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Jan 1, 2015

A Steamy Story

A hearty wintertime specialty, nabemono (Japanese hotpots) is a one-pot meal cooked over a mini stove at the table. Three masters tell us more about the different ways to enjoy this communal dish.

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The nabemono, or nabe, is a dish that has come to symbolise reunion in a Japanese family. As a communal cuisine, the sight of family members and friends gathering around a pot of steaming stew is heartwarming and paints the picture of festive joy.

There are several types of nabemonos – from the traditional Chankonabe, originally served only to sumo wrestlers to help them gain weight, to newer inventions like collagen nabe for women hoping to get a dose of beautifying benefits from the food they eat – because, unlike Chinese-style hotpots that let you cook whatever you want in a soup base, nabemonos tend to feature meat from one animal.

Nabemonos are also categorised into light-flavoured stock and strong-flavoured stock. The former is made typically with kombu and served with a dipping sauce like ponzu, the latter is made from miso or dashi and the food items are eaten without further flavourings.

When it comes to partaking in a nabemono, things can get pretty amusing. Usually, a division of roles happens: one person will be in charge of looking after the fire temperature, one person will be tasked with adding ingredients to the pot, and so on. If somone tries to take control of the whole process, he will earn himself the nickname of hotpot governer “nabe bugyo”. Depending on how involved you wish to be at the dining table, the presence of a “nabe bugyo” can be annoying to some people. However, leaving such a person to cook everything also means you get to sit back, relax and enjoy the dish.

Ready to tuck into a good meal? In the following pages, three chefs share with us the mouthwatering nabe creations of their respective restaurants.

(Text Deborah Tan Photography Raymond Toh/Vineyard Production)

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