Taking stock: new trends for the Japanese hot pot
Nabe is comfort food for many Japanese, a proletarian dish that brings people together to share from a bubbling hot pot of goodness. Of late, though, this traditional dish has seen some mutations, such as curry nabe, cheese nabe, tomato nabe and even collagen nabe, all aimed at satisfying the public’s appetite for novelty.
The proliferation of new readymade nabe soup-stock products also gave time-strapped consumers a wider choice of ready-made stock. According to Asahi.com, food companies such as Kagome and Nagatanien have taken their tips for nabe trends from restaurants that push the nabe envelope. For instance, when in 2006, curry nabe appeared on the menu at Denshibou in Sangenjaya, the following year saw instant curry nabe stock, like this curry nabe from House, appear on supermarket shelves.
The collagen nabe boom followed in 2008 and was extremely popular with women looking to take advantage of the reported skin-smoothing benefits of chicken or pork collagen. Next up was tomato nabe in 2009. That year both Kagome and Nagatanien introduced tomato nabe soup stocks that proved hugely popular with children, as the rich red soup stock goes well with either cheese or eggs to produce kid-friendly pizza nabe or omuraisu (rice omelette) nabe concoctions.
This year it look like ramen nabe will rule the dinner table – or that’s what Nissin, who’ve just brought out two new types of ramen nabe stock, is banking on. Will this latest product enjoy the same success as its predecessors? A strong indication that it might is the fact that the dish has been appearing in many Tokyo restaurants lately: Umibun Nabebun in Hamamatsu make a ramen nabe, Manbutaki in Sangenjiaya serve up a rafute (okinawan glazed pork belly) nabe and Chiyomoranma in Kanda do a chicken leek ramen nabe.
So what makes ramen nabe different from normal ramen? Well, in the case of all the above restaurants, you cook your nabe on a pot over a burner at your own table instead of having it served to you. Also, like other nabe and unlike traditional ramen, you add plenty of vegetables. If you’re cooking at home, what you put in your ramen nabe soup is up to you but if you need guidelines, check out this recipe on Cookpad.
While Nissin’s ramen nabe, which comes in both tonkotsu and chicken with soy sauce flavors, looks set to take off as the next big thing in Japanese supermarkets, there might be one last obstacle standing in the company’s way: This year’s unusually hot summer has seen vegetable prices soar. As consuming lots of tasty green veggies is one of the main attractions of cooking up a pot of nabe, many consumers may think twice before they decide to cook up a healthy hot pot.