Shabu Shabu is a popular Japanese-style hot pot where the meat and assorted vegetables are cooked in a flavorful broth called kombu dashi. Everyone at the table takes part in the cooking and enjoys the ingredients with different dipping sauces. It’s intimate yet casual, and a whole lot of fun!
Reading: shabu shabu recipe
It’s the holiday season and it’s the time for friends and family to get together. What’s the best Japanese meal for this occasion? It’s Shabu Shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ)!
What is Shabu Shabu?
Shabu Shabu is one of Japan’s most popular hot pot dishes along with Sukiyaki. The name “shabu shabu” is Japanese onomatopoeic. It came from the sound when you stir the vegetables and meat with your chopsticks and ‘swish swish’ in the hot pot. It’s a fun meal since everyone sits around the hot pot at the table, cooks together, and eats while you chat, like fondue! A communal dining experience that inspires good appetites and brings people closer together.
How to Prepare and Eat Shabu Shabu
The earthenware pot called donabe (土鍋) is set up on a portable gas stove in the center of the table. Inside is a simple yet umami-packed Japanese stock called Kombu Dashi. The uncooked ingredients are served on two large plates, one for thinly sliced well-marbled beef (or it can be pork), and the other one for vegetables and tofu.
Besides the platters of ingredients, each person is provided with dipping sauces. Typically, there are two types: sesame sauce and ponzu sauce.
Once everyone is seated, you would start cooking with tough vegetables and tofu, following by softer vegetables. Paper-thin slices of meat take only a few seconds to cook. When you want to eat meat, you would pick up a slice with the communal chopsticks, and stir in the broth for a few seconds, and transfer to your own bowl of a dipping sauce.
You can dip cooked vegetables, tofu, and meat in either of your sesame or ponzu sauce. I personally love meat in sesame sauce and vegetables and tofu in ponzu sauce.
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You continue to cook while you eat. There is a set of communal chopsticks to cook ingredients and serve. While cooking, make sure to skim scum and foam on the surface so you can have a more refined taste.
Once all the ingredients are cooked and taken away from the hot pot, you cook udon noodles in the remaining broth and enjoy.
If you dine at a shabu shabu restaurant, a restaurant staff will get you started by cooking a few ingredients first. Don’t hesitate to ask if you are unsure how to go about it. If you’re at home cooking up the hot pot, I hope this post will guide you through everything you need to know to enjoy your first Shabu Shabu experience.
The Key Shabu Shabu Ingredients and Substitute
1. Kombu dashi
There are many different types of dashi (broth) but for shabu shabu we use dashi made from kombu (kelp). It is vegetarian and really easy to make. You can just drop a piece of kombu in a pot of water and let the flavor comes through. That’s it!!
2. Vegetables + Mushrooms
The most commonly used vegetables for shabu shabu are: napa cabbage, shungiku (chrysanthemum greens or tong ho), long green onion (negi), and carrot. You can add other vegetables, like cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, and so on. But it’s worth making a trip to your nearest Asian grocery store for some harder-to-find ingredients like shungiku and long green onion. Chinese and Korean grocery stores usually carry the vegetables. For napa cabbage, you may have luck finding them at major grocery stores like Walmart, Target, Whole Foods etc.
Mushrooms that are often used in this recipe include shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, and shimeji mushrooms. You can use other types of mushrooms, such as button mushrooms, mostly to enjoy the different textures.
3. Thinly sliced meat: beef/pork
The most noticeable difference of having shabu shabu outside of Japan is the quality of meat. It can be difficult to source the same quality meat without paying a high price in the US. Supermarkets in Japan offer great quality beef at regular price. But we make it work!
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Unless there is a well-stocked Japanese grocery store near you, you probably won’t be able to find thinly sliced meat in your local grocery store. So you have to thinly slice the meat yourself. It’s very easy to do, and here’s the tutorial.
How to Thinly Slice Meat
Prepare Shabu Shabu in Donabe
Shabu Shabu is cooked in kombu dashi in a donabe (土鍋), an earthenware pot, on a portal stove. If you don’t own one, you can use a Dutch oven or any large pot. Donabe and Dutch oven keep the contents warm for a long time, so it’s perfect for hot pot. If you own a donabe, this is a great chance to use it. But before you start, you need to season it. Here’s how you get it ready.
How To Season Donabe (Earthenware Pot)
Shabu Shabu – A Quick, Easy, and Healthy Meal All Year Around
As a busy mom, I not only make the hot pot during the holidays but all year around. I love that I don’t have to do the cooking before dinner time. All I need to do is to prepare the ingredients and some simple chopping, and let everyone cook dinner together at the table.
Since all the ingredients are cooked in broth, there is no oil used in the hot pot. It’s a very low-fat meal, and a great way to eat a lot of vegetables. Happy swishing and enjoy shabu shabu all year around!
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
If you are interested in learning about Japanese Hot Pot, check out Nabemono: A Guide to Japanese Hot Pot.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 2, 2011. The post has been updated with a video and new images in December 2018.