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Chanko-Nabe Article and Recipes


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Chanko-Nabe is the food of sumo wrestlers! All of the ingredients are fresh, healthy, and high-protein moderate-carb as one would expect for professional athletes... but vast quantities plus daily naps help build the sumo body.

I like its nickname: Sumo Stew!

There are no rules for what goes into a nabe. Sukiyaki (see page 89), the best-known hot pot, is made with beef and a sweetened soy sauce base, while lshikari nabe, a regional classic from Hokkaido, consists of salmon and vegetables in a miso-kelp broth. As Kotofubuki quickly cuts some tofu, I muster the courage to ask him where he learned to cook. "I watched the previous chanko-ban," he responds shyly. "But there are no recipes; you just taste as you go along."

Soon Kotofubuki emerges from the kitchen with a huge pot of water, which he places on a portable gas stove at the head of the cable. When the water comes to a boil, he stirs in some instant dashi flakes, then turns down the heat and adds sliced pork belly and splashes of sake and mirin. When the pork is tender, he warms ladles of salty red miso and sweet white miso in the broth before swirling in the paste with a pair of long chopsticks. "Mixing the misos is the key to this dish," he says while tasting the broth. "The red miso emphasizes the sweetness of the white one." After several adjustments, Kotofubuki is satisfied and throws in the vegetables and tofu. Minutes later, the entire meal is ready.

When I say "vast quantities", I mean this: "Though every wrestler will tell you they owe their Jovian girth tochanko, the soup doesn't have any magical properties. The real culprit is their bottomless appetite. In his youth, Konishiki would routinely lunch on 10 bowls of chanko, eight enormous bowls of rice, 130 pieces of sushi, and 25 portions of barbecued beef. And he'd still have plenty of room for dessert."

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