not too fattening, most of the time inexpensive, and generally less stress for the host.
My mother never liked doing nabe as it’s not real cooking if you like to cook and it was never served at home but for students and young ones, and any friendly gathering in general, it works!! Needless to say, I tend to offer it on rare occasions I have guests over…
In February I am having some guests over for a nabe party (in Belgium). I’m a bit nervous so wish me luck!
Happy nabe time!! You’d do great. I mean it cannot go wrong. ^^)/
Thank you! ^_^