What Is a Donabe Pot and Why It’s So Important to This Chef

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

In Japan, nonetheless, a donabe—a novel pot product of 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 capabilities as an excellent sensible device for cooking quite a lot of scrumptious meals but additionally as a vessel for making tons of particular recollections.

What's a donabe?

In accordance with Moore, donabe is a Japanese title for clay pot (do means “clay,” nabe means “pot”) that has a protracted, wealthy historical past, courting probably way back to the eighth century. “There isn't any [official] document, because the historical past of the clay pot is so outdated.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 because the time when the one warmth supply was hearth,” Moore says.

This sturdy pot has a thick-walled bowl base with a dome-like lid that sits on prime. It is product of 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 positive: They’re completely attractive to take a look at and even higher for cooking.

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

What are you able to cook dinner in a donabe?

Consider a donabe as a well-designed and sensible one-pot cooking marvel that may make all kinds of dishes. “Donabe is supposed for on a regular basis cooking, and you can also make a scorching 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 exploit totally different sorts of donabes daily for a lot of totally different kinds of cooking. So, it’s arduous to say which is my favourite,” she says. “However, scorching pot is without doubt one of the most frequented—and likewise typical—dishes you can also make with donabe. I like a easy scorching 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 referred to as a Kamado-san utterly blew her away. “It was little question the very best 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 Fashionable Japanese Clay Pot Cooking ($24), devoted to cooking with this device. (It’s stuffed with tons of rice, stews, and scorching pot recipes.) Moore just lately curated a “donabe necessities” NYT Cooking Package ($95) that includes her prime picks of artisanal components which can be versatile, flavorful, and straightforward to make use of for warm pot recipes reminiscent of konbu and togarashi.

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

For Moore and lots 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 usually meant for tabletop cooking or eating to carry folks collectively,” she says. For this reason she takes particular consideration when selecting the most effective ones to make use of and carry at her retailer.

“The right donabe might be so private and various. For me, I all the time 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 likewise on the within, it is going to develop skinny crackles referred to as kannyu,” she notes. That are “wholesome and welcoming characters” that she describes as “wabi-sabi,” a Japanese time period for the great thing about imperfection, that creates a extra private attachment. “With correct care, donabe can final for a lot of a long time,” she says.

Able to get one? Earlier than you do, hold the next tip from Moore in thoughts: “You possibly can select your donabe in line with your wants or aesthetic preferences, however it’s all the time good to have a minimum of one basic model—like a casserole-style—donabe.”

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

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