Just how do sumo wrestlers bulk up for their sport? Turns out, it's by eating soup!
Here's a neat article by Tania Kadokura of Saveur magazine about chanko-nabe, a hearty, protein-rich one-pot meal that has been the staple of sumo warriors for over a century:
Today's wrestlers train and live at heya (stables) run by former sumo champions, where everything from their grooming to their diet is carefully controlled. Because strength and size are factors key to success in sumo, what and how much a wrestler eats are of particular importance. No wonder, then, that the staple dish of the sumo world is a hearty, filling one-pot meal, consisting of broth, vegetables, and meat or seafood, called nabemono, or nabe for short. (Nabe, pronounced nah-bay, means pot; nabemono means things in a pot.) The dish likely dates to the Jomons, who inhabited Japan a dozen millennia ago. The inventors of pottery, they were apparently the first people to cook food in pots.
When nabe is prepared by sumo wrestlers, it's called chanko-nabe, a name whose origin is unclear - although since chan means father and ko means child, some believe the term refers to a stable , master and his apprentices. The tradition of sumo wrestlers' eating nabe supposedly began in the early 1900s, when star wrestler ~ turned stable master Hitachiyama ~ (sumo wrestlers traditionally go by a single ring name) made a batch for his charges one day. He quickly realized that the meal ~ usually cooked over a gas burner set on the table with diners gathered around-was not only nutritious and inexpensive but also easy to prepare and eaten in a way that reinforced the communal aspect of the stable. It wasn't long before other stable masters were serving chanko-nabe, too.
(Photo: Christopher Hirsheimer)