By Raja Shazli
If you’ve stepped into a Japanese barbecue and hot pot restaurant, then you’ve probably had a scrumptious experience feasting on thinly sliced meat that shrivels into these light, juicy strips once you dip it into the hot steaming pot of soup on a burner in front of you.
Here’s a quick guide on how to shabu shabu like a boss and impress not only your friends and families but also have the waiter bowing and wishing “Arigatoo gozaimasu!” to you in respect as you leave.
1. Knowing what’s yours and what’s shared
In the middle of the table you will see a pot of broth that is boiling. Surrounding it there will be the ingredients on plates which consists of vegetables, mushrooms, meats, seafood, tofu, noodles, raw egg, rice in a bowl and a small cup for sauces.
What’s yours: The raw egg, the sauce that you put into your small cup and your bowl of rice.
What’s shared: everything else (yes the broth is communal. You and your group will be dipping from the same pot)
2. What to do with the egg?
Have an empty bowl ready. Crack the egg and pour in the egg yolk into the bowl. Only the egg yolk. Break up the egg yolk using your chopstick and swirl it for a bit, again using the chopstick. You can now use this egg yolk on its own as a dipping sauce or use it as a base and mix in with other sauces to create your very own signature dipping sauce.
3. Start with your greens.
Allow the broth in the pot to come to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer.. Pick out your veggies and add it into the pot to flavor the broth. General rule is that the harder vegetables go in first as it takes longer to cook and leafy vegetables slightly later. Always keep the broth boiling at low heat to avoid overcooking throughout the meal.
4. Mushrooms go in next.
Next is to put in the mushrooms. Typically, you will find shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, and shimeji mushrooms. Be mindful that mushrooms retain water So be careful to make sure it has cooled down before taking in a mouthful. A quick tip is to soak the mushroom into the sauce to dissipate the heat. Also, your mushroom will be more flavorful from the sauce that way.
5. Everything else follows.
At this stage, you can start putting in the seafood, and whatever that is left except for the noodles and sliced meat.
6. Swish-swish… or is it Shabu-shabu
Apparently the name shabu shabu is derived from when the meat gets swished in the broth and gets cooked. To be honest, I don’t hear anything, but Japanese ears would hear “shabu shabu shabu shabu”. To cook the sliced meat, pick it up with a chopstick, dip it into the broth and never let go. Swish it along the broth for about 10 seconds, until the red meat turns brown. Then pull the meat out from the broth and dip it into your sauce. Always use an empty bowl or have your rice bowl below you before putting the meat into your mouth. No bowl below means you are a savage.
7. Time for noodles and soup
Once you’ve gotten your fair share of meat lust fulfilled, add the noodles into the broth and savor in the soup with the noodles. Reason why noodles goes in last is so that you get to enjoy all the other ingredients thoroughly and by the end of it, have the option on whether you should carb load or not.
And then you’re done.
Bonus boss move: As you make your way out and leave the restaurant, wish the waiter “gochisousama deshita” which is something you say to show gratitude to the person who created your meal