What is Shabu-shabu?
Have you ever heard of Shabu-shabu? Sounds like your dog’s tail whisking the floor? Nope, it’s the sound of stirring Shabu-shabu’s ingredients in this well-known hot-pot dish. Consisting mainly of paper-thin beef slices and many vegetables, the pot of steaming broth is served. The diner selects his choice of ingredients and dips them into the broth. The beef will need mere seconds to be ready – thanks to its exceeding thinness.
Is Shabu-shabu the right thing for you?
Soon after your order, the hot pot arrives and the waiter will be happy to help with your first round of self-boiled beef. Then, you can proceed as you like and enjoy your tasty assortment of beef and mushrooms. Did you ever try Sukiyaki? Do you like it, but find it just a tad bland and a wee bit too sweet? Then Shabu-shabu is definitely your choice, since it is quite close to Sukiyaki, but closer to the chinese original and more savoury and less seet than Sukiyaki.
Is there such a thing as vegan Shabu-shabu?
You fellow vegans out there need not worry – no need for beef, since the vegetable selection at Nabezo, my Shab-shabu restaurant of choice in Ikebukuro is a veritable vegan heaven. I recommend taking the all you can eat buffet starting from 2,400 Yen (Nabezo Course) up to 4,400 Yen (Yapanese Beef and Pork Course) along with the drink flat rate, which does not add a large burden on you funds at 1,500 Yen per person. Shabu-shabu can be enjoyed completely vegan. Be aware that you only have 100 min to eat! On that evening I had my first sake or even two. Lucky me – after the waitresser came to take the last order I had my attention back on my date and not the yummy food!
How to eat Shabu-shabu
And this is how you eat Shabu-shabu: You pick one of you selected raw vegetables or slices of meat and swish-swish (“shabu-shabu”) it around some seconds in your boiling water. Harder or thicker vegetables like pieces of carrots will take longer to boil – just leave them in the broth for a while. Then dip your treat in a sauce. Typically, you might choose Goma-tare for meat and Ponzu for vegetables – but do just as you like. Goma tare is a sesame sauce, Ponzu a soy sauce with a slightly acidic citrus taste.
I was at Nabezo Shabu shabu Ikebukuro during my solo Japan trip (yes, I tried some restaurants all alone – its not as bad as it sounds). If you visit Japan, check out in the restaurant search to find your nearest “hot pot paradise”. This well-established chain of restaurants offers more than 15 branches in Tokyo, 3 in Kangawa and 1 in Saitama. Do visit Ikebukuro – in winter around christmas, if possible – then you can visit the wonderful illuminationsu.