Few things are quite as satisfying as enjoying a warm meal surrounded by good friends on a cold winter night. A steaming pot full of your favorite foods, a tall glass of Japanese beer, and a couple of good jokes are all that you need to create a great environment and a memorable night. For the uninformed, Nabemono is essentially Japanese soup. It comes from two words: nabe and mono. In literal terms, it means “stuff in a pot”.
So, what do you serve with nabemono? The best things to serve with Nabemono are meats like steak, chicken, or pork and vegetables such as napa cabbage and shiitake mushrooms. You can also serve udon noodles and poached eggs with Nabemono.
Nabemono has a flavorful soy-based broth that gives the dish its incredibly unique flavor.
Assuming you already have your Donabe (Japanese ceramic cooking pot) or an electric crockpot, all you need is some fresh ingredients, a couple of beverages, and some good company!
In today’s article, we’re going to be taking a look at what to eat with nabemono so that you can impress your company and eat some truly great cultural food.
What To Serve With Nabemono: Make Your Own!
Are you looking to make your own nabemono? While there are a wide variety of traditional pre-made nabemono recipes, the entire concept of the meal is that it’s supposed to be something that anybody can make with the simple ingredients found around their home.
The only real rules are that you need to make a Japanese-style broth. All of the ingredients that you add to the broth should be fresh and uncooked. The idea is that as the ingredients slowly cook in the broth, they will add a unique flavor. The type of meat (or tofu), the type of vegetables, and the noodles you use are completely up to you.
Making A Basic Nabemono Broth
As we mentioned, Nabemono doesn’t really have a lot of “rules.” However, what gives nabemono its unique taste and separates it from an everyday “stew” or “soup” is that it utilizes a soy-style broth that can only be found in Japanese culinary culture.
To make a simple nabemono broth, you will need three key ingredients:
- Soy sauce.
- Dashi (Japanese powdered broth mix).
- Meat broth (or vegetable-based broth substitute).
Your meat or vegetarian broth will constitute the majority of the nabemono base.
From there, you will add a small amount of Dashi. This is a popular brand of powdered broth additive that can be found at Japanese stores or ordered online. There are multiple flavors, so you’ll just have to pick which one you like the best.
Lastly, you’ll want to mix in some soy sauce. While the broth and Dashi will give the nabemono a wonderful meaty flavor, the soy sauce will give the dish that classic, salty flavor typical of Japanese cuisine.
Some popular Nabemono dishes even use soy milk to make a creamy milk-based broth!
Vegetables To Eat With Nabemono
Once you’ve got your broth nice and hot (but not boiling), it’s time to add in your vegetables. First, you should add in your thick vegetables that take the longest to cook. Thin vegetables such as leafy greens or mushrooms should be added last since they don’t take as long to cook.
Napa cabbage is the most common form of cabbage found in Asian cuisine as it’s a popular crop. However, if you can’t find it at your local supermarket, you can substitute whatever other cabbage they have. The flavor won’t be much different. Normally it is chopped into thick chunks and mixed into the broth.
Carrots are delicious and will add a slightly sweet flavor to the broth! They tend to compliment beef and pork but may also go well with chicken.
These are medium-sized dark brown mushrooms that are known for their mild, earthy aroma and flavor. Remove the stem and slice them very thin before mixing them in with the broth. They will complement the salty notes and go particularly well with red meats.
Noodles To Eat With Nabemono
Unless you’re on a carb-free diet, Japanese noodles are essential to nabemono! Add them in with the vegetables and allow them to cook down in the broth and absorb the flavors. They should be nice and soft when the dish is served.
Meats To Eat With Nabemono
Nabemono dishes usually utilize soft, thinly-sliced meats so as to absorb the maximum flavor from the broth. Meats that need to be thoroughly cooked (such as poultry and pork) should be added first so as to give them enough time to simmer. However, if you have some high-quality steak, you can add it last as you may want it to maintain its tender texture.
Chicken is the easiest and cheapest meat to serve with nabemono. Dark meat such as the thigh and drumsticks are generally preferred as they add more flavor than the white breast meats. Add these early so they can thoroughly cook.
Japan has a strong fishing culture. If you’re going to prepare your nabemono with fish, make sure to use a fresh-caught fish, as frozen fish can ruin the flavor. Salmon, tuna, trout, shrimp, and even catfish can make for an excellent meal and a unique-tasting broth.
High-quality cuts of pork such as pork chops or pork tenderloin can be thinly sliced into rounds and added to the broth early in the cooking process. This meat tends to absorb the salty soy notes for a particularly juicy flavor.
Japan is known for producing some of the world’s best steak- Wagyu Beef. However, this cut can be quite expensive. If you’re not trying to splurge, you can easily substitute with a nice tender cut of steak. Like the pork, you should slice your steak cuts nice and thin.
Nabemono With Tofu
Not everybody’s a carnivore! If you’re a vegetarian, you can still enjoy the wonderful flavor of a Japanese nabemono dish. Instead of using a meat broth, you’ll want to make your own vegan broth out of chopped savory vegetables such as onion, carrot, garlic, etc.
Then, you can substitute meat with your favorite tofu. Since tofu doesn’t take long to cook, it should be one of the last ingredients you add, after your thick vegetables have had time to cook down and soften.
Don’t Forget The Drinks!
If you’re looking for the best drink to serve with nabemono, Japan has several amazing beverages that pair well with their cuisine!
Japan doesn’t have as strong of a beer-drinking culture as America or other European countries, however, the few beers that they do have are widely regarded as some of the most well-balanced in the world.
Beers such as Sapporo are made in a pilsner style, have a golden or amber color, a mild flavor, and an amazingly smooth finish.
Sake (Rice Wine)
Sake is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in Japan and is made from distilling rice. The original sake flavor has a taste that is reminiscent of a crisp, smooth white wine. Many sake is also brewed using other natural fruit flavors.
It can be served cold or warm (in small ceramic sake cups). Warm sake is usually preferred when served with nabemono as it’s often eaten in the winter when it’s cold outside.
If you have a more refined taste pallet, then you can’t go wrong with Japanese whiskey. There are a number of different brands. Most of them are aged and prepared in the style of Scotch Whiskey. They have a smooth smokey flavor obtained from smoking caskets over peat.