Shabu Shabu is a Japanese hot pot dish, Nabemono, with paper-thin sliced beef. It is cooked at the dinner table using a portable gas stove and we eat it as we cook. There are a lot of Shabu Shabu speciality restaurants in Japan, but you can prepare it at home too. The single most important ingredient of the dish is beef. If you can get good quality meat, the rest is not hard at all.
The origin of Shabu Shabu is said to be when a restaurant in Osaka started serving it in the 1950s. It is like Mizutaki and it is still cooked and eaten at the dinner table, but you don’t pack the pot with meat or fish and vegetables like other Nabemono. You dip very thin slices of beef in hot Kombu broth and swirl them around a few seconds. Then you eat the hot meat with sauce. Other kinds of thin meat or fish can be cooked in the same way (and still called Shabu Shabu), such as pork, crab, and blowfish, but beef Shabu Shabu is the most popular one of all.
The cuts of beef could be sirloin, rib eye, chuck eye roll, etc. It depends on how much you would like to spend. The key of choosing the meat is whether it’s marbled well with fat. You may like to eat beef without fat for your steak, but for Shabu Shabu, you need some fat in the meat for tenderness and flavor. Because the beef is barely cooked by dipping in hot broth, meat quality should not be compromised. There are many kinds of branded beef in regions throughout Japan, such as the famous Kobe beef, that could cost $20 or more per 100g (3-4 oz – that’s over $80 per pound!). Now imagine how expensive it would be to eat at good Shabu Shabu restaurants with their mark-ups!
If you have access to Japanese grocery stores, that’s great, they usually carry sliced beef prepared just for Shabu Shabu. You could ask local butcher shop for special cuts, but it may or may not work. You can also try cutting at home by slicing half-frozen beef with a meat slicer or by hand. Cut slowly and be careful not to cut yourself!
We made sesame dipping sauce here, which is a typical sauce for Shabu Shabu. This rich and deep flavor from ground sesame complements well the somewhat simply prepared meat and vegetables. However, you can use Ponzu Sauce for a more refreshing taste if you prefer. We used only a few kinds of vegetables to focus more on beef. If you would like to have more vegetables, just add to it. Read our Mizutaki recipe to know more about Japanese vegetables for a hot pot.
If you have any special occasions or just want to celebrate an everyday dinner, get nice beef and have tasty Shabu Shabu at home!
- 10cm Kombu (dried kelp)
- 1500 ml water
- 3 Tbsp Sake
- 300g beef, sliced very thinly
- 6 leaves nappa cabbage
- 3 white long onions
- 6 Shiitake mushrooms
- 1/2 bunch Kikuna or Shungiku (edible chrysanthemum leaves)
- 4 Tbsp ground sesame seeds
- 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Miso Paste
- 2 Tbsp water
- Mix all the ingredients of the dipping sauce. Set aside.
- In a pot, put dried Kombu in the water, and let it sit for 15 minutes.
- Cut meat into the size you like. Cut cabbage into 2" width pieces, slice white long onion diagonally, cut off the stems of Shiitake mushrooms, and cut Kikuna (Shungiku) into 2" length pieces.
- Heat the pot at medium high heat until the water boils, then take the Kombu out. Turn down the heat to medium low. Add Sake.
- Dip the meat in the simmering broth until the color turns pink. Cook meat and vegetables as you eat.