Chanko Nabe: Traditional Japanese Stew Eaten By Sumo Wrestlers
Image Credit: YouTube @The Meatmen Channel

Most of us are aware of hot pots that are made in many Asian countries like China, Vietnam, Thailand, Phillipines, Cambodia, Taiwan and Japan. This particular hot pot has its roots intricately tied with Japan or more specifically, with sumo wrestling. Sumo wrestlers prepare Chanko Nabe as a part of their weight gain diet and it is nutritious as it is filling. Every sumo stable or sumo wrestler has their unique way of making Chanko and their pick of ingredients that they put into the broth. Some add seafood, whereas some stick to chicken and pork. But what binds each sumo wrestler is their collective love for this traditional dish, and they all make sure to have big bowls of Chanko Nabe along with a mountain of plain white rice after a grueling session of sparring and workouts. 

Chanko Nabe is no joke! It is a dish made for pro athletes and it is made in huge quantities to suffice the nutritional needs of a depleted sumo wrestler. Many ex-sumo wrestlers open their own Chanko restaurants after they retire simply because they love it so much and they want the general public to have a taste of their unique Chanko Nabe that they’ve enjoyed having time after time over the course of their careers. As professed earlier, every Chanko Nabe is unique and dissimilar to one another, but the building blocks to a Chanko Nabe consists of clean, unprocessed, food items that results in a well-balanced toothy meal fit for a giant individual’s appetite. Tons of vegetables are thrown into the roaring broth, along with clean protein like chicken thighs, fish fillets, cuts of pork belly and meat, and even seafood like prawns and crabs. There are meatballs too made from minced chicken that are cooked in the broth and furthermore, there’s noodles that load up the carbohydrate content of the dish.

Here’s a humble attempt at writing a recipe aimed at recreating a Chanko Nabe that’ll be fit for any sumo wrestler, even the one lying dormant inside you.


Chicken Broth (to be made beforehand)

  • Water, as required
  • 600g or 1 whole chicken carcass cut in half
  • 1-piece konbu or kelp

Chanko Nabe Broth

  • 750ml chicken broth 
  • 100ml cooking sake
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • ½ tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic grated
  • 1 tsp ginger grated

Chanko Nabe Ingredients

  • 6 tsukune balls or chicken meatballs
  • 100g pork belly, thinly sliced
  • 100g chicken thigh fillet, cut into bite size pieces
  • 60g or a cluster of bok choy 
  • 150g chinese cabbage leaves
  • 35g carrot
  • 1 stem shallot/scallions
  • 2 shiitake mushrooms
  • 25g enoki mushrooms
  • 4 slices kamaboko or fish cakes


Chicken Broth

  1. Soak the konbu in a bowl of water (you will use this water later).
  2. Bring water in a large pot to a boil and add the chicken carcass.
  3. When it starts boiling again and the surface of the chicken carcass becomes white, drain and rinse the chicken carcass well, removing guts and other brown bits.
  4. Add the chicken carcass and the konbu to the pot. Add 1 litre of water including the water from the konbu to the pot and bring it to a boil.
  5. Remove scum and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for a minimum of 30 minutes, or preferably an hour. Remove scum occasionally until no more brownish scum comes to the top.
  6. Put it through a sieve and store for later use.

Chanko Nabe Broth

  1. Add all the Chanko Nabe broth ingredients at the same time into a pot filled with chicken broth and bring it to a boil.
  2. Turn the heat off and leave until required.

Preparing Ingredients

  1. Bok choy: Remove outer leaves. Cut the central cluster of small leaves vertically to half or quarters. Wash well, particularly at the bottom of the stems where the dirt collects. If the outer leaves are large, diagonally cut in half.
  2. Chinese cabbage: If the leaf and the stem is very wide, halve vertically, then slice leaves diagonally into 5cm long pieces.
  3. Carrot: Cut a carrot to 5cm long, then slice vertically to 2-3mm thick sticks. 
  4. Shallot/Scallions: Diagonally cut into 5cm long pieces.
  5. Shiitake mushrooms: Remove the stems. To decorate the shiitake head, make a shallow cut in the middle of the head, then another cut perpendicular to the first cut, making a cross.
  6. Enoki mushrooms: Trim the end of the stems that are woody. If mushrooms are stuck together at the bottom, divide it into smaller bunches.


  1. Place all the ingredients in a pot, clustering each ingredient together.
  2. Add the broth to the pot and heat the pot on a portable stove.
  3. Serve with small serving bowls.

Feel free to take a long, extended nap after this meal as per sumo tradition. When you’ve woken up, you’ll feel the power of a sumo coursing through your veins, for sure!