I’m back in LA again still reeling from all the holiday bliss. California has been very, very rainy. It’s rained almost every day since I’ve been here. I’ve always loved the rain and have absolutely nothing but love for the gray morning light that fills the living room in the early hours of the day and the crisp, cool – almost fresh – air that permeates the city. Such a dichotomy to where I spent the past two weeks. On my morning commute, I even get to see the tips of downtown’s tallest buildings covered in low bursts of fog and clouds. It’s gorgeous and I can’t get enough of it.
Roy took me for a quick day trip to Melrose and as we stopped at the crosswalk and stood in a sliver of sunlight between two buildings, he told me how much he loves this weather too. I took in a deep breath, and again I was reminded of how clean everything felt (though we all know that’s not saying much in a city like this). I’ve been enjoying the fall and now winter weather here almost too much, and it’s nothing short of the perfect backdrop for a warm, hearty, delicious meal.
This year for Christmas, we got my mom her first Staub and she’s in love with it. I had also promised my Dad a home cooked meal complete with washing all the dishes, so Roy and I headed down to Marukai and Don Quijote – a couple of our favorite asian markets in Hawaii – with just one thing on our minds: chanko nabe. I’ve really grown to love stews and one-pot meals since we’ve been living to our current apartment over the last few years and life has only gotten busier. With less and less time on my hands, chanko nabe easily became a staple meal and one of favorite to make during the week. What I love most about it is how incredibly simple and customizable it is to suit whoever’s making it. I prefer mine with mostly veggies, mochi, noodles, and a little seafood, while Roy would probably throw heaps of thinly sliced beef and Japanese sausage in. We compromise and that usually works just fine, but I am tempted to make two separate stews at times!
But I suppose that’s the beauty of this dish. Meat-lovers can get their fix with sausage, thinly sliced beef or pork, and those who’ve got an itching for seafood can add clams and fish. Plus, if you’re vegetarian, you can make this dish without any meat and it’s still so incredibly delicious. The vegetables are such an important ingredient and where the soup gets a lot of its flavor from. I also love being able to feed a group of people with just this one dish. Though it helps to throw in some belly-filling carbs like udon or vermicelli noodles. You can even cook up some rice in a quick pinch and each person can add it to their own bowls to make sure everyone’s going home with a happy tummy.
I shared this dish on the blog a few years back but since then, I’ve learned a thing or two and the recipe has only gotten yummier! Here’s a few tips.
• If you’re serving this for guests, start prepping everything an hour or so beforehand. The prep is minimal, but the cook time can add up. You don’t want your guests to be sitting around waiting for food all night!
• Use as many different veggies or proteins as you can/would like to. The variety is another factor to what gives the soup a deeper and more delicious flavor.
• For a thicker broth, cook the soup with the lid off until it reduces enough. If the broth is too thick, you can always add water to thin it out.
• It takes a little bit of trial and error to get the method for this recipe just right. I’ve definitely put the mochi at the bottom before and had to deal with a sticky mess at the bottom of the pot… But chanko nabe is fundamentally very simple and not difficult at all to get right.
Recipe serves 6-8 people.
for the sauce
4 cups water
4 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sake
dried seaweed (wakame)
shabu shabu thinly sliced beef or pork
starch noodles (ex. vermicelli)
1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the water, miso, mirin, and sake. Set aside.
2. In a large pot, the one you’ll be using for cooking and serving, add the first layer of ingredients. These are the things that take the longest to cook. Continue by adding in the second layer, and then the third. By the time the stew is finished cooking, it won’t be nearly as pretty but you can still neatly arrange all the ingredients in the second and third layers for aesthetic reasons as it cooks.
3. Add the miso mixture to the pot. Cover with a lid and cook on medium-high heat. After 20-30 minutes, the water level in the pot should have risen significantly and some of the ingredients are almost done cooking. At this point, add water or more of the miso mixture depending on if the soup needs liquid or more flavor. Continue to let it cook with the lid off so the soup can reduce. At this point, add in any noodles to cook.
4. Once the chanko has been cooking for about an hour, everything should be well cooked and the broth thick and flavorful. Serve hot with chopsticks and a soup spoon and enjoy a wonderfully comforting meal!