Daily Care for Donabe Clay Pot



Introduction to Donabe Japanese Clay Pot

Donabe (土鍋) is one of the oldest cooking vessels that is used in Japan today. Although the first mention of earthenware pots can be traced back to the 8th century, the use of donabe became widespread during the Edo period (1603-1868 AD). Traditionally, people would serve donabe dishes over a charcoal grill placed on tatami mats or directly on the dining table. Family and friends gathering around to share a meal out of one pot is rooted in Omotenashi, the Japanese concept of hospitality, which encourages interaction and is thought of as a bonding experience.

History of Donabe Pot

Originating from the Iga province in Japan, this earthenware pot is commonly used to prepare rice and Nabe (鍋), hot pot dishes, such as Shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) and Sukiyaki (鋤焼 or すき焼き). Iga is one of the oldest and most prestigious pottery regions in Japan with a rich history of over 1300 years. Donabe made from clay that is native to Iga is admired for its earthy and rustic characteristics. The clay from this region is ideal for simmering slow-cooked dishes as it is especially porous and versatile, which retains heat for a long time and allows the flavours to develop.

Seasoning Donabe for First Use - 'Medome'

A brand new donabe has to be seasoned before its first use because of the naturally porous characteristics of the clay. This step is called ‘Medome’ (目止め) and can be done by cooking omoyu (重湯), rice porridge, in it. The rice starch from the omoyu fills the pores in the pot, which prevents any damage or staining and ensures that the donabe stays in good condition for many years. Small cracks may appear with use, sometimes leading to minor leaks. This can easily be fixed by repeating the seasoning steps below. 

1. Place cooked or leftover rice and water in a small saucepan and turn on the heat.
2. Once the rice grains have turned into paste, transfer the omoyu into the donabe.
3. Bring to boil on medium-low heat, then turn off the heat. When it cools down, heat it up again and repeat this step two to three times.
4. Discard the omoyu and rinse the donabe with water. Wipe down with a clean dry cloth and turn it upside down to air dry overnight. 

How to make rice with Donabe Pot

One of the most essential yet simple dishes to cook in a donabe is white rice.

1. Place three cups of rinsed and drained rice grains in the donabe and leave to soak in 600 ml of water for 15 minutes.
2. Close both lids and line up the vent holes. Turn stovetop to medium-high heat and cook for 15 minutes.
3. Once steam rises, the rice is ready.
4. Let stand for 20 minutes and fluff with chopsticks or spoon before serving.