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Japanese Hot Pot Recipe: Easy Chicken Meat Ball Nabe

Japanese-Hot-Pot-Recipe-Easy-Chicken-Ball-Nabe Food & Recipes

Nabe is already the popular Japanese food term to describe Japanese hot pot dishes called NABEMONO and hot pot cookware.

Nabe, Nabemono is commonly known as a representative comfort winter dish in Japan and there are so many recipes from regional to family recipes.

The most exciting feature of the Japanese hot pot dish is that it is served on the table on a portable cooktop to enjoy it at the table.

A hot pot dish is served and simmered with different ingredients at the same time in one pot with a rich and tasty soup.

What’s The Difference Between Nabe And Shabu-Shabu

My husband from the US is also confused between Nabe and Shabu-shabu.

Shabu-shabu, is the iconic Japanese cuisine that most visitors want to try during their Japan trip.

Nabe and Shabu-shabu are in the same family of the “Nabemono” dish, which is a hot pot dish served to the table and enjoyed with the family or friends together.

So, there are many types of Nabemono such as

  • Nabe- yosenabe, torisuki, misonabe, Kimuchi nabe, chanko nabe, Tonyu (soy milk) nabe, etc.
  • Shabu-Shabu
  • Sukiyaki
  • Oden

Unlike nabe, sukiyaki, oden, or other hot pot dishes, Shabu-shabu is generally the dish to enjoy paper-thin sliced meat (commonly, beef/pork/fish).

The paper-thin sliced meat is served in a specially shaped-pot filled with boiling water.

Just dip it into the boiling soup and move back and forward for seconds, and eat the meat with the “ponzu” dipping sauce.

Yet, there are several ways to enjoy Shabu-shabu dishes without the special pot and there are shabu-shabu dishes very similar to other nabe dishes.

Thus, the dish when we dip the paper-thin sliced meat into the soup, move it back and forward for seconds, and eat it right away tends to be called “Shabu-shabu”.

My Mom’s Signature: Chicken Ball Nabe

Basically, a Japanese hot pot is an effortless dish.

Make a broth and cut ingredients. That’s all.

Besides, cooking a variety of ingredients in the same pot together can make savory soup while serving.

So, just dumping cut chicken, sliced pork, or beef is nothing wrong, but, today, I’ll tell you my Mom’s signature Nabe recipe-Tori-dango Nabe to upgrade your Japanese hot pot recipe.

Toridango literally refers to Chicken (tori) ball (dango).

As well as other proteins, cooking chicken balls first in the soup can provide savory chicken broth.


“TORI-DANGO” Chicken Ball

  1. Chicken breast
  2. garlic and ginger
  3. Shio Koji
  4. Onion
  5. Potato starch

This chicken ball recipe is also effortless, totally, when using a food processor.

I use a mini chopper for this recipe serving 2 people.

You can use ground chicken or turkey as you like, or chicken thighs, of course.

Yet, I recommend combining all ingredients (after chopping onion, ginger and garlic,) with your hands when using ground chicken/turkey since the chicken balls will be mushy.

Shio Koji is a traditional Japanese condiment that I use a lot in my cooking.

Adding shio koji to chicken balls instead of salt provides a rich Umami flavor instantly with savory sweetness.

The homemade shio koji recipe is available in this post, or you can get a store-bought one on Amazon.

You can use just regular salt, absolutely.

If you like more flavor in chicken balls, use chicken soup powder or add soy sauce.

Add potato starch or cornstarch as a binder.

Personally, I don’t use an egg as a binder since the chicken balls will be too tender to roll a ball and easy to break in the soup.


There is no rule about vegetables for Japanese hot pot dishes.

Especially, I don’t want to say, “get Daikon radish”, “get napa cabbage”, “get leeks”, “get shiitake mushrooms”, and “get Shungiku”, whatever you can’t get easily in your neighborhood, outside of Japan.

Besides, these oriental vegetables are not so reasonable, agree?

Indeed, these vegetables are typical ingredients in Japan so you can stick to the authentic “nabe” recipe if desired.

(*also, the Daikon radish I can get in the US is not as delicious as one produced in Japan so I prefer to use radishes. )

Vegetable Suggestions That You Can Get Easily

  • Romain lettuce
  • Bok choy (if it’s reasonable)
  • Napa cabbage (if it’s reasonable)
  • Green cabbage
  • Brussels sprout
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Radish
  • Carrot
  • Turnip
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Onions
  • Scallions
  • Leeks (if it’s reasonable)
  • Potato
  • Tomato
  • Mushroom

When you cook vegetables, cook the root vegetables or hard ingredients first and then add leafy greens or easy-cook ingredients such as Tofu.

Dashi Broth

Since Nabe is a simple dish that you’ll enjoy the ingredients themselves, it’s better to use authentic Dashi broth to create a rich gentle savory Japanese flavor in the soup despite I add chicken soup powder or hondashi powder.

Besides, you can damp a piece of dashi kelp in purified water before going to bed so why not?

When using dashi broth, it can provide a complex savory soup combined with chicken broth and vegetable broth ingredients so you can make delicious soup the next day.

Indeed, the dish called “Shime” in Japanese is commonly adding rice or noodles in the last to enjoy the delicious soup


Hondashi powder or Chicken stock will be used to adjust the soup flavor.

Taste the soup after making chicken broth and add hondashi powder to make “Japanese” soup or add Chinese chicken broth to make “Chinese” soup.


I don’t use a dipping sauce like “ponzu” sauce, so I also add soy sauce to the broth.


Kiritanpo is the local traditional food in Akita prefecture, Japan, made from roughly mashed cooked rice on a skewer.

Make rice balls and wrap them around wooden skewers while turning the skewer so that the rice covers nicely around the tip.

To serve Kiritanpo, remove the rice ball from the skewer, and slice and throw it into a “Nabe” dish.

Kiritanpo will absorb a rich savory soup and the rice will not be mushy since they’re broiled.


Shime Rice OR Noodles

Although we have no room for extra food in our stomachs, “Shime” food is typically served after all ingredients have gone.

Shime literally means “close up” in this term, so, literally the food for finishing up the Nabe dish while enjoying the savory soup.

Commonly, shime food is,

  • Rice and beaten egg
  • Udon noodles
  • Ramen noodles

Speaking of ramen noodles, Korean ramen noodles are suitable for Shime noodles since they are strong, thick, and made for stewing.

Dipping Sauce

Especially, for a Japanese hot pot dish such as “Torisuki”, “mizutaki” which is made of simple clear broth, Ponzu sauce is preferably used as the dipping sauce.

Ponzu Sauce is a tangy citrus soy sauce-based sauce made of citrus juice (sudachi, yuzu, and kabosu), vinegar, soy sauce, sugar or mirin, and dashi.

Its refreshing flavor goes well with the simple ingredients so it’s the perfect condiment for the simple Toridango nabe.

Also, Gomadare is a popular dipping sauce for the nabe dish. Generally, gomadare sauce is said for pork, but, it goes well with any hot pot dish.



Chicken and “yuzu kosho” are the perfect combination to add a unique tangy flavor.

Personally, I just top yuzu kosho with chicken balls and tofu without dipping sauce.

You can make homemade Yuzu kosho with limes despite it being called Yuzu-kosho.

For the recipe, check out this post later!

Make Yuzu(lime) kosho from now since it takes a minimum of 1 week to get well combined.

Other popular garnishes are


Japanese Hot Pot Recipe: Chicken Ball Nabe

Rico McConnellRico McConnell
This Chicken ball nabe, which my family calls TORIDANGO NABE, is my mom's specialty and cozy, healthy, savory winter food. Making TORIDANGO is super-easy to make, minced onions give sweet flavor and you can't miss adding ginger to a delicious hint in the ball and soup.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 2 servings


  • 1 Donabe pot or cast iron pot or deep skillet
  • 1 Food processor/ mini chopper
  • 2 spoons


Chicken Balls

  • 1 Chicken breast (12 oz), roughly chopped *for about 12 chicken balls
  • 1 tbsp Shio koji *regular salt to substitute for shio koji
  • 1 TSP potato/ corn starch
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 0.2 oz ginger *5 slices of ginger
  • ¼ onion, roughly chopped

Dashi Broth

  • 1 Dashi kombu *2 X 5 inches
  • 1 quart purified water
  • ½ TSP Hondashi/ chicken soup powder
  • 1-2 tbsp dark soy sauce *optional

Ingredients Suggestion

  • ½ firm tofu, diced
  • 1 Romaine lettuce, divided into a leafy part and the bottom part
  • 1 Bok choy, divided into a leafy part and the bottom part
  • 2 carrots, sliced


Make Dashi Broth

  • (Cold Brew) Soak the dashi kombu in purified water and refrigerate it overnight.
    (Hot Brew) Soak the dashi kombu in the water for 30 minutes. Turn on the stove over medium-low heat. Turn the heat off and remove the dashi kombu just before the water boils.
    *For more details, read this post.
    how to make kombu dashi, dashi, Japanese dashi, kelp, dashi kelp

Make Chicken Balls

  • In a food processor/ mini chopper, place garlic, ginger, and onion, then mince well.
  • Add chicken breast, the starch, and shio koji, and then, mince until they have combined.
  • In a pot, bring the dashi broth to a boil.
  • Over medium-high heat, scoop a spoonful of ground chicken and roughly roll a ball using another spoon together.
  • Gently, throw the chicken ball into the soup. Repeat making chicken balls with the remaining ground chicken.
  • Simmer chicken balls until they'll be cooked, about 7-8 minutes, depending on the size. Remove all with a skimmer.

Make The Soup

  • Add hondashi / chicken soup powder, and bring to a boil. Add dark soy sauce if desired.

Assemble Nabe dish

  • Place the root vegetables in the soup. Simmer for a while and add the stalks of greens, and mushrooms.
  • Add chicken balls, tofu, and leafy greens.



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Keyword Chicken, dashi kelp, Easy, Ground meat, Healthy, Holiday, Hondashi, Poultry, Traditional, Vegetables
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