One recent evening we had Shabu Shabu night at our house. Shabu Shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ ), which comes from Japan, is a favorite family meal and we hadn’t had it in a while, so it was time. It also seemed like a good way to celebrate the two year anniversary at Second Act Kitchen. I hope you’ll help me celebrate by sharing this post on facebook or pinterest.
As I chopped the vegetables and other ingredients to prepare for our dinner, I tried to remember the first time I ever had Shabu Shabu. I can’t quite recall the exact occasion, but I’m pretty sure it was when I lived in Washington, DC as a grad student during my first go round in school. Or, maybe it was when I traveled to Japan as a recent college graduate out in the world, looking for future career direction…
But, enough reverie — back to our main story…
Shabu Shabu is a Japanese dish. It’s named for the unexpected sound – shabu shabu — made when you shwish the meat in the boiling stew. You almost whisper the sound when you say it fast, it’s like a secret password uttered quickly when you want to enter the divine world of this simple stew. The cooking liquid has to be hot to cook the ingredients to the right temperature, and the sound is released when you shake the meat in the boiling broth.
Shabu Shabu brings people together, like a good fondue. When you serve it, everyone gathers around the central pot and dips into the broth simultaneously to cook the bite-sized morsels of vegetables and meats. There is some prep time involved because everything has to be cut in advance. However, once you sit down to the table together, all the work is done since the cooking takes place during the meal.
In classic Shabu Shabu, meat slices are shaken in the boiling broth one at a time, and then placed on your individual rice bowl to eat with one of the accompanying sauces. We often “cheat” a little by putting in several pieces of meat at once and when they are cooked, fishing them out with a large strainer spoon that I got at a Japanese market a number of years ago.
To buy the ingredients it helps if you have access to a good Japanese supermarket, or you can buy them on-line. Most Asian markets carry many of the ingredients as well, but sometimes the sauces can be a little hard to locate unless you are shopping in a specifically Japanese store. Throughout my life I’ve learned to make substitutes which makes my version of the dish less authentic, but more available regardless of where you live or shop.
Since the sauces have a long shelf life, I generally stock up a few times a year so that we are always prepared for a Shabu Shabu party with family or friends. I have also made the sauces in the past, but in the interest of time now usually just buy them in the bottle. The sodium content is high in the packaged sauces however, so this is a “sometimes” dish, if you are watching your salt intake.
Finally, if you follow a vegetarian dietary pattern, skip the meat and add sliced seitan, if desired, as an alternative.
Shabu Shabu (serves 4)
- 2 oz. sake
- ¼ cup kombu seaweed (buy in specialty Asian market or online)
- 14 cups water
- 1 packet dashi stock (could substitute 2-3 seafood bullion cubes
Proteins and vegetables:
- 1 ½ lbs Delmonico, ribeye or similar steak, sliced for sukiyaki (ask your butcher for this)
- 3 carrots
- 7 oz. extra firm tofu – cut into ½” cubes
- 10 oz. Japanese buckwheat noodles (3 bunches)
- 3 ½ oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 large bunch watercress, stems removed
- 6-8 scallions, cleaned and cut into 1” strips
- 2 heads of bok choy, bite-size pieces
- 7” piece of Japanese daikon radish, peeled and shred
- 1 bottle Shabu Gomu sauce (buy at specialty Asian market or on-line)
- 1 bottle Ponzu sauce (buy at specialty Asian market or on-line)
- Cooked white rice (for a healthier choice, substitute brown rice)
1. Prepare vegetables and tofu by cleaning and cutting into bite-sized pieces as described.
2. Place a large electric wok (or similar) in the middle of the dining table where Shabu Shabu will be served.
3. Place all cooking broth ingredients in the wok and begin to heat on high until boiling.
4. Fill small bowls at each place with daikon, Gomu sauce and Ponzu sauce (3 separate bowls). Place a small bowl of rice at each place.
5. Guests are seated around the wok and place various vegetables, tofu, noodles and beef in the boiling water as desired. As items cook, they are removed from the broth and can be placed on the rice bowl for a moment to cool. Dip them in the sauces as desired. Daikon radish shreds are eaten as a side dish/garnish.
6. Repeat cooking process until everyone is done. The broth can also be ladled into bowls and consumed, if desired.
Nutrition Information (per serving without sauces or rice): 460 calories; 14 grams fat; 4.5 gram saturated fat; 50 mg cholesterol; 940 mg sodium;* 45 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 36 grams protein (values are approximate). * To reduce sodium, use low-salt noodles.