Shabu-Shabu is Japan’s favourite hot pot

By / Food / April 8th, 2020 / 5
Shabu-Shabu Japanese hot pot

Last month, we discovered Taiyaki, a traditional Japanese dessert. Now we move to the meal and Japan’s favourite hot pot dish, shabu-shabu.

What is Shabu-shabu?

This hot-pot dish gets its odd name from a Japanese onomatopoeic taking the sound of swishing vegetables and meat with chopsticks. The name originated in Osaka in the 1950s when a steak restaurant there began promoting the hot-pot meal. Characterizing the dish is the swishing of thinly sliced meat through broth. According to Live Japan, the belief is that the dish adapts it’s style from a similar, Chinese dish: shuan yang rou. The dish would evolve in Japan to become shabu-shabu.

Making Shabu-shabu

Many recipes call for the use of a special hot-pot bowl, known as a donabe. That said, there is no specific pot needed, as long as you can fill the pot you choose with a great deal of broth.

Shabu-shabu is also recognized for its thinly sliced meat; whether it is beef, pork, or chicken is up to the cook. Set out separate plates for the thinly sliced meat, vegetables and sauces. A pot with broth should also be laid out.

Put the soup, traditionally made from kelp, into a pot of water along with vegetables. Don’t fill the pot with an overabundance of ingredients. Once the broth boils, swish the meat in using a back and forth motion, until it turns colour. Then it is ready to eat along with the softened vegetables!

Dipping Sauces

As important as the broth, the shabu-shabu dipping sauces add additional flavours for the meat and vegetables. The most common types of dipping sauce are a soya-based sauce “ponzu”, and a sesame sauce called goma-tare.

Making Goma-Tare

One traditional sauce used with shabu-shabu is the sesame sauce, goma-tare. Try this recipe from pogogi.

5 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 clove garlic, grated
2 tbsp soy sauce
Dashi (kelp stock)

Mildly toast/fry white sesame seeds. Grind the seeds up in a suribachi (a Japanese mortar and pestle needed to create the proper consistency for this sauce) until they are a paste.

Add garlic, soy sauce and some dashi (kelp stock) until the paste is slightly watery. At this point, the sauce is done; you can season it with other ingredients, like lemon juice or sugar, to cater the flavour to your palate.


Jacob Greenwood is a freelance writer and photographer who followed his journalism goal at Carleton University. When he is not looking up new spicy recipes he is searching for creative ways to use food!

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