Chankonabe – Stew commonly eaten by sumo wrestlers as part of a weight-gain diet

If you think you are in a career rot and want some challenge, sumo-wrestling can be a good career choice. One of the things that define sumo wrestlers in Japan is the discipline. This discipline is in their way of life including their purification process, exercise routine and even in their diet. All these are regulated by strict Japanese tradition.

If you don’t think a sumo career is for you, you can still enjoy the Chankonabe stew that we are going to learn. It is the stew eaten by sumo wrestlers for the purpose of gaining weight. We are talking about big muscles and thick bodies, not a puny weight gain of fats.

The Sumo Way of Life

The sumo wrestlers begin the day in empty stomach. They go without breakfast when they start their training as early as 5am. They eat at 11 am, and it is usually the Chankonabe which is a full meal in itself. It is a stew that can have anything in it, usually different meats, vegetables and even fish, cooked in a soup base of chicken broth. Vegetables may include carrots, napa cabbage, and mushrooms. This is the sumo’s diet – rich in protein that bulks up muscles. Nobody stops at just one bowl. Everyone eats a whole lot of Chankonabe. It is rich, buttery and very flavorful.

After meals, they rest for the afternoon until evening. This is a conscious effort to convert the eaten meal into fats, which is then converted into muscles by exercise.

During tournaments, Chankonabe is exclusively made with chicken, not other meats. This is according to the belief that the sumo should be on two legs, and not on all fours.

Beyond the world of sumo wrestling, Chankonabe is a favorite stew among many, simply because it is hearty and easy to make, with no defined ingredients to follow.


  • Chicken thigh, 10 oz., cut into cubes of 3 cm.
  • Cabbage, 7 oz., core removed, cut into squares.
  • Daikon giant radish, 5 oz., peeled and cut into quarters, then cut into thinner slices 5 mm.
  • Shitake mushrooms, 4 pcs., halved.
  • Japanese leek (negi), 1 pc., cut in an angle 4 cm. long and 3 mm. thick.
  • Carrot, ½ pc., top removed, peeled, sliced half lengthwise, then sliced into 4mm. strips.
  • Ground white sesame seeds for garnish.

For the broth:

  • Dashi stock, 5 cups.
  • Soy sauce, 1 tbsp.
  • Salt, 1 tsp.


  1. For the dashi stock:
    • Boil 6 ½ cups water.
    • Add 18 grams of katsuo-bushi.
    • Or dried bonito flakes if preferred.
    • Reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 2 minutes.
    • Strain through a sieve.
  2. Add the chicken to the sieved dashi stock, bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 mins. Remove the froth on the surface.
  4. Add soy sauce and salt into the pot.
  5. Add the daikon and carrots into the pot.
  6. Add the shitake mushrooms.
  7. Cover the pot and let simmer for 5 mins.
  8. Add cabbage and leek, and simmer for 3 minutes.
  9. Check if cabbage is tender, and then check if taste is okay. Add soy sauce and salt if needed.
  10. Serve steaming hot, garnish on top with ground white sesame seeds.

In the sumo world, this hearty Chankonabe is served according to seniority. The senior rikishi and guests of the heya receive their servings first. The junior wrestlers enjoy what is left.

In our world, it is good to practice this discipline when having meals. Serve our parents first, and then children last. Giving honor and respect is good tradition anywhere and everywhere.


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