Join us as we dabble in the dark culinary arts with a hot pot not for the faint of heart.

During winter, nabe is a popular dish in Japan in which various ingredients are tossed into a pot of boiling hot soup stock and simmered before eating to provide warm and savory sustenance against the cold. Typical ingredients may include cabbage, pork, or seafood.

However, whispered about in the shady corners of Japan is a version of nabe so chaotic, it has the potential to ruin friendships. It is called the Dark Nabe. Few know of its existence and even fewer know how to properly execute an actual Dark Nabe.

That’s why our writer P.K. Sanjun just kind of winged it and made up his own list of rules:

  • One ingredient will be brought by each participant without the other’s knowledge.
  • Ingredients must be food (e.g. not cardboard).
  • The nabe must be eaten in the dark.
  • Only when everyone finishes their bowl, will the contents will be revealed.

This would be the first Dark Nabe for all participants…probably because it might not even be a real thing. Everyone was nervous because, despite its name, a Dark Nabe actually shines a spotlight on its participants’ psyches.

▼ …or lack thereof

Would people show kindness to each other and bring traditional items like chicken or would they want to stand out from the crowd and toss in something weird like Pocky? A successful Dark Nabe in which no one is disappointingly surprised requires everyone to be on the exact same wavelength.

On the day of the Dark Nabe, everyone arrived at the office with their special ingredient. An official accepted them and began cooking in a separate room while everyone waited. After putting even portions into bowls, the lights were turned out and everyone entered the room.

The tension was as think as the steam from the hot pot, and because they couldn’t see, everyone’s sense of smell was elevated slightly. They could smell something…but it didn’t smell like food.

The bowls were handed out and everyone began eating. There was a brief silence broken only by the occasional clanking of utensils against bowls. Then people began to speak.

“It’s um…really gooey, isn’t it.”
“It kind of tastes like a creamy stew.”
“I wasn’t expecting it to be so sweet.”
“Yeah, but isn’t there some meat…and rice?!”
“Whoa, is that pineapple?”
“You know, it’s not inedible…but it’s not good.”
“No man…it’s gross.”

No one could piece together what exactly they were eating. P.K. thought it tasted like a really sweet stew intended for children. Suddenly the lights came on…

▼”Ugh… Are those cream puffs floating in it?”

Even with the darkness lifted, everyone was unsure exactly what components went into making the brown sludge that lay before them.

So, let’s go back to the beginning and see what everyone brought.

P.K. Sanjun – Yoshinoya Gyudon (Beef Bowl)

P.K. guessed that the rest would bring some wild stuff, so he thought he should be the one to provide a hearty base to this Dark Nabe. By choosing Yoshinoya, there would be plentiful nutritious rice and meat. It was also a flavor that didn’t clash too much with regular nabe, so no one would blame him if it ended up sucking.

Go Hatori – fried mackerel

Go also expected everyone else to bring a bunch of junk food so he decided to go a little basic with some fish. However, plain fish would have been too boring so he chose a breaded and fried cutlet of Mackerel. He figured at least it would match well with the soup.

Mr. Sato – cream puffs

Being the big sweetie he is, Mr. Sato thought he would add a sugary touch to the pot and wanted to bring some Calorie Mate. However, upon entering the convenience store he found some cream puffs on sale and went with those instead. He didn’t think twice about it.

Yuichiro Wasai – pineapple

Yuichiro’s thinking was that he should get something that would at first appear shocking but ultimately turn out to be a good taste. This lead him to choose pineapple. It goes well with pork so should fit a nabe, and much like as a pizza topping it is a little surprising at first but (usually) wins people over in the end.

Ahiruneko – daifuku (sweet bean mochi dumplings)

Mochi, a gelatinous mass of rice, is not an uncommon ingredient for nabe. However, for a Dark Nabe Ahiruneko felt he should kick things up a notch and chose daifuku which is mochi wrapped around a creamy paste made from sweet red beans.

Takashi Harada – Umaibo (mentaiko flavor)

Takashi felt he should go big for the Dark Nabe and selected the popular children’s snack Umaibo. These are rather large sticks of puffed corn which come in a wide range of flavors. Among these tastes, Takashi felt mentaiko (spicy pollock roe) would suit a hot pot well.

Seiji Nakazawa – processed cheese slices (over one year past their expiration date)

Forgetting about the Dark Nabe until the day of, Seiji quickly glanced in his refrigerator. However, all that was inside was two packs of individually wrapped processed cheese slices which had June and July 2016 as their respective expiration dates. Seiji had tried to eat one before in one of his weaker moments, but discovered that it would no longer melt. Hopefully the strong heat of the Dark Nabe would be enough to once again soften these petrified cheese slices.

With all the ingredients gathers a pot of soup was set to a boil.

First the gyudon was added and it wasn’t off to a terribly bad start.

Then, the pineapple came and while it was getting a little funky, things were still in the realm of sanity.

Next the fried mackerel, which actually looked pretty good in there.

Things started to go terribly wrong when the daifuku jumped in the pool.

Then the cream puffs.

Then the pollock roe flavored puffed corn sticks.

Although ethically wrong, Seiji’s cheese did meet the criteria and thus was added to the Dark Nabe.


As time passed the cheese did melt, but there were a few hardened pieces floating in the final result, the identity of which were anyone’s guess. Also, the umaibo and daifuku melted to form a thick slush that would get stuck in our diners’ throats and linger with the saccharine flavor of expired cheese.

In the end, our flirtation with the Dark Nabe was a failure…or possibly a success since we don’t really know the point of it anyway. Our only regret is not banning both sweet foods and Seiji from participating. Had we done that, the Dark Nabe might have actually turned out delicious.

So, if you’re looking to spice up your next winter function, why not put away your Game of McDonald’s Crew Life and push your potluck with a Dark Nabe party instead?

Photos ©SoraNews24
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