This classic Japanese hot pot recipe of savory broth, meat, and veggies is the perfect warming dish for a cold night. Shabu shabu is an easy-to-prepare dish that uses paper thin meat slices in one pot. It's the ideal winter recipe to eat and enjoy with friends and family. Learn how to prepare restaurant-style shabu shabu at home.

What is Japanese Shabu Shabu?

Shabu shabu is one of Japan's many takes on the hotpot, a super fun and interactive meal to enjoy with friends and family. It involves a glorious arrangement of veggies, meat, delicious sauces, and a simple yet flavorsome broth. The Chinese hot pot inspires this recipe, starting in Osaka, Japan, in the 1950s before becoming a countrywide sensation soon after. The dish is named after the sounds the ingredients make when you 'swish swish' them in the broth.   

The good thing about this dish is that even though it uses a few different ingredients, everything is cooked in one pot in the broth. When you eat it first at a restaurant, you might feel overwhelmed with all the ingredients and the steps. The truth is that shabu shabu feels fancy, but it’s relatively simple to create. The best part is that it's a nabemono which means "things in one pot" in Japanese. It is a fun and enjoyable way to gather family and friends, chat, laugh, and enjoy a truly communal dinner. 

What Do You Need to Make it?

Shabu shabu ingredients are easy to acquire and cook. The whole dish is primarily made of meats and vegetables cooked in one pot. You will need a few Japanese ingredients, including homemade dashi or dashi powder. You'll use this to make the soup stock seasoning. You will also need ponzu and goma dare (sesame-based sauce) to make the dipping sauces. The last bit of your ingredient list will require quality meat, plenty of vegetables, tofu, and udon noodles.

What Meat Should You Use?

Shabu shabu is eaten with thinly sliced meats and fresh vegetables. We usually use paper thin beef or pork slices or both if you can’t decide on your favorite. 

Choose a high-quality cut like Kagoshima A5 Wagyu Filet MignonKagoshima A5 Wagyu Ribeye Steak, or Kagoshima A5 Wagyu New York Strip Steak. You can also try our Thinly Sliced Wagyu Strips. The meat has to be paper thin to cook quickly in the broth. If you want to try slicing at home, a frozen meat slicer is a good investment to make sure your meat is thin enough. 

The most commonly used veggies in shabu shabu include: 

  • Napa cabbage
  • Carrot
  • Enoki mushrooms 
  • Green onion
  • Shiitake mushrooms

How to Prepare the Ingredients and the Broth

So, how do you prepare your shabu shabu broth recipe? Follow these steps: 

  • Fill a medium saucepan, electric frypan, or nabe pot with water and dashi powder. Bring to a boil on high heat. 
  • Prepare your vegetables as the water comes to a boil. Chop up the cabbage into 1.5-inch square pieces and the tofu into 1-inch pieces. Slice your carrot diagonally and cut the green onions into lengths of 2.5 inches. Remove the roots from the enoki mushrooms and separate them into smaller bunches. Remove stalks from your shiitake mushrooms, place everything on a plate, and put it near your shabu shabu pot.
  • Place your Wagyu or pork slices on another plate and set it aside near the vegetables. If your purchased frozen udon, place it in a bowl. Pour boiling water over them to loosen them and thaw them out. Drain them in a bowl and place them alongside your vegetables and meat. 
  • The next step is to prepare your dipping sauces. You will need two small bowls for each person. Fill one bowl with 2 tablespoons of ponzu and the other with 2 tablespoons of sesame sauce. Place the bowls where each person will sit with a fork or a set of chopsticks.
  • If you're having your shabu shabu with rice, prepare each person a small bowl and place it next to the dipping sauces. 
  • Once all that is done, you are ready to sit down and enjoy your shabu shabu party. 

How To Eat Shabu Shabu

Now that you know how to prepare the ingredients for your shabu shabu at home, it's time to figure out how to enjoy this scrumptious meal. First, shabu shabu is best enjoyed with friends and family. 

As your dashi broth will be boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and begin the shabu shabu. As mentioned earlier, everything cooks in the broth, including your meat. 

The cabbage and carrots take the longest to cook (about 3 minutes) and should go in first. Next, add your udon, tofu, or mushrooms. These only need about 60 seconds to cook. You don't have to add all the vegetables at once; just enough for everyone. You can always add more as you go. You do this to avoid overcrowding your shabu shabu and overcooking your vegetables. 

Once your vegetables are done, it's time to cook your meat. The meat used to make shabu is paper thin and only takes about 30 seconds to cook. Place a few meat slices at a time and avoid overcooking. The meat only needs to turn from pink to light brown, and it's ready to eat. 

Use chopsticks or a slotted spoon to take the ingredients out of the broth. In traditional Japanese culture, visitors would dip the meat in the sesame sauce and the vegetables in the ponzu. But it’s your shabu shabu, so experiment with how you like it and enjoy all those different flavors.  

Once you've dipped your ingredients in the sauce, you can eat straight away or grab some rice. If you combine it with rice, your rice bowl should be a mixture of all the soup ingredients and flavors. You can eat shabu shabu with rice or noodles, it’s really down to you how you want to customize the dish.

What Japanese Sides Can You Add to Your Table?

While your shabu shabu is the main event, there are so many tasty Japanese sides that go with it, like: 

  • Japanese miso soup 
  • Japanese ponzu sauce
  • Japanese sesame sauce
  • Creamy Japanese potato salad
  • Steamed rice
  • Ramen noodles

Extra Tips

So, you know how to make shabu shabu and how to enjoy it. But how do you get that restaurant quality every time? Here are our top chef-approved shabu shabu tips: 

  • Ensure your broth has come to a boil before cooking your ingredients. The last thing you want is to leave your meat or vegetables in the broth a little longer because the broth hasn't boiled. 
  • The fun is in the dipping sauces. Traditionally, ponzu, the lighter and darker sauce, is meant for vegetables, while the creamier sesame soup is meant for meat. Feel free to experiment with whatever dipping sauce you want. Just ensure you don't mix the sauces since ponzu is citrus-based while the other one is creamy. 
  • When adding your meat, add only a few pieces of meat at a time. You don't want to overcook them or lose them in the broth. 
  • Keep an eye on the sauces; if your guests are running low on them or getting watered down from all the dipping, top them as you go for the best flavor. 
  • Continue cooking more vegetables and meat throughout your feast. This way, you won't be waiting long for more food to cook after finishing your first plate. The aim is to avoid overcooking and losing any flavor. 
  • If your broth starts to cook down too much and your guests aren't full yet, refill the pot with boiling water. Don't add more dashi since only the water evaporates while the flavors remain in the pot. 
  • While most ingredients used in the recipe are traditional Japanese ingredients, feel free to try other vegetables and even noodles that suit your tastebuds more.  

There’s something magical about a hot pot recipe when all the ingredients soak up an incredible flavor. Sharing a homemade meal with friends and family can bring you closer together. Your shabu shabu should be enjoyed like a fondue; it’s a culinary journey you can take your guests on. A hot pot is a great way to bring those you care about together for a feast that will leave them asking for more. 

Sabu shabu, for many people, is an intimidating dish due to all the ingredients required and the preparations. But with a few simple steps and the right preparation, you can make an incredible Japanese dish every time. With a little practice, shabu shabu will become a go-to meal for sharing with friends and family.