What Is a Donabe Pot and Why It is So Essential to This Chef


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Just just like the banged-up (however very valuable) Dutch oven handed down from technology to technology, beloved cookware tends to grow to be a part of the household. This would possibly imply a 50-year-old forged iron skillet for some people, or great-grandmother’s tortilla press for others.

In Japan, nevertheless, a donabe—a novel pot made from clay to be used over an open flame in Japanese delicacies—carries distinctive cultural significance. For chef Naoko Takei Moore (aka, “Mrs. Donabe”), a chef, cookbook writer, and the proprietor of Toiro (a kitchen provide retailer in West Hollywood, CA), it not solely features as an excellent sensible instrument for cooking quite a lot of scrumptious meals but in addition as a vessel for making tons of particular recollections.

What’s a donabe?

In line with Moore, donabe is a Japanese title for clay pot (do means “clay,” nabe means “pot”) that has a protracted, wealthy historical past, relationship presumably way back to the eighth century. “There isn’t a [official] file, because the historical past of the clay pot is so outdated. The traditional clay pot in Japan was made greater than 10,000 years in the past. Donabe has been utilized by Japanese folks for the reason that time when the one warmth supply was fireplace,” Moore says.

This sturdy pot has a thick-walled bowl base with a dome-like lid that sits on high. It is made from heat-resistant clay meant to cook dinner over a direct warmth supply like a flame. Although they arrive in quite a lot of sizes and shapes, one factor is for certain: They’re completely attractive to take a look at and even higher for cooking.

Through the years, donabe manufacturing has expanded, and you could find varied designs in the marketplace. However there’s one model specifically that Moore swears by. “The sort I take advantage of is hand-crafted by Nagatani-en [a historic donabe producer since 1832] in Iga, Japan,” she says. Since 2008, Moore has labored carefully with Nagatani-en to convey the donabe Stateside (and to her kitchen provide retailer) and share the fun of cooking with this instrument.

What are you able to cook dinner in a donabe?

Consider a donabe as a well-designed and sensible one-pot cooking surprise that may make all kinds of dishes. “Donabe is supposed for on a regular basis cooking, and you may make a sizzling pot, soup, stew, etcetera,” Moore says. However out of all of the methods to make use of this useful vessel, what are a few of her favorites? “I take advantage of completely different sorts of donabes each day for a lot of completely different types of cooking. So, it’s onerous to say which is my favourite,” she says. “However, sizzling pot is among the most frequented—and in addition typical—dishes you may make with donabe. I like a easy sizzling pot of fish, tofu, and greens in a dashi broth.”

Moore says the primary time she tried rice made in a double-lid donabe rice cooker known as a Kamado-san utterly blew her away. “It was little question the highest quality rice I had ever tasted, and didn’t even want any condiments as a result of it was simply so scrumptious as itself,” she says. “It tasted higher than any rice cooked with any sort of rice cooking instruments I had ever tried.”

For extra inspiration on what to make in a donabe, you possibly can try Moore’s cookbook, Donabe: Traditional and Trendy Japanese Clay Pot Cooking ($24), devoted to cooking with this instrument. (It’s stuffed with tons of rice, stews, and sizzling pot recipes.) Moore lately curated a donabe necessities” NYT Cooking Package ($95) that includes her high picks of artisanal substances which are versatile, flavorful, and straightforward to make use of for warm pot recipes similar to konbu and togarashi.

What’s the cultural (and private) significance of a donabe, in line with this Japanese chef?

For Moore and plenty of different Japanese cooks, a donabe is way more than only a pot. “It’s like a nationwide cookware for Japanese folks. It’s not simply what’s cooked in a donabe that’s vital, however donabe additionally symbolizes Japanese communal eating tradition. It’s typically meant for tabletop cooking or eating to convey folks collectively,” she says. That is why she takes particular consideration when selecting the perfect ones to make use of and carry at her retailer.

“The right donabe will be so private and various. For me, I at all times use hand-crafted donabes from Iga, Japan. The extra you employ it, the extra character, or patina, your donabe will develop. It begins to get darker on the underside, and in addition on the within, it would develop skinny crackles known as kannyu,” she notes. That are “wholesome and welcoming characters” that she describes as “wabi-sabi,” a Japanese time period for the fantastic thing about imperfection, that creates a extra private attachment. “With correct care, donabe can final for a lot of many years,” she says.

Able to get one? Earlier than you do, hold the next tip from Moore in thoughts: “You may select your donabe in line with your wants or aesthetic preferences, but it surely’s at all times good to have at the very least one traditional type—like a casserole-style—donabe.”

Cozy climate is right here, which implies that soups are positively on the menu:

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