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9 Regional Hot Pots Across Japan to Try This Winter

Are you in the mood for crab, chicken or mushrooms boiled in a broth full of umami? Read on below for nine region-specific stars of nabe (hot pot) season.

By 5 min read

As Japan’s colder weather sets in, cooks across the country reach for their nabe, or hot pot, to make warming meals for the whole family. When nabe is eaten at home, it is often cooked on the table while the prepared meat, seafood, vegetables, tofu and mushrooms are added to the bubbling broth and then ladled onto everyone’s plates.

Depending on the area of Japan, the most popular nabe depends on the most readily available fresh ingredients. The result is that everywhere you go has a different take on this winter specialty ––spicy or meaty, full of fish or piled high with gamey cuts. Whether you’re choosing a recipe to follow at home or looking to make a special trip to one of the best hot pot restaurants in your chihou (region), the list below will have you covered.

1. Kanisuki (Hokkaido)

Kanisuki incorporates the crab’s legs into a delicate kombu (seaweed) broth.

One of the most iconic nabe from Hokkaido is kanisuki or crab hot pot. When thinking about northern Japanese cuisine, kani or crab will come to mind, especially the red king and snow crabs caught off the prefecture’s coast. Kanisuki incorporates the crab’s thick, spiky legs, which are deliciously plump and juicy, into a delicate kombu (seaweed) broth often seasoned with ponzu sauce. After cooking mushrooms, negi (green onions) and cabbage in the nabe, add some rice for a delectable winter experience.

Check Out: Kani Honke Sapporo Eki Mae Honten

2. Kiritanpo Nabe (Akita)

Kiritanpo refers to rice pounded into a sausage-like shape and wrapped around a Japanese cedar stick.

Akita Prefecture is known for its fresh and fabulous rice, so it is no surprise that rice is the star of this nabe. Kiritanpo refers to rice pounded into a sausage-like shape and wrapped around a Japanese cedar stick. Dipped in miso and cooked in a traditional sunken hearth, these are a treat. When added to a hot pot, as in kiritanpo nabe, they are removed from their sticks and stewed alongside chicken and vegetables. Green onions, seri (Japanese parsley) and gobo (burdock root) are common ingredients in this hot pot, traditionally cooked alongside local chicken in a chicken-bone broth.

Check out: Akita Kiritanpoya Honten

3. Houtou Nabe (Yamanashi)

The highlight of this nabe is the use of houtou noodles, a specialty from Yamanashi.

Originating from Yamanashi Prefecture is this starchy, vegetable-laden, miso-seasoned nabe that will warm you up on cold winter days. The highlight of this nabe is houtou noodles, a specialty from Yamanashi, which are thick, widely-cut wheat noodles that you can only find freshly made in the prefecture. The soup’s broth is also richly flavored with locally-produced koshu or shinshu miso, along with kombu and iriko (anchovy) dashi. Popular vegetables include kabocha, mushrooms, cabbage, negi and daikon.

Check out: Enemon 

4. Shishi Nabe (Ibaraki)

This unique dish simmers boar meat in a miso or soy sauce broth.

Shishi nabe refers to inoshishi or boar meat hot pot. Inoshishi was historically an important source of protein in Japan, with rules prohibiting the eating of four-legged creatures notwithstanding. This unique dish simmers boar meat in a miso or soy sauce broth alongside tofu, leafy vegetables, mushrooms and root vegetables. The longer you simmer the boar, the more tender it becomes, and its fattiness enhances the broth, making this a delicious and hearty meal for cold winter days. This nabe’s home, Ishioka City’s Yasato ward, releases a yearly list (Japanese only) of where to sample this specialty, with fresh boar caught in this region between November and May.

Check out: Hourokuya 

5. Chanko Nabe (Tokyo)

Eaten by sumo wrestlers as part of their weight-gain diet.

If you’re looking for a delicious and meaty hot pot, look no further than chanko nabe, which has traditionally been eaten by sumo wrestlers as part of their weight gain diet. This nabe is unique because there is no “one” recipe, and all types of protein like meatballs, fish filets, chicken thighs, crab legs and sausages, along with a variety of vegetables, can be thrown into this hot pot, making it easy to customize to your liking. The broth of this nabe typically consists of chicken or dashi seasoned with mirin and sake.

Check out: Chanko Kirishima Ryogoku Honten

6. Akakara Nabe (Aichi)

A unique blend of the prefecture’s red miso paste and red togarashi chilis.

This fiery hot pot from Aichi gets its red color and deep spice from a unique blend of the prefecture’s red miso paste and red togarashi chilis. Akakara nabe’s spicy broth is usually joined by innards and tsukune (chicken meatballs) as well as a plethora of vegetables, with bean sprouts, Chinese cabbage and Chinese chives as the most popular additions. The most popular restaurant, simply named AkaKara, now has branches across the country, but keeps its main store in Nagoya.

Check out: Akakara Nagoya Honten

7. Chiritori Nabe (Osaka)

Named after its square shaped hot pot.

Originating from Osaka is chiritori nabe, so-named for its square chiritori (Japanese dustpan) shaped hot pot. Ingredients include offal, beef and pork, as well as vegetables like leeks, chives, onions, bean sprouts and cabbage. There are several variations for the broth base, including salt, curry and soy milk, along with popular seasonings that lend it a Korean flavor, such as gochujang and kimchi. All ingredients are heaped into the chiritori nabe and then cooked until perfection.

Check out: Tecchan Nabe Kintaro Osaka

8. Fugu Chiri (Yamaguchi)

This hot pot is prepared by licensed chefs with experience preparing the fish.

While Kansai may be home to fugu chiri, also known as puffer fish hot pot, Yamaguchi Prefecture is the capital of the fish with a deadly reputation. Inside and outside of Japan, puffer fish has been considered a dangerous one to eat due to its highly poisonous nature. Fear not, however, as this hot pot is prepared by licensed chefs with experience preparing the fish. Enjoy this dish featuring fileted fugu and its carcass simmered in a simple dashi broth alongside tofu and seasonal vegetables. Remove slices of puffer fish and dip in ponzu for a delightful bite.

Check out: Fuku Shinoda

9. Mizutaki (Fukuoka)

A deep, flavorful broth packed with umami.

The origins of the Hakata mizutaki lie in the travels of Hayashida Heizaburo, who studied cooking in Hong Kong at the end of the 19th century. Combining Western consomme with Chinese-style boiled chicken, Hayashida served a new form of mizutaki in 1905 at his restaurant in Hakata, Suigetsu, which is still open. The main ingredient of this nabe is chicken, which has been simmered for hours in water with no extra seasonings like soy sauce or salt. Add green onions, mushrooms, Chinese cabbage and your other favorite vegetables, and the result will be a deep, flavorful broth packed with umami.

Check out: Suigetsu

What’s your favorite type of Japanese hot pot? Is nabe a staple on your winter table? We can’t wait to hear from you!

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