Sumo Stew (Sumo Stew)Sumo Stew (Sumo Stew) © Copyright

Sumo Stew

This fat-bloke-in-a-nappy look is harder to achieve than it seems. It's all thanks to a remarkably healthy, ancient dish. 

Sumo wrestlers have the most fat-free body mass of any professional athletes.*

Surprised? Us too. They train just as hard as other sportsmen, but the aim is not to get lean and ripped. They want to build strength and mass around the middle of the body, which gives them stability in the ring. At the same time, they have to maintain high levels of flexibility and stamina. This is not easy, so over the centuries they've developed techniques to help them achieve this unusual sporting goal. One of these is eating chanko - also known as 'sumo stew'.

This traditional dish is high in nutrients but has a low fat content. It’s a broth loaded with vegetables and protein (such as chicken, beef or salmon), and is usually served with rice. Sumo wrestlers live disciplined and regimented lives, and they build bulk through strategic eating, rather than snarfing down fatty foods. Eating is an integral part of their training and development. They down huge bowls of chanko very quickly, twice a day, as this is thought to be the best way to build mass without fat.

Maybe next time you look at a sumo wrestler, you won’t see a fat bloke but a finely tuned athlete.

* R Kenji Tierney, Asia Pacific Journal of Sport and Social Science


Sumo Stew Recipe ()


What’s in Sumo Stew?

Chicken is traditional, as it has two feet – and the sumo wrestler aims to stay on his


■ 1 daikon (white radish)

■ 2 carrots

■ 10 fresh shiitake mushrooms

■ 1kg chicken-thigh fillets

■ 2 potatoes

■ 300g enoki mushrooms

■ 1 bunch garlic chives (nira)

■ 3 Japanese leeks (negi)

■ 1⁄2 Chinese cabbage (hakusai or wombok)

■ 2 blocks thick-fried tofu

■ 1⁄2 cup miso paste (optional)

■ 1kg udon noodles

■ 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, rough ground

Miso tsukune (meatballs)

■ 600g minced chicken

■ 4 spring onions, finely chopped

■ 1⁄4 cup miso

■ salt

Soup base

■ 2 litres (8 cups) dashi stock

■ 2 tbsp soy sauce ■ 2 tbsp mirin

■ 2 tbsp sake




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