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Spicy nabe with kimchi

February 8, 2011

In December I talked way too much about nabemono (hot pot dishes) and also shared a recipe for Kinoko nabe (mushroom hot pot) that was invented on a whim by my husband Tsuyoshi, who has the important job of making nabe for us nearly every weekend once it begins getting cold. Here is another nabe recipe I stole from him, which he titled “Sappari de koku ga aru kimuchi nabe.” This title is hard to translate in an elegant way, but it basically means “Kimchi nabe that is not overly rich but has great depth of flavor.” To make things easier I’m just calling it “Spicy nabe with kimchi.”

Kimchi (called kimuchi in Japanese) is a type of fermented Korean pickle usually made with Chinese cabbage that also contains a great deal of red pepper. In spite of the fact that traditional Japanese food involves few really spicy flavors, Japanese people love kimchi and I’ve ever heard that it’s consumed more than any other pickle. My Korean friends have told me that the kimchi sold in Japan is nothing more than a weak imitation of the real thing, and if you can get a hold of kimchi made by a real Korean person (or at least sold in a Korean grocery store) it is usually less sour and a great deal tastier than the Japanese brands.

I love kimchi but I don’t buy it very frequently because although I try to eat a lot of fermented foods I am generally way of the extremely high sodium content. Like most things it should be eaten in moderation, and I consider dishes that contain lots of kimchi (like this nabe) to be an occasional treat. It’s a bit heartier than some other types of nabe, so you might want to serve it on a day when everybody is really hungry (we made it for a single friend who doesn’t cook for himself and was in dire need of an actual meal).

This recipe contains Korean kimchi as well as Chinese hot bean sauce (called “tōbanjan” in Japan and “dou-ban-jiang” in China) and shūmai (pork dumplings), while the overall flavors have been adjusted to a Japanese palette. We also added some ground red pepper that had been given to us by a Korean coworker, which packs a realpunch and should be used carefully but is really good for warming you up!

Spicy nabe with kimchi

Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 liters dashi
1.5 tablespoons sesame oil
150 grams kimchi (adjust amount according to your preference)
4 cloves garlic, sliced
Ginger, sliced (a piece around the same size as the garlic)
200 grams sliced beef (or pork)
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 Chinese cabbage, roughly chopped
1 package (100 grams) shimeji mushrooms
1 package (100 grams) maitake mushrooms
1 package (180 grams) enoki mushrooms
1 package (100 grams) moyashi (bean sprouts)
1 package yakidōfu (grilled tofu) or abura-age (fried tofu)
1 package shūmai dumplings (optional)
A few handfuls of mizuna, seri, or other greens
2 servings yakisoba or udon noodles
2 eggs (optional)


Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons sake
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional; adjust amount according to desired level of spiciness)
1 tablespoon tōbanjan (hot bean paste)
Hot chili oil, to taste

  1. Heat sesame oil in the nabe. Add onion, garlic, ginger, kimchi, and tōbanjan, stir-frying until fragrant.
  2. Before the garlic and other ingredients begin to brown, add the meat and stir-fry.
  3. Once the meat is fully cooked, add the dashi. Simmer while removing any aku (scum or froth) that drifts to the top.
  4. Season the broth: add salt, pepper, sake, sugar, soy sauce, and ground red pepper, tasting and adjusting as needed.
  5. Add tofu, mushrooms, and Chinese cabbage, cooking until softened.
  6. Add shūmai dumplings, mizuna, and bean sprouts, arranging them in an attractive way (mounding the greens in the center at the end is an easy way to ensure they aren’t overcooked before serving).
  7. Drizzle hot chili oil (or regular sesame oil) over the nabe for fragrance.
  8. Serve on a portable burner at the table or ladle into individual dishes from the stove top, adding more dashi and vegetables as necessary.
  9. When the vegetables and other ingredients are mostly gone, cook the noodles separately in another pot and add them to the nabe, simmering for a moment or two to allow the noodles to absorb flavor (be careful not to overcook them). If desired, stir in two beaten eggs before serving noodles in the leftover broth.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2011 9:36 am

    Hi Jessica!!!

    Looks yummy!!! With shumai sounds really good!!! Is your hubby a cook?! With tobanjyan sounds pretty hot but I understand kimchii makes nabe sappari with koku 😀 I don’t eat that lot kimchii though it smells afterwards. hehe So, I eat moderate amount like you 🙂

    • February 9, 2011 2:33 pm

      Thanks! 😀 Yeah, my husband likes to cook a lot which is good for me because it means I get a break from cooking over the weekend! Although he’s Japanese he usually makes more Western-style food than I do, which I guess is kind of weird…

      And kimchi can make you smell sort of strange for a while if you eat a lot of it. 😉 All that red pepper and garlic, I guess!

  2. February 10, 2011 1:12 pm

    Tsuyoshi’s nabe is quiet beautiful, though I think I would have to choose our usual chigenabe combination over the addition of shumai. ^_~

    • February 14, 2011 7:17 am

      Yeah, the nabe usually looks a lot prettier when he makes it. Arranging things nicely is apparently not one of my talents…

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