闇鍋 (やみなべ, yaminabe) is a unique Japanese-style hot-pot “dish” with random ingredients, which are brought by each person who eats the dish (the soup base is usually prepared by the organiser). It is called “闇鍋 (dark hot pot)” because you don’t know what ingredients other people will bring. Obviously, yaminabe is not meant for having a good meal, but rather for a social event that may add a little spice into your mundane life.
In fact, there are no specific rules for 闇鍋, except that each participant brings some ingredients and keeps them secret from the others. As long as participants are prudent enough to bring general ingredients such as meat, fish or vegetables, the meal should taste decent (well, that’s basically how we cook hot pot meals at home). However, as you can imagine, the dish can be a complete disaster with one crazy person involved. Therefore, in order to keep the hot-pot dish at least edible, there are some general and obvious rules regarding what to bring as ingredients, as follows:
- general food (no socks or insects).
- not alive (it’s too cringy)
- not liquid or meltable (no soy sauce or chocolates because they will spoil the soup base)
- not harmful for health (no extra spicy ingredients)
If you are a risk-taker and want to experience more authentic yaminabe, there is one famous rule that may make the event even more enjoyable:
- Everyone puts their ingredients into the pot and eats them in a dark room, so that nobody can tell who puts what into the pot and what they are eating.
Note that if you adopt this rule, you have to eat whatever you pick from the pot; it is the most fun part to see how people react when they’re eating unknown food. In this case, you may also want to ban raw ingredients since you cannot be sure whether the ingredients are cooked or not in a dark room.
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闇鍋 consists of the two kanji characters “闇” and “鍋“. The former means “dark“, and the latter means “hot pot“. Therefore, 闇鍋 literally means “dark hot-pot”, and figuratively describes a hot-pot dish with unknown ingredients.
闇鍋状態 (やみなべ じょうたい)
Sometimes, 闇鍋 is used figuratively as “闇鍋状態“, meaning “yaminabe state”, to describe something that contains a variety of random things. For instance, you can call it 闇鍋状態 if you follow a variety of Twitter accounts from different groups, such as your friends, famous athletes, news media, and fashion brands. You can also use this word when you cook something by putting what you find in the fridge.
I did yaminabe yesterday, and the smell was awful
This folder is full of unrelated files and chaotic (full of random files)
Synonyms in English: a hot-pot dish with a mishmash of ingredients.
Related words and phrases: 闇 (dark), 鍋 (hot-pot; hot-pot dish), 闇鍋状態 (chaotic)