Shabu shabu is a popular Japanese dish. It consists of thinly sliced meat and a variety of vegetables and sauces boiled like “hot pot” style in a skillet on the table. Several versions of the dish can be found in Korean as well as Chinese culinary but are still similar to the Japanese hot pot. This particular recipe consists of sirloin beef, carrots, mushrooms, tofu, Chinese cabbage and kelp, but the vegetables can be replaced for other similar ones. Japanese people often include noodles like udon or mochi and serve the entire thing with a bowl of steamed white rice.
The term shabu shabu imitates the sound you make as you gently swish the chopstick-held morsels of raw meat in the steaming broth. The dish is related to sukiyaki in style, however, shabu-shabu is considered to be more savory and less sweet than sukiyaki.
- Meat: Choose sirloin for beef shabu-shabu, or lamb loin rib. The meat should be well marbled, so it will be tender when cooked in boiling water. Have the butcher cut the meat into paper-thin slices. This might be difficult to do at home, even with frozen meat. You may have to cut each slice in half crosswise, depending on size. This makes the meat slices become conveniently one-bite sized. Do not simmer slices so large that they are unwieldy as cooked morsels.
- Shiitake mushrooms: Notch decorative crosses into the caps. If extremely large, cut caps in half.
- Long onions (or green onions): Cut diagonally into 1 1/2-inch (4cm) lengths.
- Chinese cabbage: Trim bottom of the cabbage and separate 6 whole leaves. (Use rest of head in another recipe.) Wash, then parboil whole leaves till tender for about 2-4 minutes in ample water in a large pot. Drain, salt lightly, and pat dry. Using a bamboo mat, roll cabbage leaves (optional), and cut into rounds, or just use leaves without rolling.
- Edible chrysanthemum leaves: If springs are extremely long, cut in half for easier handling when cooking.
- Tofu: Cut tofu into 1 1/2-inch (4cm) squares and arrange them on a platter.
- Wheat gluten (fu): Soak for about 5 minutes in water. Squeeze out moisture and use.
- Bamboo shoot: If using canned bamboo, wash thoroughly (remove bitter, limelike deposits between interior ridges), parboil and cut into half-moon slices about 1/4 inch (7.5mm) thick.
Prepare sauces and spicy condiments just before serving. The green onion can be chopped a few hours ahead of time and refrigerated, but the grated white radish must be prepared immediately before serving.
Arrange the slices of meat attractively so that each slice can be easily picked up with chopsticks or fondue fork. Arrange vegetables on a second platter in the same way, or separate the meat and vegetables on different platters. It only takes 5 minutes to arrange the platter if all ingredients have been prepared.
Cooking at the table: Put a 4-inch (10cm) square of giant kelp (kombu) in a large donabe casserole or hoko-nabe (Mongolian hot-pot). Wipe first with a damp cloth to clean, and slash it in few places to release flavors. Fill the donabe or hot-pot with 2/3 full of fresh water. (In the event that kelp is unavailable, make a light bouillon with Chinese cabbage, carrot, fresh mushrooms, etc.)
Bring to a boil, remove kelp just before it boils then simmer gently for 3 to 4 minutes. Do this on the kitchen stove, then transfer the pot to the heating unit on the table at the last minute, or you can also cook it on the table heating unit itself.
Each diner should have chopsticks or a fondue fork. Since there are two dips, you should have two dipping bowls available for each diner. Spicy condiment is mixed into ponzu sauce for taste, but finely chopped green onion is only added to sesame sauce. Each diner picks up a piece of meat from the serving platter and swishes it to and fro, thus shabu-shabu-ing, in the simmering broth until the red meat becomes pink. Occasionally skim the broth to keep it clear of foam. When meat and vegetables have been finished, ladle the broth into bowls and serve lightly salted with a bit of chopped onion.
How can we enjoy the meal more? Preparing the shabu-shabu on our own on top of our table is already exciting in itself but we can also enjoy it more if we start the meal with an appetizer, then proceed to the shabu-shabu with the flameproof casserole set on a heating unit on the table. When all the meat and vegetables are finished, you may drink the broth from cups. Noodles may be added to the broth in the casserole and served in hot broth to each diner. Enjoy this dish with Japanese drink hot sake, cold beer, or hot green tea. If you want to drink wine, choose a dry red. For dessert, offer everyone a piece of fruit or a simple sherbet or ice.
In Japan, shabu-shabu is a great party dish, served at home on real occasions, in part because the high-quality beef required is expensive. But, in the East and West, this dish is a treat that guests will long remember. Serve in a donabe casserole or a Mongolian hot-pot. Preparing and eating shabu-shabu with family and friends is truly an enjoyable treat that everyone will surely love!