One of our favorite meals out is shabu shabu, a style of Japanese hotpot. In a shabu shabu restaurant, a pot of broth simmers on a tabletop burner and the diner cooks his or her own meat, veggies, noodles, and tofu in said pot. The name shabu shabu is onomatopoeia for swish swish, the purported sound of swirling meat in the cooking liquid.
A split shabu shabu pot is pretty common, with two sections for two different broths. Our local shabu shabu joint called Dontei offers several choice of broth. We’re fans of the spicy one, and not so much fans of the “delicate” (bland) broth, which consists of water with a single piece of konbu seaweed inside. After the spicy broth our second choice is a salty/sweet liquid that’s actually used for sukiyaki. To Americans sukiyaki looks a lot like shabu shabu, but there are a few subtle differences: sukiyaki meat is slightly thicker than shabu shabu, and the meat is usually dipped in lightly beaten raw egg just before eating. Also, the most important difference: Dontei won’t let you get spicy shabu shabu broth and sukiyaki broth in the same pot, even in different sections. So after our last visit, we decided that it was time to make shabu shabu at home, on our terms.
First, I set out to buy the special equipment. I picked up a tabletop burner fueled by cans of liquid propane gas at the hardware store, Konan [in Honmoku Front shopping center, same building as Sanwa grocery store]. These burners are available at any hardware store in Japan, plus several larger grocery stores. In the US, Asian markets like HMart sell them. I paid about 2000 yen for the burner, or around $18 USD.
The LPG cans are available everywhere: hardware stores, grocery stores, and even 100 yen stores like Daiso. And yes, they’re really called My Bombe.
And how about this awesome split pan!
I agonized over this purchase for a while before committing. Do I really need a pan for only one thing? Yes, yes I do. I went with the slightly fancier version from Aeon department store (sort of like the Japanese Macy’s). The absolute cheapest pots have a curved metal divider welded into place, and every review on Amazon Japan mentioned leaks between the two sections. The cast version that I bought was around 4000 yen, or about $37 USD. The cheaper, welded version wasn’t that much cheaper at 3000 yen, or $28 USD.
Then I assembled my ingredients.
For the spicy stock: chicken stock, gochujang pepper paste, and miso.
For the sukiyaki stock: sake (酒), mirin (みりん), soy sauce (しょゆ), and sugar.
Two different kinds of noodles: kanzashi (かんざし), a hand-cut udon wheat noodle with thicker ends; and harusame (はるさめ), glass noodles made from starch and water.
Thinly sliced beef and pork; in a Japanese grocery store look for しゃぶしゃぶ (shabu shabu) on the label.
I found sesame shabu sauce (goma shabu, ごましゃぶ）and yuzu shabu sauce（pon shabu, ぽんしゃぶ）in the condiments aisle.
I also cubed up firm (momen, もめん）tofu, which sadly did not rate its own photo.
And finally, the veggie platter: enoki mushrooms, carrots cut into thin diagonals, sliced cabbage, and mizuna chopped into 3 inch (10 cm) pieces.
So here are all of the components, ready to cook!
I’ll admit that it’s a lot of work to get all of this together, especially the first time. But now that we’ve done it a few times at home, it’s actually a pretty quick meal to pull together. It helps that I always have ingredients like chicken stock, soy sauce, mirin, sake, miso, and gochujang on hand. So a quick stop at the grocery store for meat and a few veggies means a little chopping, and dinner is ready to go.
As we pull the cooked meat, veggies, and tofu out of the broth we use a bowl of cooked rice to catch the juices. Then it’s a quick dip in shabu sauce.
Followed by lots of dishwashing.