Feb 29, 2020

Donabe Pot - The Authentic Way to Prepare Your Favorite Japanese Dishes


When talking about traditional cookware in Japan, donabe pot should part of your list. The number of authentic Japanese meals you can make in this earthenware pot is endless. In the case that you know at least one, then you can already consider yourself to be a winner in the kitchen.

During winter months, most Japanese love to eat hot pot dishes which they call nabemono or nabe. Sukiyaki and Shabu Shabu are the most popular ones, while they also enjoy regional nabe such as Ishikari Nabe from Hokkaido and Kiritanpo from Akita. 

Most nabe dishes cooked in a donabe pot because of the unique flavor and aroma it adds to the dishes. If you are interested to donabe pots or not yet familiar with this traditional Japanese cookware, then keep reading!

What Donabe Pot Exactly Is?

Donabe literally means clay or earthen pot in Japanese. This pot is among the oldest cooking vessels in Japan. It originated in Iga province and made out of clay along with properties ideal for cooking in high temperatures. Since this is super porous, it will build heat slowly. However, it is effective in keeping the heat once it is at peak temperature.

The donabe pot is often porous on the outside and glazed on the inside. You can use it over an open flame to cook delicious Japanese cuisine. The pot can last for decades if properly treated. Interestingly, each Japanese household comes with at least one donabe pot in the kitchen. 

Furthermore, donabes have different designs, purposes, and sizes, but all are perfect for cooking different dishes. These pots are quite simple to use, where you do not need to be a professional Japanese chef. 

Donabe Pot Over the Years

Since the 18th century, a donabe pot has been used to prepare food at home in a traditional way. This elegant pot is perfect for busy families. It is still made traditionally through century-old techniques. It comes with a unique rough texture, which adds an extra layer of flavor to the dishes. 

The longevity of a donabe pot may add some unique flavor. Based on Japanese folk wisdom, the pot can store a little bit of the flavors of all the dishes you have cooked in it. As a result, it will give you that special umami factor with extra balance and richness to the meal. 

When you use a donabe pot in cooking your favorite Japanese dishes, you can reduce the need for fat and salt. With the thick clay walls, the pot will store and release the heat slowly. That is, it is effective in letting the rich flavors spread into the food gently and thoroughly.

Cooking with Donabe Pots 

One of the most interesting things about a donabe pot is that you can use it to almost everything. However, the most exciting ones are cooking rice and stews as it gently promotes heat distribution. After turning off the heat, the pot will cool down slowly, allowing the flavors to completely sink in. 

In case you want to prepare a mixed rice dish, simply soak the rice along with dashi broth or water in the pot for about 20 minutes. Then, you can top rice with whatever ingredients you like, such as meat, seafood, or vegetables, and cook them together with the lid on. After 13 to 15 minutes, take off the lid and allow to rest for about 20 minutes. Then, serve it.

What Are the Different Types of Donabe Pots? 

The type of donabe pot is classified based on the type of soil used to make it as well as the function. Take a look at the following variety of donabe pots.

  • Iga-Yaki Donabe Pot 

This donabe pot has an astringent color course soil texture and special pattern. It comes with a more natural look compared to other donabe pots and looks very attractive in the table.

  • Ceramic Donabe Pot 

The ceramic donabe delivers plenty of vivid designs. As it is made out of fine soil, this pot can prevent odor transfer, which makes it ideal for strongly scented ingredients. Not only that, it is easy to clean and maintain.

  • Banko-Yaki Donabe Pot 

The banko-yaki pot is specially designed as a traditional craft. The same way with a ceramic pot, it is also made out of fine soil. So, it has many designs, and the surface is simple yet sleek.

Since a mineral known as petalite is being kneaded to the soil, this donabe pot takes pride in durability and strength against fire. Even you will cook using ingredients with a strong odor; you have nothing to worry about the odor transfer as your pot will get smelly.

Benefits of Cooking with Donabe Pots 

Despite the modern equipment you can find in a Japanese kitchen, a donabe pot never lost its throne. You can find plenty of trendy cookware stores that sell a wide array of donabe pots.

As the popularity of tabletop hotpot cooking or nabe continues, it’s always an excellent add a donabe pot to your kitchen. There are a variety of designs and colors of donabe pots these days to choose from. You can pick the one that will look great on your table, from traditional to a modern look. Besides, these pots are known to be practical cooking containers.

Donabe pots are not just attractive cookware for tabletop cooking. These pots are helpful in retaining the heat very well due to their thick clay walls. That means that it can cook in the residual heat, and your food will remain warm for a long time.

Many people who have already tried a donabe pot end up with the best-tasting rice. That’s because each of the grains will remain firm but sticky enough and still taste good even when cold. 

Popular Japanese Dishes You Can Cook with Donabe Pots 

A donabe pot can be used to make plenty of recipes, including hot pot, stew, soup as well as steaming ingredients. You can also use it for cooking rice and any other cooking styles.

However, if you are a total novice to cooking with donabe pots and you want Japanese dishes that require less time and effort, then you can try the following options:

  • Oden 

Whenever you want to eat Oden at the comfort of your home, a donabe pot will help you a lot. You can achieve the firmly soaked and perfectly patched soup with less effort. Then, you can share this donabe dish with your family and friends.

  • Zosui 

As cold months get closer, zosui is very convenient to eat. This dish refers to the thin, mild Japanese rice soup that is similar to a rice-based vegetable soup. The ingredients include pre-cooked rice, meat, seafood, vegetables, mushrooms, and water seasoned with either miso or soy sauce.

  • Nikomi Udon 

This type of udon dish comes with plenty of ingredients and offers you a rich, delicious taste. For the best tasting experience, you can add an egg or try enjoying it with tsukimi udon.

  • Kimchi Nabe 

If you are into spicy foods, then kimchi nabe is a must-try for you. This hot pot dish is compatible with rice. Be it during summer months or cold winter days; this dish will satisfy your cravings.

  • Food Boiled in Water

This dish is super simple and easy to do, making it one of the most basic hot pot dishes. All you need to do is to put the ingredients and the soup. Boiling food in plain water helps in bringing out that umami flavor. You can consume this flavorful dish regardless of the season. 

Proper Care for Your Donabe Pots 

As mentioned, you can use donabe pots for a long if you will take care of it properly. 

  • Make sure to hand-wash it as it is not dishwasher safe.
  • Prevent from soaking it for a long time in soap.
  • Do not use a rough sponge or scrub it too harshly.
  • Flip it upside down after washing to let it dry overnight.
  • Avoid heating it while empty.
  • Use a light liquid drizzle inside.
  • Always keep the bottom surface dry whenever you are cooking.
  • It’s is recommended to start with a low heat.

With the above information, there’s no way for you not to appreciate a donabe pot even more. The next time you want to experience the authentic flavor of a Japanese dish, the donabe pot will give you that satisfying experience.