How to Make Chanko Nabe (Sumo Stew) At Home-Japanese Taste

How to Make Chanko Nabe (Sumo Stew) At Home

by Ayumi Matsuo

Soup Nabe Healthy Weeknight Dinner

Chanko nabe is a hot-pot dish that was originally created with the intent to serve to Japanese sumo wrestlers. Chanko means a dish made to be eaten by sumo wrestlers and nabe means pot. In chanko nabe, vegetables, and meat are placed in a pot and simmered together in a soy sauce or salt-based broth. Additionally, rice, rice cakes, or noodles are added at the end to fill the stomachs of the sumo wrestlers.

Sumo wrestlers sleep and eat together in an organization called a sumo beya (Sumo house), so chanko nabe was created to provide an efficient and nutritionally balanced meal for sumo wrestlers since they eat a lot. It’s the perfect menu because it can be made in a large batch, creates a sense of solidarity among wrestlers as they gather around the same pot, and the broth created by simmering the various ingredients becomes very tasty in the end.

Sumo wrestlers gain weight because they eat a lot of food on an empty stomach after practicing hard without breakfast, and then take a nap afterward to bulk up even more.

Don’t worry, chanko nabe itself is actually a simple and healthy meal that only contains vegetables and meat in a soup. It has become popular not only in the sumo world but also with normal Japanese people. The soup and ingredients can be arranged in endless ways such as by adding miso paste into the broth, using seafood instead of chicken, changing up the dashi, and more. There are various recipes that exist for each restaurant and household.

A common recipe for chanko nabe consists of chicken meatballs, napa cabbage, Japanese leek, and mushrooms cooked in a chicken-based broth. The sight of a family eating around the same nabe (hotpot) is a typical Japanese winter event. It is common to gather around and cook while eating nabe at the dining table using a tabletop gas stove or an electric pot. If you do not have a portable gas stove or electric pot, you can make chanko nabe using a regular kitchen stove and serve each portion individually.

Now, let’s get to making Chanko nabe!


Prep time: 25 mins

Cook time: 25 mins

Total time: 50 mins

Total servings: 2

Difficulty: Easy

  • 250g Ground Chicken
  • 30 cm Japanese Leek
  • 100g Lotus Root
  • 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce (for making the meatballs)
  • 1 Tbsp Sake (for making the meatballs)
  • 1 Tbsp Potato Starch (for making the meatballs)
  • 1 tsp Grated Ginger (for making the meatballs)
  • 300g Napa Cabbage
  • 1 package of Enoki Mushrooms
  • 1/2 Carrot
  • 1 Piece of Fried Tofu
  • 1000ml Water
  • 1.5 Tbsp Chicken Stock Powder (for the soup broth)
  • 2 tsp Soy Sauce (for the soup broth)
  • 2 tsp Mirin (for the soup broth)
  • 2 tsp Sake (for the soup broth)
  • 1 tsp Salt (for the soup broth)

Expert's Tip

How to Make Chanko Nabe (Sumo Stew) At Home

When making nabe or Japanese-style hotpot at home, having the right kind of pot is crucial. This earthenware nabe pot is the perfect vessel to make delicious nabe in because it is big enough for multiple people to eat out of it at once. You can also use this pot to cook delicious rice over the stove in. The beautiful hand-painted design of this pot will surely elevate whatever you decide to cook in this pot. This nabe is also compatible with gas, conduction, and electric stovetops, so everyone can use it. 


1) Gathering the Ingredients

Gather all of the ingredients together. Picture #1 is the ingredients for making the chicken meatballs, picture #2 is for making the additional ingredients for the hotpot, and picture #3 is the ingredients to make the soup. 

2) Making the Chicken Meatballs

Chop the white part of the leek into small pieces. Peel and chop the lotus root, then chop it into small pieces. Mix the chopped Japanese leek, lotus roots, and ground chicken with the soy sauce, sake, potato starch, and grated ginger until the mixture becomes sticky. Once the meatball mixture is ready, let it rest for 10 minutes.

3) Preparing the Other Ingredients

Cut the other vegetables into bite-sized pieces. For the enoki mushrooms, simply cut off the bottom and separate the mushrooms using your hands. Pour boiling water over the fried tofu to remove the excess oil, and then cut it into small strips.

4) Making the Chanko Nabe Soup

Add water and seasonings for the broth into a pot, and start warming it up on the stove. Have the other prepared ingredients on standby to add once the soup is ready.

5) Cooking the Chicken Meatballs

Scoop about 1.5 tablespoons of chicken meatball mixture into the soup.

Tip: Make the meatballs by using two spoons and dropping them into the boiling soup.

6) Cooking the Rest of the Ingredients

When all the chicken balls are fully cooked (after about 7-8 minutes), add the other vegetables and fried tofu into the soup. Once they become tender, your chanko nabe is done! Enjoy it with a bowl of rice to make it an extra hearty meal.

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