Press "Enter" to skip to content

Nabe: Japan’s Hearty Winter Soup

**NOTE: This has been crossposted (with some slight modifications) from, where I also write. I wanted to share it with those of you who do not read content at jibTV.**

Winter is cold. Winter is especially cold when you live within a culture that still doesn’t prioritize home insulation. Heaters of every variety – electric, gas, oil – are purchased in droves throughout the season and mountains of sweaters, coats, and woolly socks go out for sale. While I take advantage of all these winter survival strategies, I also like to integrate something that warms me from the inside out rather than from the outside in: food. In America, winter food consists of roasted meat, sweet pies, mashed potatoes, and chicken soup. Here, what has quickly become one of my favorite cold-weather dishes is a food with many variations that is known by just one name: nabe.

Nabe - Hearty Japanese Soup

In a nutshell, nabe is Japanese soup. Stick a bunch of ingredients in a pot, add some water, put it on some heat for a while, and eat it when it’s done. There’s not much more to it than that. There seem to be no real rules for nabe (unless you’re a stickler, I guess), but there are variations in nabe names based on the ingredients used.

The ingredients pictured above include tofu, Chinese cabbage, chicken meatballs, cabbage, thinly sliced pork, kimchi, and suiton, a coin-shaped piece of doughy stuff.

There are plenty of different kinds of nabe. There’s yose nabe, where you can literally choose anything you like and put it in the soup. Then, there’s kimchi nabe (shown pictured), which uses Korean kimchi as a base. This makes a spicy, warm soup, and you can choose your preferred level of spicyness as you go. Additionally, there’s chanko nabe, which has traditionally been eaten by sumo wrestlers. This is typically a high protein, high calorie soup. There are many different kinds of nabe – everyone can create their own favorite.

The cooking pot itself is called a nabe. Typically a heavy ceramic pot with a lid, it’s filled with the ingredients and placed over a burner. The burner is often a portable one that can be used in the middle of a table. Once steam begins emerging from the hole in the lid of the pot, your food is probably about ready to eat.

Cooked Nabe - Hearty Japanese Soup

Nabe is eaten by taking the bits you want to eat out of the pot. This means that everyone gets to choose their personally preferred pieces. Each person has their own individual bowl and can take whatever they like. It’s very much a communal dish.

Leftovers (of which there were many, with this particular pot) can be refrigerated and reheated. The pictured kimchi nabe was reheated with a little water the next morning. Egg and rice were added to make a tasty breakfast!

Nabe is fun and easy to make. It’s a wonderful winter dish that is great for sharing. There are many, many different recipes to try, or you can simply make your own! Regardless, enjoy – you’re in for a treat.


  1. (@`ェ´@)ノかず (@`ェ´@)ノかず February 3, 2012



Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: