Shabu-Shabu: Discover the Simple, Social and Sumptuous Feast

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Shabu-shabu is a Japanese hot pot dish where you cook thinly sliced meat and vegetables in a broth made of water and “dashi.” It’s a very popular dish that’s enjoyed by many in Japan, and it’s perfect for sharing with friends and family.

The dish is related to sukiyaki in style: both consist of thinly sliced meat and vegetables and served with dipping sauces. However, Shabu-shabu is considered to be more savory and less sweet than sukiyaki.

So, let’s look at the history and culture of this amazing dish!

What is shabu shabu

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Shabu-shabu: A Delicious, Social and Sumptuous Feast

What is Shabu-shabu?

Shabu-shabu is a Japanese hotpot dish that is both delicious and fun! It’s a great way to get together with friends and family and enjoy a unique and tasty meal. Plus, it’s super easy to make and even easier to eat. So why not give it a try?

Where to Find the Best Shabu-shabu Restaurants?

If you’re looking for the best shabu-shabu restaurants in Japan, then look no further than Savor Japan. They have the best listings of hotpot restaurants and more.

5 Restaurants in Tokyo to Enjoy Shabu-shabu

Ready to give shabu-shabu a try? Here are 5 restaurants in Tokyo where you can get your fill of this delicious dish:

  • Kyoto Hyoki Ginza Main branch (Higashi-ginza): Here you can enjoy a meal with attentive service in a comfortable and purely Japanese atmosphere. The recommended menu items are the Hyoki Specialty Pork Dashi Shabu Kaiseki (4,500 – 14,000 JPY) and Hyoki Specialty Beef Dashi Shabu Kaiseki (6,000 – 15,000 JPY). Dashi is an essential part of Japanese cuisine, and by cooking the meat and vegetables in this special dashi, you can truly appreciate the taste of the ingredients and the high quality of the dashi.
  • Sukiyaki Kappo Yoshizawa (Ginza): This restaurant offers shabu-shabu and sukiyaki made with high quality wagyu. All the seats are in private rooms, and the staff will prepare your food for you. The Shabu-Shabu (A la carte) (6,000 JPY (plus tax)) comes with ponzu and a special sesame seed sauce. The meat is handled by an expert from when it is stocked until it is sold, and is aged to preserve its quality.
  • YUKYU-NO-KURA Koji & Shabu-Shabu Cuisine Ginza Rokuchome Namiki-dori Main branch (Ginza): This restaurant specializes in cuisine using koji (rice mold). They use branded wagyu and koji-fed branded pork, and offer a choice of 3 types of dashi for the hot pot, including one made from sake. The Sake Shabu-Shabu Course with Salt and Koji Sangen Pork (w/ 2-hour all-you-can-drink) (6,500 JPY) is a must-try.
  • Shabu-Shabu Kappo Kichisen (Ginza): Here you can enjoy shabu-shabu made with high quality wagyu beef and vegetables. The recommended menu item is the Shabu-Shabu Course (6,000 JPY (plus tax)) which comes with a variety of vegetables, including mushrooms, and a special dipping sauce.
  • Shabu-Shabu Kappo Kichisen (Ginza): This restaurant offers shabu-shabu made with high quality wagyu beef and vegetables. The recommended menu item is the Shabu-Shabu Course (6,000 JPY (plus tax)) which comes with a variety of vegetables, including mushrooms, and a special dipping sauce.

The Fascinating Origins of Shabu-Shabu

From China to Japan

It all started with a Chinese hot pot dish called “instant-boiled mutton” (Shuàn Yángròu). Fast forward to the 20th century when the restaurant “Suehiro” opened in Osaka and they invented the name “Shabu-shabu”. It quickly became popular in the Kansai region and by 1955 it was all the rage in Tokyo.

Taking Over the World

Shabu-shabu has become a beloved dish in Japan, but it’s also popular in “Little Tokyos” all over the world. From the US and Canada to Taiwan and South Korea, this hot pot dish is a hit!

The Best Part

The best part about Shabu-shabu? It’s super easy to make! All you need is a pot of boiling water, some thinly sliced meat and vegetables, and you’re good to go. So grab your chopsticks and get ready to slurp up some deliciousness!

Everything You Need to Know About Shabu Shabu

The Equipment

If you’re looking to get your shabu-shabu on, you’ll need a few key items. First, you’ll need a nabe, which is like a big ol’ Japanese pot. Then, you’ll need a way to cook it up. If you’re at home, a portable burner or hot plate will do the trick. But if you’re feeling fancy, some shabu-shabu restaurants have induction heating cooktops built into their tables.

You’ll also want to have:

  • A ladle for scooping out hard-to-grab items like noodles
  • A skimmer for skimming froth off the top of the broth
  • A pair of cooking and serving chopsticks (so you don’t double dip!)
  • A bowl of dipping sauce for each person (so everyone can customize their own flavor)

What’s in a Shabu Shabu?

The Broth

When it comes to shabu shabu, the broth is the foundation of the meal. You’ve got your traditional dashi made with kombu seaweed, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can get creative with flavors like kimchi, tomato, and even soy collagen! If you can’t decide, no worries – you can always get a split pot and have two broths at once!

The Protein

When it comes to shabu shabu, you’ve got a lot of options for protein. The classic is thinly sliced beef and pork, but you can also find chicken, seafood, and even lamb. And if you’re a vegetarian, don’t worry – you can always get some tofu!

The Veggies

When it comes to veggies, shabu shabu has you covered. You’ve got your standard napa cabbage, onion, carrot, and mushrooms, but you can also find seasonal produce like spring greens, summer corn, and autumn yams.

The Sauces

Ah, the sauces. This is what sets shabu shabu apart from other hot pot meals. You’ve got your classic ponzu and goma-tare, but you can also get creative with condiments like green onions, daikon radish, shichimi pepper, and chili oil.

The Sides

When it comes to sides, you’ve got two main options: rice and noodles. For the rice, you can go classic with white rice or get a bit healthier with sprouted brown rice. And for the noodles, you can go with harusame or udon.

Cooking Shabu-Shabu: A Beginner’s Guide


  • A pinch of kombu (dried kelp)
  • A quarter of a napa cabbage
  • Half a bunch of shungiku (Garland Chrysanthemum) or mizuna greens
  • One Negi (leeks)
  • A package of enoki mushrooms or shimeji mushrooms
  • Four shiitake mushrooms
  • Two inches of carrot
  • A package of medium firm tofu
  • 450g of thinly sliced beef (chuck or rib eye), or pork
  • A package of udon noodles or cooked rice
  • Plus any other veggies you fancy!

Dipping Sauce & Condiments

  • Ponzu Sauce
  • Sesame Sauce
  • Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese seven spice) – optional
  • Grated Daikon Radish – optional
  • Chopped Green Onion – optional

Let’s Get Cooking!

  • Fill a donabe (or any large pot) two-thirds full with water and add the kombu (dried kelp). Let it soak for at least 30 minutes.
  • While the broth is simmering, prepare the dipping sauce and all the other ingredients.
  • Cut the napa cabbage into 5 cm pieces, then cut each piece into half or one-third.
  • Cut the shungiku, mizuna green or any other green vegetables into 5 cm pieces.
  • Cut the white part of negi (leeks) diagonally into 1.5 cm thick pieces.
  • Rinse the enoki and shimeji mushrooms, discard the bottom of both mushrooms and separate into smaller chunks.
  • Cut the stem of shiitake mushrooms. You can cut the surface of shiitake mushroom with x-shaped cuts to make shiitake mushroom easier to absorb broth.
  • Cut the carrot into ¼ inch rounds.
  • Cut the tofu into 2 – 3 cm thick square pieces.
  • Prepare the udon noodles according to the instructions on the package.
  • Arrange all the ingredients on a serving platter.
  • Set a portable gas burner and put the donabe (pot) with broth on the stove.
  • Slowly simmer the broth over low heat. Take out the kombu (Kelp) right before water starts to boil.
  • Add the tofu, the tough part of napa cabbage and shungiku or mizuna green, negi leek, carrots, and some mushrooms. Cover to cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Enjoy your delicious Shabu-Shabu!

How to Enjoy a Delicious Shabu-shabu Meal

Preparing the Broth

The first step to a delicious shabu-shabu meal is to get the broth boiling. The server will bring a pot of broth to the table, so just cover the pot and let it come to a boil. Then, reduce it to a simmer and keep it at a low boil to prevent overcooking.

Adding the Veggies

Next, it’s time to add the veggies! Harder veggies like carrots will take longer to cook, while leafy veggies will cook more quickly. Just throw ’em in the pot and cook ’em briefly to add flavor to the broth.

Cooking the Meat and Seafood

Time to cook the good stuff! Cook only enough meat and seafood for one or two bites at a time, rather than trying to cook everything at once. Swish the pieces lightly through the broth or submerge them briefly. Enjoy the cooked ingredients like fondue, with the ingredients cooked over the course of the meal.

Dipping and Eating

Once the meat and veggies are cooked, it’s time to dip ’em in the sauces! Generally, ponzu is used for veggies and sesame sauce for meat, but feel free to mix it up and use whatever sauces you like. Dip the cooked ingredients in the sauces and enjoy, or eat them together with rice.

The Finisher

At the end of the meal, add some rice or udon noodles mixed with raw beaten egg to the broth. Everyone can share the finisher and enjoy the delicious flavors of the broth. Yum!

Shabu-shabu: A Delicious Japanese Delight

What is Shabu-shabu?

Shabu-shabu is a Japanese dish that is sure to tantalize your taste buds! It’s usually made with beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, fish, or even octopus or crabs. The most popular variation of this dish is made with lettuce or sliced radish. For the fish variations, yellowtail (buri), amberjack (kanpachi), or sea bream (tai) are usually used.

Different Variations Across Japan

Japan has a variety of different Shabu-shabu variations, depending on the region:

  • Tohoku Region: Wakame Shabu-shabu (“Wakame no Shabu-shabu”)
  • Kansai Region: Conger (hamo) Shabu-shabu (“Hamo-Shabu”)
  • Toyama Prefecture: Yellowtail (buri) Shabu-shabu (“Buri-Shabu”)
  • Hokkaido Prefecture: Octopus Shabu-shabu (“Tako-shabu”)
  • Kagoshima Prefecture: Kagoshima Kurobuta Shabu-shabu (“Kurobuta-Shabu”)
  • Nagoya: Nagoya-kochin (a famous Japanese native breed chicken) Shabu-shabu (“Tori-Shabu”)


If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try Rei-shabu, a cold version of the dish. This variation is often sold in convenience stores and supermarkets in Japan.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and try all the different variations of Shabu-shabu! You won’t regret it.


Shabu-Shabu Vs Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki and shabu-shabu are two different types of Japanese cuisine, both involving thin slices of beef that are boiled at your table. But, they’re cooked in different ways, so you’re sure to get a unique experience with each.

Sukiyaki is a rich, savory dish, seasoned with soy sauce and sugar. The beef is cooked until it’s tender and juicy, and the vegetables are cooked in the same sauce. On the other hand, shabu-shabu is a light, flavorful dish. The beef is boiled in a light broth and the vegetables are cooked separately. The beef is usually served with a dipping sauce, like ponzu or sesame. So, if you’re looking for a full-flavored experience, go for sukiyaki. But if you want something light and refreshing, shabu-shabu is the way to go.

Shabu-Shabu Vs Yakiniku

Sukiyaki, Shabu-Shabu, and Yakiniku are all Japanese dishes that involve meat. But there’s one key difference between Shabu-Shabu and Yakiniku – the way they’re cooked! In Sukiyaki, all the ingredients are simmered together in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and water. In Shabu-Shabu, the meat is cooked by stirring it in a pot of kombu dashi broth, while the vegetables and other ingredients are boiled in the stock. Yakiniku, on the other hand, is a grill – you cook the meat and veggies on a gridiron. Plus, Yakiniku also uses beef/pork offals called Horumon or Motsu. So if you’re looking for a unique Japanese meat dish, why not try Shabu-Shabu or Yakiniku? They’re sure to tantalize your taste buds!


Why Do They Call It Shabu Shabu?

Shabu-shabu is a Japanese hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables cooked in a pot at the table. But why do they call it Shabu Shabu? Well, it’s all in the name! The word ‘shabu’ is derived from the Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound of swishing the ingredients around in the broth. It’s a fun name for a fun dish – so next time you’re in a Japanese restaurant, why not give it a try? You’ll be swishing and swooshing your way to a delicious meal in no time!

Is Shabu Shabu Just Water?

No, shabu shabu isn’t just water! It’s a Japanese hot pot dish made with thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in a flavorful broth. It’s a popular style of nabemono, or Japanese hot pot, and it’s definitely not just water! Plus, it’s served with delicious dipping sauces that make it even more delicious. So, if you’re looking for a tasty meal that’s sure to please, shabu shabu is the perfect choice.

What Are The Balls In Shabu Shabu?

Shabu shabu is a Japanese dish that involves cooking thin slices of meat and vegetables in a hot pot of broth. The balls in shabu shabu are actually the ingredients that are cooked in the broth. These include thinly sliced beef, pork, chicken, fish, and vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, and cabbage. The broth is usually made with a combination of dashi, soy sauce, and mirin, and it’s served with a variety of dipping sauces.

Cooking shabu shabu is a fun and interactive experience. You can get creative with the ingredients and make your own unique combinations. Plus, it’s a great way to get the whole family involved in the meal. So, if you’re looking for a delicious and interactive meal, give shabu shabu a try. The balls in shabu shabu are sure to be a hit!

How Long Does Shabu-Shabu Take?

Shabu-shabu is a Japanese hot pot dish that’s as quick as it is delicious. It’s so thin that you only need to cook it for around 30 seconds. That’s right, 30 seconds! So, if you’re in a rush, this is the perfect meal for you. Just be sure to only put a few slices in at a time, otherwise it’ll overcook. Once it turns from pink to a light brown, it’s ready to be devoured! So don’t wait around, get your shabu-shabu on and enjoy a tasty meal in no time.

Do You Drink The Water In Shabu-Shabu?

No, you don’t drink the water in shabu-shabu! That’s a rookie mistake. You don’t want to be the one in the restaurant getting strange looks from other people, do you? That broth is meant for cooking your meat and vegetables, so if you drink it, you’ll have less to work with. Plus, it’ll change the flavor of the broth, which could ruin your meal. So, if you want to enjoy shabu-shabu like a pro, don’t drink the broth!

Is Shabu Shabu Eaten Raw?

Shabu Shabu is a Japanese hot pot dish that’s definitely not for the faint of heart! Unlike other types of hot pot, where the ingredients are cooked together before serving, Shabu Shabu ingredients are served raw and cooked tableside during the meal, similar to fondue. So if you’re looking for a meal that’s as fresh as it gets, this is the one for you! Just make sure you’ve got your chopsticks ready and you’re good to go.


Shabu-shabu is a Japanese hot pot dish, perfect for a cozy night in with friends or family. It’s easy to make, and even easier to eat, and the perfect way to enjoy delicious, fresh meat and vegetables.

So, don’t be shy – give it a try!

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.