Essentially Japan’s version of a hot pot, nabe (pronounced na-bay) is a large, simmering pot of meat and vegetables that’s served during the winter. It typically sits on a portable stove and people gather around it together, keeping warm and enjoying a nice hot meal. One evening in early December of last year, Masanori Kono, who works at a purikura company and runs a flea market in Nakameguro on weekends, decided to have a little fun and get creative with one of the ingredients: grated daikon radish.
Kono sculpted the grated radish into the shape of a polar bear, added a bit of seaweed for eyes and nose and plopped him in the center of his pot. Coining his creation “Polar Bear Nabe,” he posted a picture to twitter, which quickly went viral. Shocked by its popularity, and surprised that no one had ever thought of this first, Kono decided to publish the recipe on CookPad. He also followed up on his creation with other variants that included panda bears, lambs and other white animals soaking in the hot bath.
His online popularity has now landed him a book deal. Hitting shelves this Friday is “Grated Daikon Art” (daikon oroshi art), which features pictures and recipes from Kono’s repertoire. Nabe will never be boring again.