What is shabu-shabu?
A cooking method that could be used for meat as well as other ingredients and draws out the juiciness of natural ingredients
Shabu-shabu is a type of a nabe (hotpot) dish, where ingredients such as vegetables and thinly cut meat and seafood are immersed into boiling water or dashi soup and left to stew a couple of times. Then, ingredients such as tofu, vegetables, kuzukiri (cold kuzu noodles) are also stewed together, and then eaten by dipping them into a sauce. The dashi soup stock used in shabu-shabu in principle is kombu seaweed soup stock. Kombu is added into the nabe filled with water, warmed at a low heat thoroughly, in order to draw out the juiciness of the kombu. The kombu is taken out immediately before the water starts boiling. In recent times, shabu-shabu that uses soymilk and sukiyaki soup stock has also become popular. Ponzu vinegar and sesame sauce are the most commonly used sauces. However, original unique sauces, such as sauces made with sesame oil, nam pla fish sauce, and anchovy are also popular. Shabu-shabu that uses beef is called “gyu-shabu”, and those that use pork are called “buta-shabu”. The meat that is used is fresh meat that could also be eaten raw.
Shabu-shabu that uses ingredients other than meat includes those that use seafood such as yellowtails, blowfish, octopus, sea bream and snow crab. You can enjoy shabu-shabu throughout the year, and in a wide variety of ways; from high-end restaurants that use branded meat to restaurants that provide all-you-can-eat shabu-shabu at reasonable prices. As ponzu vinegar and sesame sauce became widely available in stores, shabu-shabu became a popular household meal due to its easy preparation method.
Although its history is short, shabu-shabu is a traditional Japanese nabe nabe dish enjoyed throughout the year.
There is a theory that shabu-shabu actually came from China, and that it is a hot pot dish from Beijing called shuàn yáng ròu. It is a dish eaten by dipping stewed mutton into a thick sauce. Japanese immigrants who returned from China after World War II introduced this dish to Japan. It then transformed to become a dish aimed at Japanese people, with the meat used changing from mutton to beef, and the sauce changing to soy sauce based. This nabe dish brought from China was invented by Chuichi Miyake in 1952, who was working at the head restaurant of Suehiro in Eiraku-cho, Osaka. At the time, Chuichi Miyake saw a Suehiro employee wash a wet towel using a basin, and thought that it was similar to the movement of immersing meat in hot water in a nabe pot. Therefore, he named the dish after the onomatopoeia of water splashing, “shabu-shabu”. Additionally, one of the reasons why this dish was invented was to become a countermeasure against the summer period when yakiniku (grilled chicken) doesn’t sell as well. Although shabu-shabu is presently eaten throughout the year, it was initially a summer dish.
There are several techniques in obtaining dashi soup stock
The basic kombu dashi soup stock is made by combining water and kombu in a nabe pot and leaving it for 30 minutes. Kombu dashi soup stock is completed by heating it as it is, and then removing the kombu once the water is boiled. In order to add flavor during this process, there are instances where dried bonito shavings are added. Its eating method is immersing the meat into the dashi soup stock twice or three times once the dashi soup stock has boiled, to cook the meat slightly. When the meat turns light pink, it is at its softest and most delicious state. Cooking the meat too much will harden the meat and will not be that delicious. However, depending on the meat used (such as pork or chicken) there are times when the meat has to be properly cooked. When the meat soup stock exudes, vegetables are added to stew. It is recommended to stew the vegetables in the order of the time it takes to cook (such as carrots, shiitake mushrooms, and the white part of Chinese cabbage). When stewing the meat and the vegetables, small grey bubbles will start to appear on the surface of the dashi soup stock. This is called aku (scrum) and is an unnecessary component that gives bitterness, roughness and a foul smell to the food ingredients. Frequently removing scrum using a special skimmer will make the shabu-shabu more delicious.
Shabu-shabu can be enjoyed with regional branded meat or regional specialties that are well known.
There are many types of meat produced that are suitable for shabu-shabu, such as Matsuzaka beef from Mie prefecture, Yonezawa beef from Yamagata prefecture, and Omi beef from Shiga prefecture – the three great Japanese beefs – as well as Kobe beef from Hyogo prefecture, branded pork such as mochibuta pork, sangen pork, kurobuta pork, and Agu pork. Since shabu-shabu can be eaten nationwide throughout the year, you should try the meat you like.
Go to the top of the page
- Shabushabu is also considered a nabe dish. For articles on nabe, click here.
- A meat nabe dish where the mixed seasoning in the sauce is boiled and infuses the meat and vegetables with intense flavor.
- Because mixed seasoning is not used unlike sukiyaki, the basic taste depends on its soup stock.