Daily Care for Donabe Clay Pot

 

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Introduction to the Donabe Clay Pot

The Donabe is a traditional earthenware clay pot made for slow-cooking. It has long been a beloved item that is revered for its simplicity of form and versatility as a cookware. As a pot that is used for everyday cooking, these clay pots are ideal for warm one-pot dishes such as hot pots, shabu-shabu, stews, tajines or cooking rice. The Donabe is typically enjoyed as the centrepiece of the dining table as a piece of cookware that brings families and friends together in an intimate setting. The contemporary range of donabe clay pots are well adapted to be suitable for the modern kitchen and it is a versatile cookware for making a wide range of Western style dishes.


History of the Donabe Clay Pot

The Donabe originated in the Iga region of Mie prefecture. This area of central Japan is famous for producing one of the oldest kiln sites in the world and its history can be traced back to over 1300 years ago. The clay found in Iga is highly porous and resistant to heat by nature, making the pots very durable with even heat distribution properties and high absorbency. The Donabe is characterised by its rugged imperfection and rustic “ear" lugs (katamimi), which is a defining feature of Iga-yaki that sets it apart from its neighbouring counterpart, Shigaraki-yaki. The ‘bidoro’ glaze give the pots a glass-like texture and distinct earthy tone that is specific to the region.



Seasoning Donabe for First Use - 'Medome'

The Donabe requires seasoning (called ‘medome’) before first use. This simple step involves cooking Omoyu, or rice porridge in the pot. As the clay is highly porous and susceptible to leaking without proper care, the rice starch formed when cooking porridge will fill the pores of the clay and prevent the absorption of water. To season the clay pot, please see the following steps.

  • Firstly, prepare leftover rice in a bowl by running it under cold water and rinse the rice together until the rice water is formed.

  • Bring to boil on medium heat and cook the porridge for 20 minutes. Let it cool for 1 hour.

  • Take out the porridge and rinse the pot with cold water (The porridge can be eaten after seasoning).

  • Dry with a clean cloth and allow the pot to air dry completely before first use.

  • Note: When fine cracks start to appear on the surface or if there is any leakage, repeat the above seasoning process.


How to make rice with Donabe Pot

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

  • Place three cups of rinsed and drained rice grains in the donabe and leave to soak in 600 ml of water for 15 minutes.

  • Close both lids and line up the vent holes. Turn stovetop to medium-high heat and cook for 15 minutes.

  • Once steam rises, the rice is ready.

  • Let stand for 20 minutes and fluff with chopsticks or spoon before serving.


Daily Care

With proper care, a Donabe may last a long time by ensuring the following steps.

  • Gently hand wash using mild detergent with lukewarm water and a natural-bristled brush such as a tawashi or soft sponge.

  • After washing, dry well and flip it upside down overnight to prevent mildew growth.

  • Do not leave leftover food in the pot for a prolonged period of time as the porous body of the pot may absorb the food smells. The smell may be removed by simmering green tea in the pot for 10 minutes.

  • Small hairline cracks, or kan-nyu may appear on the surface of the pots. This feature is part of the ceramic ware’s aging process and it does not affect the functionality of the pots if re-seasoned. If the pot is still leaking after re-seasoning, replace with new pot.

  • After use, black spots may start to appear on the bottom side of the pot. This is a normal part of the pot’s aging process, however, if the burned spots appear very quickly, this is a sign that the heat temperature is too high.


Caution

  • Do not heat dry.

  • Make sure the bottom surface of the pot is dry before heating.

  • Always ensure there is a sufficient amount of liquid or oil before cooking.

  • Do not put in dishwasher.

  • Let it cool before washing and avoid subjecting the pot to sudden temperature changes as this may cause the pot to crack or break.