Shabu Shabu- A Food Post

I love shabu shabu although I’m not sure if I like eating it as well as the motions of making it. A Japanese equivalent of the Chinese Hot Pot, this dish gets its name from the sound of the stirring motion in the hot liquid and means “swish swish.” On our recent trip to Niseko, I ordered shabu shabu so the rest of the family could give it a test drive. Here are the results of the taste test:

The Raw Ingredients

I ordered pork shabu shabu with tempura. The covered dish contains boiling water for cooking the raw meat and vegetables pictured above. What you can’t see – because I apparently neglected to include in the picture – is a small bowl with a delicious broth.

Instructions go something like this. Drop the various raw vegetables, tofu and whatever else is given- usually it’s seasonal- in to the boiling water. Then take a piece of meat with the chopsticks and swirl in the boiling water until it turns white.

Once the meat is cooked- it is then dipped in the bowl of broth (again- not pictured) and eaten. Shabu shabu presents a challenge for the chop stick challenged. I consider myself victorious when a food makes it from the raw plate, through the cooking phase, to the bowl dipping phase, and then my mouth without getting dropped along the way and/or splashing everyone at the table. In fact, everyone else considers that a success also as I’m considered the chop stick rookie in the family.

The Offspring made it through the raw meat arriving at the table, and thought the taste was acceptable but balked at the straining the fat off the boiling water phase.

The fat does rise to the top and needs to be scooped with a special spoon. It is then discarded in another bowl. That put the Offspring off permanently on shabu shabu. Which meant more for me.

The final stage involves cooking the noodles and finishing with drinking the broth. I love an action packed meal.

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20 Responses to Shabu Shabu- A Food Post

  1. Lisa says:

    I love Shabu Shabu. It makes me a little homesick for Japan.


  2. Bob says:

    I am a huge fan of Asian Cooking techniques. The thin slices of meat just seem to melt in the mouth. Tasty thin perfection!


  3. What kind of food does your family eat at home? Are you eating a more Japanese diet there too?


    • amblerangel says:

      Oh no- you asked….We purposely moved outside of the traditional ExPat area of Tokyo and in doing are outside of the realm of convenient access to International grocery stores. I made the decision upon arriving that we would convert to Japanese food since the ingredients would be more accessible. Since my kids don’t know what “good” Japanese food tastes like, they don’t know the difference. It has worked out well. I’ve got a few good cookbooks. I make an “American” meal once a week- however that can be more of a hassle than it’s worth since meat is VERY EXPENSIVE here. Cooking Japanese is less expensive than any other form of fare. (Tokyo has the highest cost of living in the world- 2 stalks of celery cost about 6 US dollars, a head of lettuce about the same, a pot roast 20 US dollars) That said- I’m in the minority.


  4. That’s really interesting! I’d heard of shabu shabu but didn’t know what it was. Thank you for explaining!


  5. We did the hot pot in Vietnam, though I was not as huge a fan as Sara. I have to confess that I’m not a very daring eater–(though this does not necessarily require daring). When I’m living in a new country, I’m afraid I crave comfort foods from home–the hamburger topping the list. Not a very sophisticated palate, I know. So sad!


    • amblerangel says:

      There is always a debate in the travel magazines about travelers taking along breakfast bars and pbj to destinations instead of eating the local fare. I say “Know thyself.” More important to get out there and mix and mingle than to worry about making yourself nauseous. Especially when the snack food includes dried whole fish….


  6. That looks great. I have once tried the hotpot in Hong Kong. And the cooking is similar except for the broth you mentioned.


  7. Sounds and looks absolutely delicious. I bet it’s a healthier diet as well. Interesting that there is a Chinese influence as well. Now I’m hungry 🙂


  8. Michi says:

    Mmmmmmmmmmmm. I need to get over to Japan. Even if just for the food!


  9. Your posts are making me want to travel to Japan and this last one just did it again.


  10. Your enthusiasm for Japan and the Japanese culture is definitely showing in your posts. I also believe if you are going to live in a foreign country, you need to embrace the culture and experience as much of it as you can while you are there.

    Another question: Do you think the Japanese diet is having an effect on your family’s health i.e. improving it? Or were you all pretty health conscious back home?


    • amblerangel says:

      I agree wholeheartedly about embracing the culture. It also gets reflected back people’s reaction to you. Absolutely we’re eating healthier. In general, the health of the Japanese is better than say the Americans. The younger generations are starting to suffer from “Western” negative diet influences- primarily smoking,high sugar diet, and the import of American fast food chains. That being said, the diet is still much healthier- very little meat, much more chicken and fish, a better balance of ingredients in a meal- for instance the protein portion is only 1/5th of the overall meal with the rest being vegetables and rice. There is a lot of tofu consumed as the meat portion. Some fried food in the form of Katsu but not a lot in general and the “fast food” is the same stuff that’s eaten at home- healthy. Also, the Japanese don’t like a very sweet taste so the cakes, snack foods etc are all much less sweet than what we’re used to. Even the American cereal is altered to fit a Japanese palate. SO-I think our sugar consumption has dropped dramatically, so has our consumption of processed foods- just because there aren’t many. (snack food the kids like) I think we’ve basically converted to a well rounded healthy diet. The amazing thing is – the food tastes great!


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