Naoko Takei Moore, owner of the specialty Japanese kitchen boutique Toiro in Los Angeles, tells us about the centuries-old culture and history of cooking with traditional ceramic Japanese earthenware pots called donabe.
Your store stocks all sorts of donabe, and carries the very best. What makes for a good-quality donabe?
It depends on where it’s made, but the kind I know and prefer to carry is from the Iga Prefecture in Japan. Iga pottery is considered to be the best donabe. The clay from there is really special and consistently the most durable, because the entire region of Iga used to be Lake Biwa four million years ago. That clay contains a lot of fossilized microorganisms from the prehistoric era. It makes the clay pot porous, which gives it durability and promotes higher heat retention. The clay is also fired twice for about twelve hours at extremely high temperatures, more than two thousand degrees Fahrenheit.
How did you come to be a donabe specialist?
As a Japanese person living in L.A., I wanted to do something to really connect these two cultures. Something like donabe, which I grew up eating, most people didn’t really know anything about. Hotpot and food cooked in a donabe really symbolizes Japanese communal dining culture and comfort food in a way. At first, it was really hard because donabe was never really recognized as a category of cooking or food in the States, and nobody could pronounce donabe. Maybe, if you went to a Japanese market, you’d find a donabe, but it’s most likely a cheap, mass-produced, machine-made kind.
Does donabe originate from a specific region of Japan, or is it more widespread?
If you go back in history, the original donabe, which simply translates to clay pot, was made more than ten thousand years ago, but the kinds we know now are hundreds of years old. Back in the Edo period, which is roughly two hundred to four hundred years ago, people used donabe regularly as an everyday household item in the kitchen, and not necessarily for hotpot. It wasn’t until maybe after World War II that hotpot became a mainstream thing shared together, with the family surrounding the table.
The donabe is really widespread—I would say it’s like a national cookware for Japanese people. Every household owns at least one. Throughout the country, I’ve never heard of anyone who doesn’t like hotpot because you can be so creative with it. It can be as simple and reasonable or as complicated a dish as you want.
What are some of your favorite dishes to cook in a donabe?
The only thing you cannot do in a donabe is deep-fry, but other than that, you can basically use it to cook anything you can think of. It’s good for the stovetop, and it’s great for the oven. Donabe builds up heat slowly, but once it gets hot, it’ll distribute the heat evenly, and retain heat after you take it off the stove. Of course, the most popular dish to make in it is hotpot, which can involve a variety of flavors and ingredients—but it’s hard for me to say a favorite. I have about twenty different kinds of donabe at home. They’re like my kids, and I don’t want to neglect any one of them. Every day, I’ll try to use a different one, and it’s often the case that I’ll first think of which donabe I want to use. For example, there’s a donabe we use for cooking rice. Last week, I made an Italian-style porcini risotto. Donabe is great for all kinds of food.
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Chefs and restaurant owners everywhere have had to rethink their business models this year, as social distancing and new
Several months into the pandemic, the restaurant industry remains among the hardest hit in the U.S., with scant evidenceparticularly those run by BIPOC entrepreneurs, who have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus-related losses—their fates lie directly in continuing sales. Eat Okra app, founded by New York couple Anthony and Janique Edwards in 2016, which gives a boost of visibility to Black-owned b
The 20th-century futurist, theorist, inventor, and architect R. Buckminster Fuller was a tireless visionary and radical thinker who wrote dozens of books and proposed theoretical designs advocating for Synergetic Stew: Explorations in Dymaxion Dining, a collection of recipes and anecdotes originally compiled by Fuller’s friends as a surprise gift for his 86th birthday
Tamy Rofe, a sommelier who owns Brooklyn’s farm-to-table-y Latin American restaurant Colonia Verde with her husband, Felipe Donnelly, operates by a matra borrowed from her mother: “La comida compartida sabe mejor.” In English, it means, “Food tastes better when shared.” From the eatery’s lived-in aesthetic to its signature Sunday general store,” selling and even delivering nearly every ingredient on its menu alongside prepared meals and grill boxes—a way for Co
Lexie Smith is an artist and baker, though it’s only relatively recently, after years of working in restaurant kitchens and balanciBread on Earth. Her work often takes on various forms, from performance and installation to photography, writing, and publishing, all
After years in various kitchens, working his way up from dishwasher to cook, and ultimately chef de partie at Eleven Madison Park, Matt Jozwiak left the fine-dining world behind in 2017 to start Rethink Food NYC, a nonprofit organization that partners with restaurants and grocery stores to reduce excess food and make nutritious, Ghetto Gastro and Jozwiak’s former boss, chef Daniel Humm—as collaborators in its mission to fight food insecurity and foster a more
Extolled by New York City’s finest restaurants, from Daniel to Eleven Madison Park and abcV, as well as a growing coteriDavocadoguy, is seemingly everyone’s go-to guy for the best avocados. He keeps his supply consistently stocked and perfectly ripene