Experiences - Australia

Chanko-nabe Japanese Stew: The Sumo Wrestlers Secret Weapon

Looking to add a few pounds to your frame? Skip the protein powder and takeaway pizza, and instead follow the lead of Japan’s sumo wrestlers by indulging in chanko-nabe stew this winter.

The sumo way of life

When it comes the size of a sumo wrestler, bigger is better, but that doesn’t mean the contestants have an excuse to pig out on fast food. Instead, these gargantuan athletes eat just two meals a day. Due to a grueling morning training regime, they generally skip breakfast.

Come lunchtime, they tuck into the sumo wrestlers’ secret weapon, chanko-nabe. This hearty Japanese stew consists of vegetables and protein sources (usually fish, chicken, meatballs and tofu) in a chicken or dashi broth. After finishing their mammoth bowl of chanko-nabe, the wrestlers settle in for a long afternoon nap (all the better to store those extra calories!). In the evening, they enjoy a protein-packed dinner of fried fish or chicken, with rice, noodles and beer. Find out the interesting reason why sumo wrestlers rarely eat beef or pork here.

The sumo wrestlers’ go-to meal

Chanko-nabe itself is relatively healthy, but the sumo wrestlers eat it in such vast quantities – often with huge servings of rice or noodles – that it does pack on the kilos. If you’re looking for a hearty Japanese recipe this winter, it’s hard to go past the comfort of chanko-nabe – just be sure to eat it in moderation!

Chanko Nabe

5 steps to making chanko-nabe at home

Choose a mixture of root vegetables, Asian greens, tofu and proteins, such as homemade meatballs and diced chicken thigh fillets. For a seafood variation, you can include prawns, shellfish and white fish fillets.

1. Make meatballs by combining chicken mince, 1 beaten egg, chopped spring onions, miso paste and a dash of soy sauce. Chill the mixture, then shape into golf-ball sized meatballs.

2. Peel a selection of root vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes and daikon radish), then chop into 2cm pieces. Trim shiitake and enoki mushrooms. Chop chicken thigh fillets into 2cm pieces. Trim and slice leeks, cabbage and spring onions.

3. Make a dashi broth by combining dashi stock, soy sauce, mirin and sake in a pan over medium heat. Stir in miso paste to taste, if desired.

4. Once simmering, add carrots, potatoes and radish to the broth and cook for 5-10 minutes. Add the meatballs and chicken pieces and simmer until chicken and meatballs are cooked through.

5. Add leek, cabbage and spring onions and cook until vegetables are tender. Add cube tofu and udon noodles, if desired, then cook for a further five minutes until heated through. Serve piping hot.

Chanko Nabe


Image Courtesy: lazy fri13th used under the Creative Commons Licence

On the hunt for chanko-nabe

If you’d like to sample chanko-nabe in a Japanese restaurant, try the seafood chanko-nabe at Wagyu Ya in South Yarra, or the jam-packed version at Masuya Sydney, filled with chicken, prawns, scallops, fish balls, salmon, tofu and vegetables in a konbu dashi stock.

For more cooking inspiration, discover low-fat Japanese recipes and hearty Korean stews.

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