What Is Shabu Shabu?



Shabu Shabu is a Japanese variation of the Chinese Hot Pot. “Shabu shabu” derives from the sound and motion of “swishing” the meat or vegetables in a pot of clear broth. Shabu shabu was introduced from China to Japan in the 20th century.

One Dish – Many Names

This is the one dish that has such a universal appeal and with so many different names. Chinese calls it “hot pot”; Japanese “shabu shabu”, French “fondue” and the American “one-pot meal”. The cooking method of the American one-pot meal is substantially different from the others. The American dish is more or less a stew of meats and vegetables cooked over a few hours in a slow cooker.


The basic concept of the dish in Chinese or Japanese cooking is to prepare assortments of thinly sliced meats, seafood, vegetables, tofu, noodles of various sorts. A pot of clear broth is prepared such as broth from lamb bones, a whole chicken, etc. The broth is flavored with salt and sometimes with hot spices. You can get a divider to put in the pot where one side is plain broth and the other is spicy to accommodate different preferences.

A dipping sauce is made of different ingredients depending on the regional preferences. The sauce is salty and savory. It is complemented by garnishes like finely chopped green onions, cilantro and jalapenos.

Take Care of Oneself

A hot pot is placed in the center of the table. Traditional hot pot was fueled by charcoal. Nowadays it’s replaced by an electric cooker for the convenience and hygienic factor.

This is a participatory dish where everyone plays a part in cooking his or her own food. Each chooses what he or she likes to eat and is in charge of swishing the meat and vegetable in the broth for a minute or two. Then the meat and vegetables are dipped in the sauce and consumed immediately.

Best Season for Hot Pot

This dish is more popular in winter because of the heat although it’s gaining popularity all year around.

I often prepare this meal for a group of 6 to 8 people. The best time to enjoy the hot pot is when it’s snowing outside. The temperature difference always makes my friends and family enjoy the meal even more.

The secret of this meal is to have as many colors and textures as possible for the eyes and the taste buds. Presenting the meats, seafood and vegetables on very nice platters is another part of the success formula in hosting a shabu shabu or hot pot dinner.

Give It a Try

I encourage you to give it a try this fall or winter. Please feel free to email me: ricequeen “at” sacredrice “dot” com if you need any help get the right ingredients. 

Happy swishing!

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