Just just like the banged-up (however very valuable) Dutch oven handed down from era to era, beloved cookware tends to change into a part of the household. This may imply a 50-year-old forged iron skillet for some people, or great-grandmother’s tortilla press for others.
In Japan, nonetheless, a donabe—a novel pot fabricated 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 creator, and the proprietor of Toiro (a kitchen provide retailer in West Hollywood, CA), it not solely features as an excellent sensible device for cooking quite a lot of scrumptious meals but in addition as a vessel for making tons of particular reminiscences.
What’s a donabe?
In response to Moore, donabe is a Japanese title for clay pot (do means “clay,” nabe means “pot”) that has a protracted, wealthy historical past, courting presumably way back to the eighth century. “There is no such thing as a [official] file, because the historical past of the clay pot is so outdated.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 because the 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 prime. It is fabricated 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 positive: They’re completely beautiful to have a look at and even higher for cooking.
Over time, donabe manufacturing has expanded, and you’ll find varied designs in the marketplace. However there’s one model particularly 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 intently with Nagatani-en to convey 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 helpful vessel, what are a few of her favorites? “I take advantage of totally different sorts of donabes every single day for a lot of totally different kinds of cooking. So, it’s onerous to say which is my favourite,” she says. “However, scorching pot is without doubt one of the most frequented—and in addition 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 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 type of rice cooking instruments I had ever tried.”
For extra inspiration on what to make in a donabe, you possibly can take a look at Moore’s cookbook, Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking ($24), devoted to cooking with this device. (It’s crammed with tons of rice, stews, and scorching pot recipes.) Moore not too long ago curated a “donabe essentials” NYT Cooking Kit ($95) that includes her prime picks of artisanal elements which can be 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 response to 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 usually meant for tabletop cooking or eating to convey folks collectively,” she says. This is the reason she takes particular consideration when selecting the perfect ones to make use of and carry at her retailer.
“The proper donabe could be so private and assorted. For me, I at all times use hand-crafted donabes from Iga, Japan. The extra you utilize 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 should 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, maintain the next tip from Moore in thoughts: “You may select your donabe in response to your wants or aesthetic preferences, but it surely’s at all times good to have a minimum of one basic type—like a casserole-style—donabe.”
Cozy climate is right here, which signifies that soups are positively on the menu:
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