Chanko nabe is a kind of stew that’s known as the original sumo food. Despite the reputation that sumos have for their huge statures, the recipe for chanko nabe is actually relatively healthy, low in fat and loaded with vegetables. This version uses only chicken – based on the old joke that eating an animal that walks only on two legs will help a sumo stay on his feet – but in reality there’s no fixed recipe for chanko nabe, and versions can contain beef, salmon, pork or anything else you like. In fact, the only qualification for something to be chanko nabe seems to be that it is made by, or for, a sumo.
- 1 daikon
- 2 carrots
- 10 fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 1 kg chicken thigh fillets
- 2 potatoes
- 300 g enoki mushrooms
- 1 bunch garlic chives (nira)
- 3 Japanese leeks (negi)
- ½ Chinese cabbage (hakusai or wombok)
- 2 blocks thick fried tofu (atsuage)
- ½ cup miso paste (optional)
- 1 kg udon noodles
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, roughly ground
Miso tsukune (meatballs)
- 600 g minced chicken
- 4 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
- ¼ cup miso
- 2 litres (8 cups) dashi stock
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp sake
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time 30 minutes
To make the meatballs, firmly mix all ingredients and a good amount of salt, for about 4-5 minutes or until the mixture starts to stiffen. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Shape into balls about the size of golf balls.
Peel the daikon and carrot. Cut the daikon into bevelled rounds and chop the carrot into irregular chunks. Trim the stalks of the shiitake mushrooms, and cut a cross into the top of each one. Cut the chicken into 2.5 cm-square chunks. Peel the potatoes and cut into irregular chunks. Trim the enoki. Cut the garlic chives into 5 cm lengths.
Place the potato and carrot in a saucepan of cold water and bring to a simmer. Add the daikon, and simmer until nearly tender. Drain well and set aside.
To make the soup base, place the dashi stock in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the seasonings, and taste and adjust if necessary. Add all of the ingredients, except the udon noodles and ground sesame seeds, and simmer until the chicken and meatballs are cooked through. Add the udon noodles, and simmer for another 1 minute or until the noodles are tender. If you like, you can blend through a little extra miso at the end, to give the nabe a boost in flavour. Adjust for seasoning and serve with roughly ground sesame seeds.
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