Japanese sumo wrestlers cook and eat chanko nabe at their stable every day. That’s the source of their strength. While chanko nabe refers to any types of hot pot eaten by sumo wrestlers, the most typical style is chicken as a main protein and cooked in chicken broth. It’s because chicken stands on two legs like human beings, so it is considered to bring good luck (in sumo, you lose if your hands touch the ground). Chanko nabe typically makes a very nutritious and balanced meal, as you cook a wide variety of healthy ingredients in one pot. The sumo wrestlers are big, because they eat so much of it every meal! In my version, I cook chicken meatballs and vegetables in simple salt-flavored chicken broth, and add butter cubes right before serving. The aroma is so irresistible and the flavor is superb. As a shime (finishing course), I suggest ramen noodles to cook in the remaining broth.
EquipmentClassic-style Donabe (2.5-qt/ 2,500 ml or larger)
(Tsukune / Chicken Meatballs)
- 1 pound (450 g) ground chicken
- 1 tablespoon sake
- 3 tablespoons beaten egg
- 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon katakuriko (potato starch)
- 6 cups (1,500 ml) Japanese chicken stock
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) sake
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 head small green cabbage, cut into 1/2″ (1.5 cm) strips
- 7 oz (200 g) enoki mushrooms, trimmed and pulled apart by hand
- 1 package (400 g) medium-firm tofu, cut into 8 pieces
- 1/2 medium carrot, cut crosswise into 1/8″ (3 mm) thick
- 3 oz (100 g) mizuna or other leafy green vegetable, cut into 2″ (5 cm) pieces
2 cloves garlic, thinly-sliced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Coarsely ground black pepper, for serving
- Ground roasted golden sesame seeds or white sesame seeds, for serving
- Yuzu shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice powder), for serving
- Combine the ingredients for the tsukune (chicken meatballs) in a medium bowl. Knead by hand well until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in the donabe over medium-high heat. Add the sake, soy sauce, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt. Adjust the seasoning by adding more sea salt.
- Add the cabbage and cook for a couple of minutes. By using a large spoon, scoop about 2 tablespoons or more of the chicken mixture and drop into the simmering broth. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken mixture.
- Add the mushrooms, tofu, and carrot. Cover with lid and bring back to simmer. Turn down the heat to medium. Continue to cook until everything is cooked through.
- Add the mizuna, garlic, and butter. Cook for 1 minute or so. Finish with some black pepper.
- Serve into individual bowls at the table with the sesame seeds and shichimi togarashi on the side.
Get all the ingredients ready.
Scoop the chicken mixture and drop into the broth one by one.
Add the butter right before serving and let it melt.
Enjoy the hearty chanko nabe with condiments.
The leftover broth can be reheated, then add cooked udon or ramen noodles to make a shime (finishing course) dish.