The Iga Nabe is made using clay and glaze that are sourced locally from the Iga province of Japan. Iga clay is ideal for Nabe pots, since, in ancient times, the province was completely submerged under Biwa Lake. Accordingly, there is a rich amount of plankton, and other organic matter, within the clay, and when it is fired they evaporate and create tiny holes in the Nabe. The porous structure of the Iga Nabe makes it an excellent choice for hot pot meals, since it retains heat evenly for long periods of time. The Nabe will develop unique characteristics over time with use, and it ages gracefully, developing distinctive “kan-nyu” crack patterns.
Before using the Iga Nabe, it is necessary to follow the Medome, a one-time process that prepares the pot for use. Medome translates literally to “pore stopper” and it is necessary to prevent anything from leaking through the tiny holes in the clay, and will allow the Nabe to properly heat up and maintain temperature. To begin the Medome, first make sure the Nabe is completely dry, especially at the bottom of the pot. If it is wet, it will break when heated. Make a rice porridge by adding already-cooked rice to the pot and preparing it over a low heat. The starch from the rice acts like a glue coating for the Nabe. When the porridge has finished, let it cool down completely for at least an hour, before removing it and rinsing the Nabe out with water. Make sure the Nabe has completely cooled before rinsing or it will break. Now that it has been prepared, enjoy!