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Don't Know Shabu-Shabu? Here's a Guide to this Delicious Dish

Don't Know Shabu-Shabu? Here's a Guide to this Delicious Dish

2016.02.16 Bookmark

You may have heard this dish's name, but what is shabu-shabu, exactly? We will explain how to eat it, for people who want to try some in Japan.

Translated by Lester Somera

Written by MATCHA

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Shabu-shabu, a representative of Japanese nabe ryōri (hotpot cuisine) is a dish that can be shared with friends and family. Very thinly-sliced beef is dipped several times in simmering soup, then dipped again in sauce and eaten.

Plenty of Main Ingredients

Typically beef is used in shabu-shabu as the centerpiece, but recently people have been using pork and chicken, as well as amberjack, blowfish, octopus, sea bream, snow crab and other seafood.

How to eat Shabushabu_2

Along with these main ingredients, onions, Chinese cabbage, Japanese radish, carrot, edible chrysanthemum, shiitake or enoki mushrooms, tōfu and other ingredients are all simmered together with the main ingredients.

How to eat Shabushabu_13

If the meat used in shabu-shabu is beef, then it is called "gyū-shabu," and if the meat is pork, it is called "buta-shabu." In most situations, the naming convention is "main ingredient" plus "shabu."

How Do You Eat Shabu-Shabu?


At a shabu-shabu restaurant, a plate of the main ingredient, a hotpot filled with soup extracted from konbu seaweed, and other ingredients are brought to your table. Turn on the burner under the hotpot, and wait for the soup to come to a boil. While you wait, it is a good idea to put your preferred yakumi(※1) and sauce in a saucer.

Shabu-shabu sauces are generally either ponzu(※2) or goma-dare(※3). As for the yakumi, either momiji oroshi (a daikon radish slit open, filled with chili pepper, then grated) or minced onions are popular garnishes. The light pink momiji oroshi and green onions make the food a feast for the eyes.

How to eat Shabushabu_6

Once the soup is boiling, put in the ingredients that do not easily heat all the way through (like onions, daikon radish slices, and tofu). Once it comes to a boil for the second time, take a slice of meat with your chopsticks and swish it around in the soup to heat it, as though you are taking it for a swim. This movement is called "shabu-shabu," and is the reason for the name of the dish.


Beef or seafood can be eaten half-cooked once their color starts to change, but the trick is that pork will reliably cook all the way through in the soup. While the meat is still hot, dip it in the sauce and yakumi and enjoy.

※1……Yakumi: A kind of condiment. Often refers to minced onion or grated radish. Used for enhancing flavors, adding color to stimulate appetite, and depending on the situation, for its sterilization properties.
※2……Ponzu: A refreshing condiment, made from vinegar and soy sauce added to juice from Japanese citrus fruit.
※3……Gomadare: A condiment made by mashing sesame seeds made into a paste, then adding soy sauce, vinegar, rice wine vinegar, sugar and other ingredients.

Shime is the Closer

In Japanese, shime means "the end." In nabe ryōri, shime refers to the addition of a carbohydrate like rice or noodles to the soup, which has absorbed all the flavors of the ingredients. After the shime is eaten, that is the end of the meal.


Photo By Chitaka Chou

As an example, when adding cooked rice, put it in the soup until it becomes slightly soft, then add a beaten egg and cook till it's half-done to make an easy zōsui shime.

For noodles, adding udon (buckwheat noodles) or chūkamen (rāmen noodles) means you can enjoy the soup to the last spoonful.

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