Chef Tadashi Ono and I just returned from a hot pot-infused dash across Japan to research our cookbook, racing from snowy Sapporo to the deep south of Kyushu. After one week, five cities, three fish markets, a couple of chicken houses and a cattle ranch later, we sampled close to twenty hot pots. We watched the sumo pictured above, an 18 year old with a passion for cooking who's the "hot pot master" of his beya (sumo stable), preparing a hearty chicken ball and pork belly Chanko, the rich, daily hot pot -- the main meal of the day, always in the early afternoon after training and before a nap -- that fills sumo with nutrition and calories. We tasted salmon hot pot at the source, Ishikari port in Hokkaido, at an ancient restaurant that has fed generations of fishermen. We chowed on lunchtime hot pot with a bunch of Fukuoka police officers. We visited a home in Hakata, where the gracious hosts treated us to two prized, local hot pots, motsu, prepared from pork intestines, and mizutaki, from chicken, and explained hot pot eating traditions unique to that area. What struck me about these hot pots were how delicious, easy and wholesome they were, how they reflected local customs and ingredients, and how beautifully they brought people together, sharing a meal -- and more -- from a single, communal vessel. It doesn't get more elemental than that.
I want to share a website we dug up: To find old-school restaurants in downtown Tokyo (the amazing old Edo neighborhoods of the city's east, far away from the glitz of Shibuya), click here. It's all in Japanese, but scroll down and you'll see snapshots of 20 places where you can click through to videos. Tadashi and I visited two places, both authentic and absolutely delicious: Yoshi Ume (03-3668-4069) specializes in Negima, tuna belly hot pot, and Miyako (03-3633-0385) specializes in Fukagawa asari hot pot. The okami-san of Yoshi Ume is a remarkable woman steeped in Edo cultural history, while the chef of Miyako led us on an impromptu walking tour of his neighborhood...
By the way, if any Japanese speakers can help me translate the restaurants names and specialties on the website, please let me know and I'll post the results!
Here are photos of some of the hot pots we tried (and another of the wrestler):
UPDATE, Nov 17th:
A reader named George Kleinman graciously translated the Tokyo nabe restaurant list on the website I mentioned above. Please find the name of the nabe followed by the name of the restaurant. Thanks, George!
- Gyuu-nabe (beef nabe or sukiyaki), Yonehisa
- Sakura-nabe (horse-meat nabe), Mino-ya
- Dojou-Nabe (loach fish), Iida-ya
- Dojou-Nabe (loach fish), Komagata
- Dojou-Nabe (loach fish), Iseki
- Dojou Nabe (loach fish), Kikiyou-ya
- Ankou Nabe (monk fish), Ise Gen
- Tori Nabe (poultry usually chicken), Botan
- Shamo Nabe (gamecock, fowl), Tama Hide
- Fukagawa nabe (asari-clam), Miyako
- Chanko Nabe, Kawasaki
- Chanko Nabe, Tomoegata
- Botan Nabe (pork), Momoji Ya
- Fugu Nabe, Nibiki
- Negima Nabe (spring onions & tuna), Yoshi Umi
- Sakura Nabe (horse-meat nabe), Nakae
- Hama Nabe (clams), Megu no Hon
- Shamo Nabe (gamecock, fowl), Bouzu Shamo
- Shamo Nabe (gamecock, fowl), Kado Ya
- Shamo Nabe (gamecock, fowl), Tori Ei