Just just like the banged-up (however very treasured) Dutch oven handed down from era to era, beloved cookware tends to turn into 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 creator, and the proprietor of Toiro (a kitchen provide retailer in West Hollywood, CA), it not solely features as an excellent sensible instrument for cooking a wide range of scrumptious meals but in addition as a vessel for making tons of particular recollections.
What’s a donabe?
In accordance with Moore, donabe is a Japanese identify for clay pot (do means “clay,” nabe means “pot”) that has an extended, wealthy historical past, relationship presumably way back to the eighth century. “There isn’t any [official] file, because the historical past of the clay pot is so previous. The traditional clay pot in Japan was made greater than 10,000 years in the past. Donabe has been utilized by Japanese individuals 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 high. It is made from heat-resistant clay meant to cook dinner over a direct warmth supply like a flame. Although they arrive in a wide range of sizes and styles, 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 will discover numerous designs in the marketplace. However there’s one model specifically that Moore swears by. “The type 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 deliver the donabe Stateside (and to her kitchen provide retailer) and share the thrill 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 marvel 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 helpful vessel, what are a few of her favorites? “I exploit completely different sorts of donabes every single day for a lot of completely different types of cooking. So, it’s arduous to say which is my favourite,” she says. “However, sizzling pot is likely one of 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 referred to as a Kamado-san fully 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 form of rice cooking instruments I had ever tried.”
For extra inspiration on what to make in a donabe, you may take a look at Moore’s cookbook, Donabe: Basic and Fashionable Japanese Clay Pot Cooking ($24), devoted to cooking with this instrument. (It’s crammed with tons of rice, stews, and sizzling pot recipes.) Moore just 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 decent pot recipes equivalent to 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 individuals. It’s not simply what’s cooked in a donabe that’s important, however donabe additionally symbolizes Japanese communal eating tradition. It’s typically meant for tabletop cooking or eating to deliver individuals collectively,” she says. Because of this she takes particular consideration when selecting the very best ones to make use of and carry at her retailer.
“The proper donabe will be so private and assorted. For me, I all the time 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’s 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 fantastic 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, preserve the next tip from Moore in thoughts: “You may select your donabe in line with your wants or aesthetic preferences, nevertheless it’s all the time good to have at the very least one traditional model—like a casserole-style—donabe.”
Cozy climate is right here, which implies that soups are positively on the menu:
Our editors independently choose these merchandise. Making a purchase order via our hyperlinks could earn Properly+Good a fee.