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Dining on Shabu-Shabu

Dining on the delicious meal called shabu-shabu is a great way to warm the belly while enjoying the company of family and friends. The name comes from the sound of the meat being swished around in the broth as it is cooked. This Japanese version of a hot pot is a delightful assortment of meats and vegetables. Meats may include beef, crab, duck, fish balls, or lobster. Vegetables may include Chinese cabbage (hakusai), nori (sea weed), chrysanthemum leaves, welsh onions, green onions, garlic, mizuna, carrots, shitake mushrooms, bean noodles, or lotus root.

Shabu-shabu has a special broth made by boiling (for around 30 minutes) at least three inches of sea kelp (kombu). The broth may also have some saki and salt mixed in. Shabu-shabu comes with two types of sauce.

Commonly, one sauce is made with sesame paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, water, and fine garlic pieces, while the other sauce is a combination of lime juice, soy sauce, and chopped long green onions.

Shabu shabu with freshly sliced pork meat and vegetables

To prepare shabu-shabu, start with the meats, cooking beef first. Submerge a thin slice of meat in the boiling kombu broth until cooked: you’ll know when, because the meat changes color. Then, dip the meat in either one of the two sauces and eat it with rice.

Continue until all the meat is consumed. If foam or impurities form on top of the broth, skim them off. When all the meat has been eaten, add the vegetables into the kombu broth and eat them the same way. The taste of the cooked meat will spice up the kombu broth and give more taste to the vegetables as they cook. All the cooking happens in a big pot placed on a portable stove to keep the broth constantly hot, and it is situated at the center of the table for easy access to everyone.

Shabu-shabu restaurants are all over Tokyo. An example is Shabu-Zen, which was featured in the film Lost in Translation starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Shabu-Zen is known for its tranquil atmosphere and Japanese-chic restaurant design.

The set menus may start at ¥ 3600. Mo Mo Paradise in Shibuya is another popular spot known for its shabu-shabu.  There, customers pay around ¥ 1500 for 90 minutes’ worth of eating shabu-shabu.


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Read all about Japanese immersion learning and studying abroad. Check out our eZasshi archives for more articles!