How to Make Shabu-Shabu

If you’ve been to a Japanese restaurant and had shabu-shabu before, you know it’s delicious and fun to cook. You may have been thinking about how you’d love to make it at home so you could enjoy it whenever you want. A major part of the beauty of shabu-shabu is that it is prepared nabemono (one pot) style, so you don’t need to be a cooking expert or have fancy kitchen equipment. You just need a good sized pot and a few ingredients. Here are some tips on how to make yourself some shabu-shabu:

  1. Make a Broth Base: you can go as basic or as complex as you want. Something as simple and comforting as chicken bouillon can be used. Miso soup is another common option. Other people like a richer, spicier flavor, and use a Szechuan based broth. Or take it up a level with Kimchi. I’ve used store bought broth and I’ve also made my own; it doesn’t matter. It’s up to you. You can go with what’s in your pantry or create something exotic.
  2. Choose a protein: this is one of my favorite parts. It can be anything you like, from tofu or rib-eye to lamb or lobster. You don’t have to use meat if you don’t want to. You can try an all-veggie version, or do a surf-and-turf. Don’t be shy with it! Whatever you’re hungry for will work in a dish like this.If you can slice it thinly, you can put it in shabu-shabu. I have heard that the reason it is thinly sliced is because the dish originated with Genghis Khan’s army. They cut the meat this way to have a short cooking time.This way, they didn’t waste much fuel heating the meat. I’ve also heard that it was invented in a restaurant 1950s, so you can take that story with a grain of salt.
  3. Dip! Once your broth base is boiling, you’re ready to cook! Put your meat on a skewer and dip it into the broth until it’s cooked to your preference (or at least to safety regulations). Leave things like vegetables in the broth even longer to flavor the broth and to get really amazing flavor out of the vegetables. You cook and eat as you go, so everything is warm and delicious. Most places will provide dipping sauces as well. Try soy sauce or a satay. You can also try something spicier or sweeter, depending on what you’ve made and your taste preferences.

The thing I like best about making shabu-shabu is that you literally don’t have to make the same thing twice. You can try different broths, different meats, and different sauces in an endless supply of combinations. It works when you’ve only got a few things in your pantry or for a big dinner party. You can go exotic with something like ostrich meat or crowd-pleasing chicken or beef.

What do you like in your shabu-shabu?