Sumo Wrestlers' Stew


A cousin to the Chinese Hot Pot, Japanese nabe are one-pot meals where a flavored broth provides the basic building block. Known as Sumo Wrestlers’ Stew, this chanko nabe contains only chicken meat, based on an old superstition that eating two-legged animals helps to keep a person—in this case, a sumo wrestler—on his feet. Since sumo wrestlers are not known for their svelte figures, you may not be tempted to mimic their diet. However, this stew is actually full of broth, healthy, and low-fat. The chicken meatballs (tsukune) in this dish are also delicious on their own, grilled and glazed with soy or teriyaki sauce. Other soupy Japanese nabes of note include yosenabe (seafood stew) and sukiyaki (a sweet beef and vegetable stew). Typically served in a clay or cast-iron pot (because they evenly distribute and retain heat), nabes are placed at the center of the dining table so that everyone can serve themselves from the same pot.


1 pound ground chicken

4 scallions (light green and white parts), minced

¼ cup white miso paste, plus more for serving

1 tablespoon salt

8 cups dashi (see Note)

¼ cup soy sauce, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons mirin

¼ cup sake

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large daikon, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 large potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

10 fresh shiitake mushrooms, halved

1 bunch fresh enoki mushrooms, trimmed

½ head napa cabbage, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 Japanese leeks (negi), or 2 leeks (white and light green parts), cut diagonally into 1-inch slices

8 fried tofu puffs, halved (found in most Asian grocers)

1 pound udon noodles, cooked

In a medium bowl, mix together the ground chicken, scallions, miso, and salt. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes; then shape the mixture into about a dozen small meatballs. Set aside.

Bring the dashi to a simmer in a large pot. Stir in the soy sauce, mirin, and sake. Add the chicken thighs, chicken meatballs, daikon, carrots, and potatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Add the shiitake and enoki mushrooms, cabbage, leeks, and tofu puffs and cook until all the ingredients are cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Add the cooked udon noodles and cook until just heated through.

Add more soy sauce or miso paste to taste, and serve table-side in one pot or divide among individual bowls.

Note: Dashi is a Japanese stock made from soaking dried seaweed and shaved bonito flakes. You can find it at Asian grocery stores or just substitute chicken broth.