In western countries, it may be common that dishes are served in each person one after another, however, Japanese people like to share several dishes among people together. If you have visited to Japan before, you might encounter the scene that Japanese were exchanging small portions of their own dishes each other at restaurants. In addition, it is also very common to share dishes with families at home, for example, each dish is served on one large plate (it may look like deli style) other than rice bowl and miso soup (Miso is a traditional fermented soy bean paste). I think “sharing food” is one of the strong cultural aspects of Japanese people.
In winter season, Japanese are enjoying the typical cuisine called “Nabe (Hot Pot)” among family, friends and sometimes co-workers. We put a various kind of vegetables, meats into one large pot all at once and share it with several people together sitting around the pot. There are various kinds of hot pot, for instance, “Yose Nabe”, “Soy Milk Nabe”, and “Kani (Crab) Nabe” etc. I cooked “Japanese Curry Nabe” on the other day and there is no limit if we count them up… Basically, the main difference of each Nabe is a taste of soup, and contains of a pot are almost same, however, Chicken (including chicken minced meat ball called Tsukune), pork, seafood such as shellfishes and white fishes, Chinese cabbage, long onion and several mash rooms are must-items for them. After eating all of meat, seafood, and vegetables, we always make “Zosui (A kind of porridge & risotto)” with adding some eggs or “Noodle (udon or ramen)” with the remaining soup as a final meal (we call them “Shime dish”). So, we can finish all of meal process by using just one large pot from the start to the end.
Nabe has a wide variety of tastes
Why nabe is so popular among us?
I would like to suggest a few good points of Nabe here. At first, it is healthier than any other dishes because we can consume large amount of vegetables all at once. It sometimes very hard for us to take so many vegetables in case of fresh salad. However, we can eat them one after another when heated. The Second, cooking and cleaning up after a meal are very easy because we only use one large pot to cook and small bowls for members, as well as some tableware like chopsticks. Cooking and washing dishes each time are always heavy burdens for housewives if they have big families and even they have an electric dishwasher at home. I am also fond of Nabe at this point and often cook ones during winter time, almost every weekends! Besides, we can get wide variety of instant Nabe soups at supermarkets, so we are enjoying different tastes.
Lastly, it is suitable for leading communication among people over meals because we are sitting around the pod and it makes easier for us to have conversation together. We will have many opportunities to get together with friends and co-workers as “The Year End Party (Bonenkai)” and “The New Year Party (Shinnenkai)” in December and January, and Nabe is the most popular menu. There are sometimes people with strong commitment to making Nabe called “Nabe-bugyo” in Japanese. Having such persons in your group is very helpful because they are willing to taking care of Nabe actively without forcing to do by others.
The origin of nabe cuisine
By the way, it is said that “Irori (Japanese fireplace)” made Nabe cuisine evolved n Japan. Irori is the ancient fireplace which used to set up at the center of a living room and people were making dishes by the fireplace and sitting around it when they had meals. Modern houses no longer have Irori, but you can see and experience it if you stay at Kominka (old private house) style inn, especially in rural areas of Japan.
You can also enjoy Nabe at Washoku (Japanese) Restaurants and Izakaya (A kind of Japanese Pub) during winter, so why don’t you try our Nabe culture if you visit Japan in this season? Oh, I have a caution for you! Don’t forget to visit restaurants with at least 2 people together if you want to have Nabe, because they generally serve it from 2 people, which means you may not order it for just 1 person!