With the winter months in full swing, we decided to treat ourselves to some delicious and hearty Japanese hot pots, or better known as “Nabe” (Japanese for pot). One of the more bulky hot pots is Chankonabe and is traditionally eaten by sumo wrestlers.
There is no set recipe for Chankonabe, however there is a rule of thumb: it has to contain a large amount protein. Common ingredients are chicken, meat, sea food, tofu, and a lot of veggies. All the ingredients are cooked in a stew in one big pot.
Traditionally, chicken is preferred to other meats as chicken stand on two legs, just as the sumo wrestlers. Only the soles of the sumo wrestler’s feet can touch the ground, otherwise he loses the round.
Most “stables” (where sumo’s train) have developed their own special recipe. The sumo wrestlers, after finishing their training session of grappling and throwing each other to the ground, will gather round and eat all together. The dish is actually quite healthy. However, what makes the sumo wrestlers bulk up are the portions.
One theory for the name Chankonabe, is that when a retired sumo wrestler started cooking a sumo stable in Tokyo, the old man’s simmering stew was named after the slang word for "dad" or "chan" in working class district; so “Chankonabe”.
The first Chankonabe restaurant was opened in 1937 in Tokyo's Ryogoku district. Now a variety of restaurants serve Chankonabe around the Sumo wrestling ring,; a lot of them opened by former sumo champions. If you feel up to the challenge you can even order a sumo portion sized Chankonabe.
Sumo ring in Tokyo's Ryogoku district with sumo wrestlers presenting themselves before the match.