Chanko Nabe – Sumo Soup

ATW with Manu - Sumo Soup

Chanko Nabe

In episode 5 of “Around the World with Manu” I had a wonderful opportunity to join a Sumo training session in Tokyo. These guys were so welcoming — both in the ring and afterwards for a meal, even if they did throw me around a bit!

This soup, Chanko Nabe, is one of the main staples of the Sumo diet. It’s a filling meal and the recipe tends to change depending on the cook, but it’s always enjoyed by the group together.

Serves 6 – 8


  • 40 ml peanut or sunflower oil
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cm piece ginger, cut into fine matchsticks
  • 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 bunches bok choy, divided into leaves and stalks
  • ½ head wombok or green cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 8 – 10 slices fresh or frozen lotus root, optional
  • 2 litres good quality chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp genmai miso paste

For the chicken balls

  • 500 g chicken mince
  • 125 g panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 cm piece ginger, grated
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp mirin

For the Ponzu dressing

  • 125 ml ponzu
  • 100 ml black vinegar
  • 100 ml mirin
  • 50 ml Shao Xing cooking wine
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • ¼ small daikon radish, finely chopped
  • 1 birdseye chilli, finely chopped

To serve, optional

  • 200 g udon or soba noodles
  • 4 soft boiled eggs, halved
  • 1 piece dried kombu, rehydrated and finely sliced


Genmai miso is a fermented soybean paste made with brown rice (genmai) instead of the more traditional polished white rice.

White or red miso can be used if you’re unable to find the genmai variety.


  • To make the ponzu dressing, place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, simmer gently for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and leave to sit so the flavours can meld.
  • To make the chicken balls, place the mince, panko and ginger in a bowl gently mix. Combine egg, soy and mirin in a jug and whisk to combine. Pour soy mixture into the mince and, preferably using your hands, mix until well combined. Roll into 18 – 20 tablespoon sized balls and set aside until required.
  • To make the soup, heat oil in a large stock-pot over a medium heat. Add the leek, garlic and ginger and cook for 1 – 2 minutes, until translucent but not coloured. Add the carrot, bok choy stalks, wombok and lotus root and stir to combine before poring over stock. Add a little extra water if required to cover ingredients, bring to the boil then reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, place a frying pan over medium heat, drizzle with a little oil and add chicken balls in a single layer, but don’t crowd the pan. Cook until just golden but not dark, you just want to seal them and get a little bit of colour. Repeat until all chicken balls are seared, then add to the simmering soup and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender. Stir through the miso and the bok choy leaves and remove from heat.
  • Cook noodles according to packet direction, drain and divide across serving bowls.
  • Ladle stock over the noodles, ensuring you get a little bit of each ingredient in every bowl.
  • Serve with halved soft boiled eggs, a little bit of kombu, and ponzu dressing on the side, so everyone can season the soup to their personal tastes.

ATW with Manu - Tokyo

Don’t miss all my destination tips from my time in Japan!


Comments are closed.